Summer Fun

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Buying a boat after a deadly storm

Jamaica, Cuba and many areas along the eastern seaboard of the United States found themselves in the eye of Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012. At least 253 people lost their lives in the storm, which interrupted local businesses and caused widespread power outages and property losses estimated at $75 billion. Amongst the wreckage left behind were boats that were ripped from their docks and moorings and scattered along the coast, some of which eventually ended up several miles inland.

In the aftermath of the storm, many boating enthusiasts have found themselves looking to replace lost or damaged vessels, while others may be in the market for a boat for the first time. According to BoatUS and the Boat Owner's Association of The United States, between 25,000 and 65,000 boats were damaged by the storm. Buyers may find it difficult to discern if a used boat has been salvaged from the storm.

Some organizations are advertising the sale of storm-damaged boats. Beginning in December 2012, Tru-Markets, an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of salvage and surplus goods, offered a large selection of storm damaged boats in a series of monthly online auctions. Boat rebuilders, dealers and the general public were invited to bid on the damaged boats. Prospective buyers were able to inspect the boats prior to the auction to gauge the level of damage. According to Chad Farrell, Managing Partner at Tru-Markets, "If buyers do their homework on these salvage boats, they can get a great deal."

Shoppers who are not using a salvage auction service but going through private sellers or boat dealers should consider the following before purchase.

* Set up appointments to view boats at dock to narrow down ones that seem plausible for purchase.

* If this is your first boat, consider a smaller boat than you originally anticipated purchasing -- one that may be smaller but of higher quality.

* Schedule test sails on a short list of desirable vessels.

* Work with a licensed marine surveyor to check out the boat. A surveyor will tour the boat and point out any weak points or damage. This is similar to having a home inspection prior to purchase.

* Be sure to take down the Hull Identification Number, or HIN, of any boats or watercraft you are interested in purchasing.

* Use the HIN to order a boat history report. All boats built after 1972 have an HIN and this number allows access to information about the vessel, like whether there were costly problems from a previous owner or the boat was involved in a serious storm. Fiberglass damage is extremely easy to hide, and there may be accidents or engine failure on record.

* Compare prices of similar boats available and consult with your surveyor to determine a fair price for the vessel.

* Seek price quotes on boating insurance to ensure you can afford both the boat and its insurance. It also is a wise idea to get estimates on docking your boat.

* Make an offer on the boat and get ready to come up with a name.

Many boats were damaged by Hurricane Sandy and storms of the past. Do your homework prior to purchasing a boat to reduce your risk of buying a lemon.