Searching for a pre owned wakesurf boat and don’t know where to start? You’re in luck because we’ve created a comprehensive used boat buying checklist to make sure the boat you’re buying isn’t a lemon.
We have been water sports enthusiasts for over 30 years and have owned older boats ourselves, including problematic ones. We know buying a boat can be intimidating, so we put together this used boat checklist.
If you’re not familiar with these boats I’d highly consider having a professional marine surveyor, independent mechanic, or a dealer to conduct a pre purchase inspection.
Wakesurfing has become extremely popular as of recent years and buying a used boat is a great way to save money and get a deal. Wakeboard and wakesurf boats are also know as a wake boats, which I’ll refer to in this checklist.
Your entire wake boat ownership experience can 100% depend on the one you choose to buy. I’ve owned a lemon wakesurf boat, and it’s isn’t fun. A bad wake boat can cause stress, cost money, as well as cost you precious time on the water. You want to find the best boat out there for the money to have fun with your friends and family.
Wakeboarding boats were first introduced in the mid 1990s and dedicated wake surf boats came about in the early 2000s. There have been numerous advancements and innovations in the wake boat industry over the years.
We’ll go over the most important things to check out and to ask about when buying a pre-owned wake surf boat, or a wakeboard boat.
Pre-Owned Surf Boat Test Drive Tips:
If you want to buy the right boat, it’s highly recommended that you take it to the lake for a test drive, also known as a “sea trial.”
Here are a few basic key items to pay attention to:
- Easy start up- the boat should fire right up when cold. Also run the boat until it gets to temperature, turn it off, then restart to test a hot start.
- Smooth acceleration- the boat should take off with no issues, lagging, or hesitation. Do this with the boat unweighed, then test with ballast full, and surf system engaged, if applicable.
- Smooth Transmission Engagement- The boat should go into gear smoothly, in forward and in reverse. Take note of any harsh shifting, or loud noises while shifting.
- Tracking and steering- The boat should go down the lake straight without pulling to one side or another. Also do some tight and wide turns to test the steering. The boat should turn effortlessly. If it’s hard to steer, it might be a sign that that steering cable is wearing out, which is a common wear item on a used boat.
- Smells- Notice any strong smells, such as fuel smells, or something like something is burning. Also pay attention to the exhaust to make sure it’s not excessively smoking, as that can be a sign that motor needs repair.
- Listen- pay attention to loud noises like belts screeching, or a transmission whining.
- Look at Gauges- Pay close attention to the gauges as well. Make sure the oil pressure is good (it will fall at idle and increase under throttle), make sure it’s not overheating, and make sure the alternator is putting out the correct volts (between 12 to 14 volts)
Wakeboat Surf Systems Inspection:
It’s crucial to make sure the surf system on the wake boat you’re considering buying is fully functional.
Wake surfers love to ride big waves, and the newer wake surfing boats have a cool feature that creates big waves with just a push of a button. This eliminates the need for the boat to lean to one side, or to use devices like surf shapers, to create a wave.
Wake boats have become more advanced over time, they now have features such as wake plates, surf gates, and other tools that help create the perfect wave for wakeboarding or wakesurfing.
While the surf system in a wake boat helps make great waves for wake surfing, it can be problematic.
The most common problem is a broken actuator. It’s the motor that moves the tabs up and down. Surf boats typically have three surf plates, one for each side of the boat, and a center one. A new actuator typically is around $200 without labor, a competent DIYer can fix it themselves.
Sometimes there are bigger problems with the surf system such as software, which requires a professional who works at a dealership to fix and it. This can be expensive. Other times the problem can be with the hardware for the surf system, such as the switches, fuses, or wiring. Make sure the surf system is working properly on a used wakeboard boat that you’re considering buying.
Wake boat ballast system overview and inspection:
The newer wake boats have a ballast system built into them. This system adds extra weight using water retention to create bigger and better waves for the ultimate surf experience.
Ballast systems are typically composed of many parts which are susceptible to leaks and failure. These are just some of the parts in a ballast system: inlets, pumps, hoses, ballast bags, tanks, relays, check valves, hose clamps, switches, and fittings.
Modern surf boats typically have 3-7 ballast bags, most with their own pump and related parts.
You want to carefully inspect the ballast bags, and/or tanks, to ensure they are functioning properly. filling, draining, holding water, and not leaking.
With Centurion boats, check to make sure the Ramfill gates are working and the tanks don’t have cracks. On my personal Centurion I had a cracked Ramfill tank, and I had to replace a few ram fill valves as the motors died.
If the boat is older, many people have added a built in ballast system themselves. Check to see the quality of the work, if it looks like a child installed it, then run away.
Check the engine hours on a used boat:
Ask how many hours are on the boat and motor. Many people like to value a boat by the number of hours on the engine. I find this to be a slippery slope. While the average boater puts around 50 hours a year on a boat, don’t be afraid of higher hours. An older boat with very low hours might be a cause for concern as well. This could be a sign that the boat wasn’t used much, and may have been neglected.
I personally prefer to buy a boat that has been used regularly and has a good maintenance record, rather than one that has only been used a few times a year. I use my boat a lot, putting more than 100 hours a year on it, and I know of many older boats that have over 1,000 hours and still run like a champ.
It’s not uncommon for the hour meter on a boat to be inaccurate as well. I found this to be true on a boat I had purchased, the boat had higher engine hours than the hour meter stated.
On boats that were built after 2000, the true number of hours and engine data are stored on a computer called the ECU.
Any competent marine repair shop equipped with marine diagnostics software will be able to run a report of true engine hours.
The software will tell how many hours the boat was run at certain RPM, if the boat has overheated before, and pull any fault codes, along with other data.
Inspect the bilge in a potential used wake boat:
The bilge is the area underneath the floor where the engine resides. It’s pretty common to have a little bit of water in the bilge in any water sports boat. You want to look for excessive water, or a constantly running bilge pump, that’s a sign that something could be leaking.
Another thing to look for is signs of oil leaks, a dirty bilge floor, that’s not a good sign, and could mean larger problems.
Assess the interior condition of the boat:
The condition of an interior can be a great indicator of how the boat was taken care of. A rough interior on a fairly new boat can indicate the boat was possibly a rental, abused, or just a bad boat owner. A mint interior on a 15 year old boat can show that a boat was well taken care of.
Rips, tears, fading, and missing cushions inside the boat can all be costly to repair. Boat buyers, take note.The average starting price for a new boat interior is $5,000 and goes up from there.
On older boats, feel around on the floor for any soft spots. It’s not uncommon for entire floors to be replaced on boats older than 20 years old.
Hull, prop, rudder, and underwater gear inspection:
When you’re checking out a used wake boat, it’s important to take a look at the parts that are under the water too. This means getting under the boat while it’s on the trailer and checking things like the hull, propeller, and skegs.
Make sure the hull is in great shape, with no cracks, blisters, or scratches. Inspect the propeller to see if it’s dinged, or damaged in any way. The propeller will ensure that the boat will run smoothly when you’re out on the water. Also, check the skegs, which are typically located under the hull, and help the boat track straight. Another item is the rudder, check its condition and see that it moves freely.
If water testing the boat, take note of any unusual vibrations, or if the boat tends to pull to the side while underway. It should track straight.
Another item to check is the swim platform. The brackets that hold the platform on can break or wear out. I nearly lost a swim platform on one of my old wakeboarding boats!
Stereo System inspection in wake boat:
Wake boats and stereos go together like peanut butter and jelly. Everybody loves some tunes on their wake boat! Make sure the head unit, speakers, and amps are working.
Take a look at the install quality, I’ve seen more than my fair share of amateur stereo installs that are poorly installed with a rats nest of wiring.
These sloppy installs can be problematic and potential sources of fire, electrical draws, electrical shorts, and other hard to diagnose issues.
Touch Screen and Electronics:
With the popularity of digital touch screens, automated wake surfing, RGB lighting, and other innovations, it opens the door for more problems. Replacement touch screens can cost thousands of dollars, and some boats have two or more screens! Sometimes these systems can only be repaired by the dealer with proprietary software and factory trained technicians, so keep that in mind. That great deal might not be great if it needs thousands in repairs!
Wakeboard Tower inspection:
When you’re looking at a wake boat, it’s important to check the wakeboard tower for any flaws or cracks. Although it’s not a common issue, sometimes cracks can be found in towers, particularly at the welds. Make sure to inspect the welds and the structure of the tower thoroughly. In some instances, the tower can be repaired, but in other cases it may need to be replaced. Keep in mind that replacing a wakeboard tower can be very costly, sometimes costing thousands of dollars.
Also take a look at the board racks, if applicable. They should in be good shape and operate as intended.
Most modern wake boats come with bimini tops and boat covers made from canvas. The canvas can fade and tear with age, and they can be expensive to replace. So open up the cover and set it up. Make sure it is in good condition so you don’t have to replace or repair it.
Same with the boat cover, make sure the cover is in good shape and fits well. A good boat cover can cost a few thousand dollars to replace, which can add to the cost of the boat.
Wakeboard and Wakesurf Boat Trailer Inspection:
When checking out a wake boat, don’t forget to give the trailer a thorough examination as well. Look for any signs of rust, repairs, or accidents that may have occurred. Common issues to watch out for include damaged fenders from flat tires and worn out bunks. Additionally, make sure the brakes and all the trailer lights are in working condition to ensure safe transport of the boat to and from the water.
Additional Questions to Ask when Buying a Used Wake Boat:
Was it used in salt water?
When looking at a wake boat, it’s essential to find out if it has been used in salt water. This is because salt water can cause corrosion, rust, and more wear and tear than fresh water. It’s important to keep in mind that a boat that has been used in salt water will require more maintenance than one used in fresh water. So, be sure to ask if the boat has been used in salt water and inspect the boat accordingly.
How many boat owners has it had?
When considering a wake boat, it’s important to know how many owners it has had. A boat that has had only one owner is more likely to have been well-cared for. However, it’s worth noting that this isn’t always the case.
What is the weight of the boat on the trailer with gear and fuel?
Wake boats have gotten larger and heavier over the years. You might need to consider a new tow vehicle with larger wake boats. That sweet boat you’re eying might need a ¾ ton truck to tow it safely.
How was boat maintained and by whom?
Did the local dealer winterize and perform annual maintenance and repairs, or was it done by the owner? Are maintenance records available? I can say that there are some bad boat mechanics out there and I’d be wary of major boat repairs performed by an unqualified individual.
When was the inboard boat’s impeller changed?
A cheap and easy to replace item is the impeller that pumps fresh water though the motor for cooling. This item is a wear item that should be changed annually, depending on how much a boat is used. If neglected, you risk overheating your motor, also picking rubber pieces from an exploded impeller isn’t a fun task.
Ask if there is a remaining warranty?
Typically boats have 3-5 year warranties that are transferable to the SECOND owner only. If it’s a newer boat with some warranty left, find out what the cost and process is for transferring. With some companies it can be upwards of $1,000, and require an inspection from the boat dealer. Every company is different, so look into it first by calling the dealer or company directly.
What engine does the boat have?
Typically wake boats come with a few different engine options with varying horsepower and torque. Depending on the boat and where you live, you might need a bigger engine. At high altitudes boats lose horsepower. If you live in the mountains at high altitude and have a 25′ boat with 5,000 lbs of ballast, it might perform poorly compared with the same engine at a lower altitude.
Most of the time, having the right size propeller can solve power problems, but if you have a big boat, lots of ballast, and boat full of people, then you might want to seek out the biggest motor available.
Buying a used wake boat can be an exciting experience, but there are many factors to consider before making a deal.
By asking the right questions to the previous owner and giving it a thorough inspection, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your money is being spent on a quality vessel.
However, boats being boats, things will come up that will need repair from time to time. You will want to budget for other expenses that might pop up too.
Also if you do find problems, you can negotiate the final purchase price. One more thing, don’t be afraid to walk away. This is a big purchase and there are many other boats out there.
Download our used boat checklist as a guide for buying a pre-owned boat so you can make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for. With these tips and our used boat checklist, we hope to help you find the perfect wake boat for you.