Here is a checklist of common potential issues that should be checked before buying a second-hand boat:

  • Has the motor been serviced regularly? Be sure to sight the service history yourself.
  • When was the oil, and the water pump last replaced?
  • Is the battery in good condition?
  • Hull integrity – apart from obvious damage, check for osmosis in GRP and corrosion in alloy.
  • Trailer integrity – check for rust in galvanised steel; cracking
  • at stress points and welds (in alloy especially); wheel bearings
  • (check for rumbling bearings and heat build-up after towing); brakes and brake line condition; corrosion in wiring; roller condition and free movement; bad rusting or breakages in leaf-spring suspension; tire tread depth; and safety chain/s condition.
  • Ownership – is the vessel unencumbered? Motorweb Vehicle Information Authority ( can tell you if the trailer is stolen and if money is owed on it. You will need the registration number of the trailer and there is a charge for this service.
  • Check the Police database to see if a boat is stolen. Some indicators that a boat might be stolen are:

- a very low price;
- boat serial number tag missing;
- short term ownership and no valid reason to sell;
- no registration papers;
- no details of previous owners available; registration date of the trailer not matching the manufacturing date of the boat.

  • Is the motor stolen? Check the serial number on an aluminium tag or sticker that is attached to the transom-mounting bracket. The serial number may also be stamped into the frost plug that is located in the block of the outboard motor. Be sure the serial number is not missing and check it on the Police database.
Before leaving home
  1. Ensure the engine trimmed fully up and locked into position, with the prop flag in place.
  2. Stern strop/tie downs tightly secured to trailer.
  3. Safety chain connected.
  4. Electrics connected and trailer lights working.
  5. Trailer safety chain connected to vehicle.
  6. Any antennas lowered and rods taken out of rocket launchers/holders.
  7. All loose items in boat removed or secured.
  8. Fishing tackle/water toys/ice bins/dive gear loaded and secured.
  9. Ensure all bungs in place – external and internal.
At the ramp
  • Pay any ramp fees due.
  • Remove stern strops, prop flags and release engine lock.
  • Loosen but not remove safety chain shackle pin.
  • Rig appropriate fenders and lines.
  • Raise antennas.
  • Allow 10 mins for wheel bearings to cool.
  • Only remove boat safety chain when trailer is in the water.
  • Load any items aboard before approaching ramp.
  • If operating in darkness, minimise vehicle lights so as not to blind others when backing down ramp.
  • Ensure vehicle lights turned off after parking trailer.
  • Remember to travel no more than five knots within 200 metres of the shore. Some marinas have a no-wake rule (three knots or less).

At the very least, any small trailerboats should carry the following safety equipment:
  • PFDs (life jackets) for everyone on board - suited to each person. Children should have child size lifejackets.
  • anchor and chain/warp
  • at least two forms of communication (e.g VHF and a cellphone in a waterproof case)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Torch
  • Bailer/bucket
  • Basic first aid kit

The further offshore you plan to travel, the more equipment (and variations of equipment) you’ll need to carry.
Additional safety equipment includes the likes of:
  • Flares and smoke signals
  • Horns
  • Emergency locator beacons/personal locator beacons
  • Emergency blankets
  • Approach the ramp at five knots or less within 200 metres, reducing your wake. Put out your fenders if you use them.
  • Raise the engine
  • After dark, dim your vehicle headlights before backing down the ramp
  • Pull well clear of ramp area once boat is loaded
  • Remove bung
  • Ensure boat is level on trailer
  • Attach stern tie downs
  • Check trailer plug and that the lights are working
  • Safety chain on boat and trailer attached
  • All loose items – towels/wetsuits are removed or secured
  • Engine trailer lock in position and prop flag secured
  • Rods taken down out of holders and any antennas dropped