Pros and Cons of using a Broker
There are a lot of ways to buy a used boat. You can watch for ads on the internet (Sailnet Boat Search, SoundingsOnLine and YachtWorld being the three best), in local newspapers and in sailing magazines (Soundings being one of the best printed sources for listings).
Driving through boatyards looking for ''for sale'' signs also works quite well also. Checking bulletin boards and word of mouth also can work surprisingly well. I have bought boats almost all of these ways at one time or another.
Does using a broker get you into more boats?
Brokers do have a number of sources that civilians can''t get to. A good Broker is well worth the fees that the seller pays them. In the deals that I have used brokers they are able to act as negotiator and are often able to more clearly present a fair position to both sides. While I have gotten a few bargains on my own, the best boat buying deals in my life have had brokers involved in the process.
Who pays the commission?
The seller pays the commission.
Are there Buyers agents?
I assume you mean in the sense that the term is used in real estate. (i.e. Brokers who only work for buyers and have no listings of their own and who sometime work at a reduced commission (rebating a piece of their co-brokerage fee) or work on an hourly basis like a consultant. In Maryland these are actually called Buyer Brokers) There are a few brokers that hold themselves out to be Buyer Broker. Bernie at RogueWave Yachts considers himself to be a Buyers Broker. In yachts (because they are portable) there is less of a need for a dedicated Buyer Broker. I just completed a long and complicated search and purchase of a boat working with Pat Lane at Annapolis Yacht Sales. There is no doubt in my mind that no matter what Pat had called himself, I could not have had better representation as a buyer that Pat gave my deal.
A good broker really is enormously helpful. They do a lot of boat deals in a year. They understand the negotiations process and the legalities of selling boats. They are dialed into the market and can tell either side when they have unrealistic goals. There can be a lot of details that need to get worked out in a deal and a good Broker can be indispensible getting things lined up.
In the most recent boat buying deals it was the Broker who sold the idea that my offers were fair and proper and so got the prices to where they needed to be.