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Contracts and Sea Trials

I have found a boat that I am interested in buying, but when I asked to take it on a sea trail, the broker told me I must first have a contract on the boat. Is this common practice?

John Shattuck responds:

Having been a yacht broker for over 12 years, I can assure you this policy is almost an industry standard. Why? Well, here's what I was told and experienced during my first year in the business. My manager did his best to tell me what to expect. One of his most adamant rules was, "No free boat rides." Being a stubborn sort, I finagled about five sea trials my first summer and didn't sell a single boat to any of my prospective clients. The first time I mumbled we would prefer an offer prior to a sea trial, this request was honored, and the boat was sold.  Why is this? I don't know, but I'm sure Freud would have had some smart and interesting comment about this human tendency.

There are certainly some new boat dealers who offer test rides on their stock boats, but considering brokers are primarily presenting used boats for private owners, offering boat rides without some level of firm interest (offer, or contract to purchase) is not in the owner's best interests. Come to think of it, most brokers won't even start the engine(s) without the owner's knowledge and permission. When shopping for a house, you can view it before making an offer, but you wouldn't think of asking to spend the night.

Do you want to go sailing? Go with a friend or hire a charter boat. Do you want to buy a boat? Then look all you want, and make your offer contingent upon a sea trial. You can always back out if you don't like how the boat sails.

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