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How To Start Your Vintage Boat Restoration Project

As the summer months approach, we’re all thinking of ways to spend more time on the water, preferably in a boat. But boating can be expensive, whether you’re renting or buying new. This can be limiting, especially if you want to set sail daily or weekly. Plus, boat dealerships often only have a limited selection of new makes and models, so you’re out of luck if you prefer a more classic look. That’s when boat restoration could be your best option.

Before you break out the plastic pool in the backyard or resign yourself to the community aquatic center, used boat restoration is another way to make your summer boating dreams come true.

Boat restoration can be a fun, exciting venture to take on yourself or make a family project. When you purchase a used boat, such as a powerboat, you are paying a fraction of the price, can pick from a wider range of makes and models, and will save even more money by restoring it yourself.

Doing it yourself also gives you more control over the project than hiring someone. While it may take you a little longer, hitting the water in the used power boat that YOU restored will be more rewarding.

Before you get started, here are some tips and tricks for sourcing and restoring used power boats.

Find Your Boat

Trailer hauling a used boat for a boat restoration project

Which used vessel you purchase will dictate the rest of your boat restoration journey. When browsing these vessels, either online or in person, pay attention to any issues listed and decide if it’s something you’d be willing or able to tackle yourself.

Does it need a new engine, or are the updates more cosmetic? Does your skillset mainly fall into mechanical work, or are you a carpenter hobbyist? Find a used power boat with problems that align with your talents so you can do most of the work and keep the calls to professionals to a minimum.

You can find used power boats in several places, such as online marketplaces (check out Craigslist, Boat Trader, or eBay Motors), local dealerships, or private sellers. With any of these options, make sure to thoroughly inspect the boat before purchasing. If purchasing from afar, ask the seller for detailed photos and documentation of the boat’s history.

If possible, ask about conducting a sea trial, which is a test drive opportunity to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for and the boat can fulfill your needs on the water.

New to sea trials? Check out this sea trial checklist.

Found the perfect used power boat, but it’s halfway across the country? uShip can connect you to feedback-rated transporters specializing in boat shipping. Get your free quote now.

Conduct a Survey

Boat surveys are an essential step when purchasing a used power boat. These surveys provide vital information ranging from the current condition to damage and market value. These surveys are typically conducted when buying a used boat from a dealer or individual. If you already own an old boat in need of boat restoration and it’s been in the family for a long time, it’s still a good idea to conduct a survey before you start fixing it up.

There are many types of marine surveys, but the one most commonly used for used boat purchases is a Condition and Value Survey. Other types include Insurance Surveys, Appraisal Surveys, and Damage Surveys.

Read more about the necessities and benefits of marine surveys when purchasing a used power boat.

You can find accredited surveys through NAMSGlobal or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors.

Repair. Upgrade.

man with boat restoration project

Your perfect vessel has arrived. Your boat restoration can begin. But where to get started?

Time to scrub: Start by giving the boat a thorough washdown. This will get you familiar with every aspect of the vessel and spot any damage you may have previously missed (or were not told about). Clearing any organic material, debris, and dirt gives you a solid starting point for your boat restoration. Now you know exactly what you’re working with. Make a list of broken items, used boat parts, or other materials you may need to prepare for repairs.

Repair damage: Whether you know about existing damage or find some surprises, it’s time to dive into the repair phase. Commonly used power boat repairs include hull and hull-fittings, seacocks, electrical systems, engine, and plumbing issues. These require various parts and expertise depending on the exact repair needed. It is wise to take inventory during your cleaning phase and have all your used boat parts handy since not every part of the boat will be accessible during the boat restoration.

Give it an upgrade: Beyond repairing your used power boat, take it to the next level with some enhancements. Depending on your make and model, installing a new sound system, adding in a modern GPS, or replacing the entire engine could transform your used boating experience. This allows you to get the best of both worlds: a classic used power boat with modern amenities.

Another Bonus: Less Depreciation

Another great benefit of restoring used power boats is there less value depreciation. While new watercraft have a steep deprecation curve only a couple of years after leaving the dealership lot, restored used power boats have the potential to give back more on your investment if you decide to sell it later.

Whether you’re new to boating or are a seasoned water-goer, restoring a used power boat is a labor of love and a great way to keep costs down while getting the exact boat you’ve always wanted.

Found the perfect used boat for your next restoration project? uShip can connect you to feedback-rated transporters specializing in boat shipping today.