You wouldn't buy a new car and drive it off the lot without a thorough inspection right? The same applies to boats. Even a brand new boat requires a very thorough inspection to make sure everything is perfect. If your new car craps out, you might have to wait or walk a little bit but if your boat craps out it's a totally different scenario.
Before even inspecting your new boat, you should check with the manufacturer or even the Coast Guard to make sure that particular model hasn't been recalled. This isn't much of a problem but it couldn't hurt to check. Also check all of the owner or dealers documents to make sure it actually IS their boat. You don't want a stolen boat on your hands. Different types of boats need different types of inspections and even a novice can get a general idea of the condition.
Small boats are fairly easy to inspect. If it's out of the water, make sure the hull is clean, smooth, and free of anything strange like lumps, bumps, and cracks. Check the propeller to make sure it looks smooth and even. If it seems lopsided or worn, that's a bad sign. The engine should be clean and the rubber should be black and shiny. Look for cracks, oil drips, or any white residue. Powerboats are very engine intensive so great detail should be taken to ensure the engine is in tip top shape. Sailboats are another matter entirely. You will need to check the sails, rigging, and every piece of hardware on the boat.
In addition to these, you should make sure the galley is fully functional (if there is one), the television works properly, toilet flushes, water runs, and every door and hatch works like it's supposed to. If you don't feel comfortable with an inspection of this type, there are marine surveyors who will gladly do it for you at a price. They are experts and are guaranteed to catch any little flaw. Make sure you take the boat for a trial run also. This will let you get a good feel for it and make sure you like every aspect of it before you hand over any money or sign a contract.
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