Sink or Swim: Buying a Salvage Boat

Boating is a great activity for personal relaxation or taking the whole family on an adventure. If you frequent a lake or dock and look enviously at all the boat owners, be aware that there is a cheaper option for getting a piece of some water-based fun of your own.

Salvage boats are a great opportunity to buy a recreational boat at a bargain price. If you have never owned a boat before or are looking to add a side project, buying a salvage boat can help you get afloat at a fraction of the usual price.

Why Are Boats Salvaged?

Like any vehicle, a boat is salvaged when someone files an insurance claim for damages and the insurance company decides that the cost of repairs will exceed a substantial portion of the boat’s value – usually around 80 percent. The most common culprit for this degree of damage is the result of a hurricane or large storm. When a weather system hits a coast, chances are insurance companies will be flooded with thousands of claims all at once.

In these situations, the insurance company may not even bother with covering repairs even if they are not very costly. Since repair companies will be overwhelmed at this point, insurers will take possession of the boat and pay out the claim rather than forcing a policy-holder to wait a year or more for repairs.

What Should I Be Aware of When Buying a Salvage Boat?

The first criterion is to try and evaluate the condition of the boat before the major damage occurred. Having a damaged canvas can be a relatively simple fix, but if the boat owner neglected to keep a pump running during the off-season, the damage from winds could be the least of your worries. A good strategy is to ignore the damage that resulted from the storm or wreck and hone in on how the boat was treated before that point. The more care a boat received before being totaled, the more likely it is that repairs will be worth the investment.

Looking at Causes of Damage

Another criterion is the actual cause of damage. There are many common scenarios when dealing with salvage boat damage, each requires a different level of consideration before buying. For example, a boat may have been grounded. Grounded boats will have come loose from their mooring and run aground into mud, rocks or even concrete. Depending on the intensity of the impact, some of these boats may have only minor perforation in the hull which can usually be patched up safely and cheaply.

Another type of damage is the result of submerging. Boats that have become flooded or fully submerged will often sustain significant damage to nearly all systems, including the motor. If you are lucky, though, you may find one that was only sunk for a day or so and that has an engine that was “pickled” or disassembled and cleaned to get it running again. Some boats may have even only had minor damage as a result of blown debris or a sheared sail, but were nevertheless salvaged.

 

Knowing or being able to guess how the boat was damaged is key in figuring out whether or not the purchase would be worth the investment. If you can find the right auction and have the ability to make cheap repairs, you could have your watercraft in the lake by next summer.