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Discussion Starter #1
First, I wasn’t sure where to post this so please move if necessary. I’m looking to purchase my first boat this fall/winter hopefully but I don’t know what to look for. I don’t plan on spending more than 5k or so, I just want a boat with a steering wheel. Can you guys give me some tips/pointers on what to look out for when checking out used boats?
 

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Are you willing to travel? The used boat market in Colorado is over priced, and things sell fast.

I'd make sure you have cash on hand, check craigslist multiple times per day, and when the boat that you want comes available, be ready to head over as soon as possible.

As far as what to check, make sure the transom and floor are solid and the motor runs. I'd hold some $$ back from whatever your final budget is to be able to do things like service the axle, new tires, tune up, impeller, etc. Most of that you can do yourself if you want to spend some time on Youtube, but a lot of people would rather have someone else do it.
 

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You need to decide what you are looking for. What kind of fishing do you think you'll be doing? Steering wheel vs tiller is a good place to start: Some of the most serious walleye guys I know prefer to backtroll and will only have a tiller style setup. So, just be aware that you give up that particular purist approach when you go with the steering wheel.

Do you want a windshield? My choice is yes, helps with Colorado weather coming in when you are out on the water. Bass boat style boat put you inches off the water vs taller sides like a fish/ski combo. Taller sides make sense if you have kids/dogs or you're getting older and worried about your balance. But, they do catch the wind so serious tourney fishermen go with lower sides and plan to get splashed. Four stroke motors add a whole lot to the price but start more easily on cold mornings, and are quieter. Two stroke motors are more common in this price range. They give you more power and are much lighter. But they but are noisy, smoky and you might have to deal with premixing gas. They are quickly becoming obsolete. Bigger motor costs more but helps get you off the water quick when the weather comes up. Rear kicker motor, front trolling motor or both? I like to troll and now that I'm used to having a kicker in back I have to add one and factor that into the budget. A kicker motor helps as backup power to get you home if your main motor fails -- I think this is seriously important as well. A bigger boat (over 16 feet) can handle bigger water better but is a bit more to handle until you get used to it. Do you mind working on mechanical stuff yourself? It's darn tough to get a shop to work on your boat this time of year. Call around to shops in your area and see. A lot of shops won't work boats older than 20 years and although internet helps, parts for older boats can be hard to find as well. Consider your trailer. Two wheels (single axle) are easier to handle if you need to push trailer around yourself but four wheels (two axle) tows down the road better. How is your tow vehicle? A bigger truck will tow more than an SUV and 4 wheel drive is nice to have when you are pulling your boat up a slippery ramp. What about trailer brakes. When I buy a boat now I budget for an electric brake conversion. How many batteries? I go with two for 24 volt front trolling motor and one main battery. I prefer AGM. Then there's how much you want to spend on electronics. . .

As you expand your search you may find $5,000 doesn't buy what you thought it might. It is possible to find a good boat in this range if you get lucky and know what you are doing but as Bionic Man said, you have to be there first with cash. I think you'll be in better shape if you plan to spend more like $12,000 to $15,000. And if you can afford monthly payments you can buy new and spend much more.
 

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So for $5,000 you are looking for a fish/ski boat, let's say 19 feet with a 150HP 2 stroke Evinrude. It's been garage kept by an Oil guy who got transferred back to Houston so you're pretty sure transom and floor are ok. His ex-wife is selling it and she doesn't really care how much she gets, she just wants it gone. To get this screaming deal you will wait until fall or winter so hardly anybody is looking for boats right then. No one wants to deal with storing their boat over the winter. Boat shops are slow and begging for work, glad to help you out with parts, service advice or whatever. You are the first guy there 20 minutes after her Craigslist posts with $3500 cash and then you have $1500 to spend on your trolling motors, new batteries and electronics. You'll plan to change gear oil, replace gas filters, spark plugs, wires, and impellers yourself and have all winter to get things dialed in just way you like and you are fishing early next season. Nice boat!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
@albow thanks for the input, that’s exactly what I was looking for! Sounds like I will be doing a lot of searching around! I will definitely go by bass pro and look at boats and prices just to get the full spectrum
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have found what look to be pretty decent deals already via offer up, but I think I can get a better deal. Hell, from what you are saying, the fishing boat they are selling up at Jackson lake may be a good deal @4500
 
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