Boat Buying Process: Sea Trial

Much like you would a vehicle you wanted to purchase, the prospective boat you want should be taken for a sea trial before signing on the dotted line. Without a marine surveyor, however, the process can be daunting, as you might not know what to look for. However, in this third installment of the boat buying process guide, we are going to lay out the key components that you should examine during your sea trial. Most importantly, protect your new investment with a comprehensive Boat Insurance policy.

Take a closer look before it’s on the water.

While the boat is hoisted up on a trailer, make a fist and make one solid pound on the hull around the entire boat. It should be sturdy and hollow. If not, it could indicate water seepage.

Feel around while on dry land, if possible, as well. Make sure all railings are firmly attached, the stowage compartments are solid, there are no missing hinges, etc. Go with your gut on this one, and take as much time as you need to thoroughly inspect everything.

Start it cold.

If the engine’s rotating assembly is going to make any funny noises, it will be when it’s cold. Open the hatch so you can hear everything better. Does the starter engage smoothly and quietly? Does the engine rattle or knock when you start it? It should run with little more than a thrum of vibration and the hiss from the flame arrestor atop the engine.

As you back out, notice how the shifter works. Does it engage forward and reverse when the shifter is moved to the detents? Is there any binding or sticking in the shift cables? Not all signs of trouble will be deal-breakers, but it can help you develop your punch list if you decide to buy it, explains Boat Trader.


Advance the throttle and take it to high speed; it should reach its maximum miles per hour with ease. Once you reduce back to a cruising speed, try out turns, including full circle maneuvers. The boat should hold its line without hooking, washing out, or blowing out the prop. If the boat has a stepped bottom, don’t trim it down to do these tests. While you’re doing all this, listen for cautionary squeaks and rattles, states the article.

Once you are satisfied with the results of the test, this means you are likely avoiding buying a lemon. With these few simple considerations in mind, the sea trial can provide the answers you need to know whether it’s a good buy.

About Mariners Insurance

Mariners General Insurance Group was founded in 1959 to protect boat owners and marine business clients. We are marine insurance experts, and insure boats worldwide – in every ocean on the planet. Marine insurance is critical if you own a boat or nautical business. Trust the professionals with all of your Boat Insurance needs – trust Mariners Insurance. Call us at (800) 992-4443 any time you have questions or concerns about insurance for your vessel or marine business.