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When looking at a boat offered at auction, there are several precautions you need to take. The auction price might sound like a great deal, but the boat itself can be seriously damaged. Many boats sold at auction have been salvaged, that is boats that have been damaged by storms or other natural disasters. Before you bid on a boat, you should make an effort to examine it personally. If you have little practical experience with boats, bring along a friend who is familiar with watercraft or even a professional marine surveyor. The site boatus.com/insurance/survey can recommend a professional surveyor in your area.
When choosing a boat on which to bid at a boat auction, you should take a few precautions. Before you even begin looking at boats, determine what kind of watercraft you are seeking and what features you will need. Next, set an upper price limit for yourself to guard against overbidding. Once you find a boat that you like, it pays to have it inspected by a professional marine surveyor -- the service can cost as much as $1000, but it is well worth it if it prevents you from making a costly mistake. Be sure to question the seller on the boat's origins and the reasons for selling the boat. Make sure that you take the boat for a test drive; see how it handles.
So you want to auction off your boat? First, stop and ask yourself if you'll make more money selling it via regular retail channels. Remember to factor in the costs of auction and brokerage services. If you have a small craft, then you can easily auction it yourself online through one of the larger online auction sites. If you own a large boat and want to auction it, you will need to contact a professional broker or boat auction service. Either service will charge either a flat fee or certain percentage for the sale, but they will most likely take care of advertisement, transportation, and the acutal auction of the boat.
Many boats offered at auction have been gained through salvage. While many of these boats are still seaworthy, many of them have been damaged -- either through storms, accidents, or abandonment. Salvage auctions can be great ways to find good deals on watercraft, but you need to be able to carefully judge the integrity of the boat you want before you begin bidding. You should try and get a professional marine surveyor to look over the boat to give you an idea of the extent of any damage. Remember that any boat you buy from a salvage auction will most likely have some kind of damage history. Be prepared to pay for repairs and refurbishment in order to make the craft safe and seaworthy.
Other than salvage auctions, boats are auctioned both through private boat auction houses and through the US government. Boats sold through professional auction houses are usually put up for sale by private companies or owners. While these boats don't come from salvage, it is still wise to have them professionally evaluated before you begin bidding. A professional surveyor can give you a reasonable estimate of the boat's true value. The United States Department of the Treasury also conducts boat auctions. These sales offer boats that have been seized for law informant reasons, and are usually sold "as is" at or below fair market value. Once again, even though the boats are being sold by the federal government, it is wise to have the boat professionally surveyed before you begin bidding.
There are many boat auctions available online, though most such auctions are conducted live. Large scale auction sites, such as eBay, only offer auctions for smaller watercraft: canoes, kayaks, and fishing boats. Larger boats, though available through some smaller specialized online auction sites, are usually sold through live auctions. Live auctions for boats in the US usually occur in major port areas on the east and west coasts of the US, and sometimes in the Great Lakes region.