Old Boat washed up on beach

How do you know when a second-hand boat is safe?

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Why bother about second-hand boat safety?

Boating is fun, there is no doubt about it, but boat safety should be taken as seriously as life or death.

We recently read an article about a ‘Grieving mother calls for tighter regulations over second-hand boat sales in Tasmania‘ and it really got us thinking – how do you know when a second-hand boat is safe?

Tasmania may have the highest number of boat owners as a state across Australia, but this problem isn’t isolated to just Tassie – it’s countrywide, if not worldwide. This story led to devasting consequences and worst-case outcomes, but would you really put your loved ones in this situation if you weren’t 100% sure of the safety of the boat.

The article also refers to the typical Aussie male mentality of ‘she’ll be right mate’. This well-known phrase is part of Australian culture but does it really apply to safety? In any form?

If we have an accident in the car, at work, on the beach or walking across the road, help is never that far away. Have an accident at sea, and help can take hours. Just think, it requires, often a voluntary crew, to stop what they’re doing, get down to their boat, gear up, launch and come and rescue you. This takes time. And if the crew don’t know exactly where you are, you could double that time taken to rescue you and more.

No safety gear onboard? You can pretty much lose all hope of being found.

Old wooden boat on the side of the road for sale
Image credit: ABC News
If you saw this on the side of the road, would you buy it?

Deciding on buying a boat is a big decision. There are so many options from the type of boat, what boating activities you are doing, your budget, the capacity of the boat, storing or mooring, towing capacity of the road vehicle and the list goes on. On top of all of that, you need to know whether the boat you’ve chosen is safe or not.

We’ve found some useful information online to help give guidance on boat safety and pre-purchase inspections. This is by no means a comprehensive list to rely on and professional advice should always be sought.

We’ll kick off with some helpful resources and reads before going into what you can do to ensure your potential new boats safety…

See Also:  Owning a boat vs hiring: Pros and Cons

Useful resources

There are some useful articles online to read in regards to advice for buying a second hand or used boast:

Try before you buy – Club Marine

New vs Used – My Boating Life

Buying A Used Boat – Queensland Boat Inspections

Dream Boat Or Nightmare? Tips For Buying A Secondhand Boat In Australia – Without A Hitch

Buying a Boat – Maritime Safety Victoria 

Should you buy a new or second-hand boat? – The Hub, Australia

Tips for Buying a Used Boat – Maritime Safety Training

Pros and Cons of owning a boat vs hiring – Travel With No Anchor

Boat Safety Inspections

We hear a lot about RAA car inspections and NRMA mobile vehicle inspections that identify any issues with potential vehicle purchases and give peace of mind.

But what about when it comes to boat safety and inspections, especially for second-hand boats?

Boat pre-purchase inspections can save you literally $$$’s in the long run.

It’s good to see some of the major boat sales companies offering information and services for pre-purchase inspection checks. However, it is still worth doing your own homework for the best inspection and value for money – especially if buying from somewhere like Gumtree or the side of a road.

There are a lot of marine services across Australia that offer pre-purchase inspections that vary greatly in options available. Whilst a pre-purchase boat check will look very different for a jet ski versus a 70ft yacht, you need to consider what is right for your vessel. Also, consider wet and dry inspections – any boat can behave differently in water than out so it worth considering as part of the inspection (it is also a lot more thorough and gives added peace of mind). These can also be referred to as sea trials.

Many marine services offering pre-purchase inspections will also offer condition reports that insurance companies may ask for to help them understand the seaworthiness and overall condition of the vessel.

Here is a list of boat inspection providers in each state across Australia that can provide boat pre-purchase inspection services (not in any specific order):


Buy Boat – Brisbane and Gold Coast based, offering pre-purchase boat inspections

Queensland Boat Inspections – Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, can provide pre-purchase checks and condition reports

Complete Boat Inspections – Brisbane based, mobile inspections from Gold Coast to Sunshine Coast

Techmate Service – Gold Coast based, mobile inspections from Tweed Heads to Brisbane

SOS Marine Services – pre-purchase boat safety inspections in and around the Gold Coast area

New South Wales

Buy Boat – Sydney based, providing pre-purchase boat inspections

Blue Point Marine – Sydney based, providing services in Syndey and the Central Coast

Marine Essentials – providing both wet and dry pre-purchase inspections in Sydney and the surrounding area

Mobile Marine Service – provides boat pre-purchase inspections across Syndey suburbs

Slipsteam Marine – NSW Point Piper based boat safety inspectors and surveyors

Hunts Marine – pre-purchase inspections available at Sydney, Wollongong and Batemans Bay


Casey Marine – based in Cranbourne and conduct boat pre-purchase inspections

Marine Survey – Docklands based and specialists for small watercraft, offering inspections services throughout Victoria

Hightide Boating – Docklands based and offer boat pre-purchase advice and inspections in Victoria and along the East coast of Australia

Nautek Marine – mobile marine services including pre-purchase boat inspections in and around Kaysborough

South Australia

Leigh’s Marine Services – pre-purchase inspections in and around the Adelaide area

Riversea Marine – pre-purchase ‘in workshop’ inspections carried out at Holden Hill, Adelaide

Becker Entreprises – Yacht, Boat and Marine Services, located at Port Adelaide

Don Morton – Marine Services at Kilkenny, Adelaide

Pacific Marine – providing marine services and condition reports at Royal Park, Adelaide

Arno’s Marine Services – located next to the Port River, near Port Adelaide

Western Australia

A&M Marine – pre-purchase boat safety inspections available at Mandurah, Rockingham and surrounding areas

All West Marine – offers fully mobile pre-purchase inspections throughout Perth and WA

Westcoast Marine – pre-purchase boat inspections around Perth and surrounding areas

Collings Marine – offers pre-purchase inspections in Perth and surrounding areas

Falcon Services – offering mobile mechanic and pre-purchase vessel inspection reports around Perth

Peel Marine – comprehensive boat inspections conducted in Mandurah, Rockingham and surrounding areas

Greg’s Marine Services – pre-inspection checks available around Freemantle and surrounding areas


Blue Water Marine & Diesel – pre-purchase inspections in Shearwater and surrounding areas

Boats Tasmania – pre-purchase surveys offered around Tasmania

Northern Territory

Precision Marine NT – marine-based mechanics offering pre-purchase checks in Darwin and surrounding areas

Australian Captial Territory

Tez Automotive Marine Service – based in Canberra, marine service available

Fyshwick Marine – based in Fyshwick, marine services available

Across Australia

AquaTune – Marine Network providing mobile marine mechanics to conduct pre-purchase inspections across QLD, NSW, VIC and SA (Wallaroo).

Boatman Check – Gold Coast based but can provide a service Australia wide

Seaworthy Inspections – provide pre-purchase checks across Melbourne and Sydney areas

State and Territory Specific Information

Each Australian state and territory has its own rules and guidelines for marine rules and safety. Whilst many are the same, it is a good idea to check the relevant area to where you will be boating to make sure you are abiding by the correct rules:

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is the overall national regulatory body for Australian waters. Australian Capital Territory (ACT) does not have its own maritime safety guidelines due to lack of coastal waters and therefore falls under AMSA and national laws.

Each state and territory will also have their own guidelines to follow in regards to buying and selling a boat, registrations, documentation, etc.

Safety Equipment

Safety equipment required onboard is a whole topic in itself!

Carrying safety equipment is vital to any boating activity – even kayaking. Regardless of all the checks and inspections on a boat, accidents still happen and you need that safety equipment to rely on. It could well save your life.

Watch this space for a safety equipment post coming soon.

Our experience

We’ve had experience in both buying and selling a boat.


When purchasing, we used a local marine service provider to give us a pre-purchase report. We deliberately chose one that the owner did not know and the boat had not gone to for regular servicing. This was just to ensure there was no bias on the outcome and really was an independent inspection.

It was well worth its money for the peace of mind, but also because it found a couple of leaks and some minor issues with the electrics. We presented this to the owner of the boat, who was happy to repair before we purchased.

Once repaired, we were issued with the receipt to prove the work (plus it had been done through the same marine service provider we chose for the inspection). This more than covered the cost of the inspection – if we had found these issues later, it would have cost us a lot more!

This was a dry inspection of the boat. A wet inspection or sea trial was going to cost a lot more in this case and not worth it in comparison to the value of the boat. We did have a test-run in the boat with the owner and everything appeared to be running with a smooth ride.

As we had left the boat for a couple of years in storage, when it came to insurance to go back out on the water, we were requested to provide a condition report. Although this meant spending out money for the report, it did mean that we were confident that nothing had compromised the boat’s seaworthiness as a result. This report also came in useful when selling a year or so later as the new owner could see it was still in good condition.


When selling, a test run was offered to the buyer, but due to it being difficult to find a mutual time, this didn’t go ahead. The boat was moored already so it was clear there were no issues with the hull or buoyancy upon initial inspection. The buyer contacted a local marine service provider, again an independent decision and not one where the boat had gone for the previous condition report or servicing. A small fault was found with the navigation lights, which was fixed at our expense before the sale went ahead. For us, it was also peace of mind that we were selling a seaworthy boat and not having it play on our conscious about what could happen if it wasn’t.

Let us know your comments

What has your experience of second-hands boats been? Good? Bad?

Do you think we need to tighten up on regulations for boat sales? Will this help second-hand or even new boat safety?

We’d love to know what you think.


  1. Hey Guys,

    Great article!

    We actually provide Pre-Purchase Survey and Mechanical Inspections in Sydney and Gold Coast.

    Would love to get on your list!

    Let us know if you’d like to do a guest blog or share any information 🙂


    1. Hi Aaron
      Thanks for getting in touch – we’ve added you to the list!
      Love your work and you offer such a great service to ensure safety out there on the water!

      Happy safe boating!

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