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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I see a lot of people asking the similar question of what raft to buy for their first boat, however I don't see a lot of people asking how to buy a boat. I too am looking for my first raft, and wondering, what questions should I ask as I look at used boats?

I seem to find a lot of more affordable boats coming from commercial companies, however I don't really know what to look for when I go and check out a boat. I have been screwed over in the past buying used stuff without having the knowledge of what I'm looking for. I am hoping this community might help me with a few questions as I search for a raft.

What questions should someone ask when checking out a used boat?
What do you look for when checking out a boat in person?
What advice would you give to someone looking at used boats?

Thanks!
 

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Questions to ask:

How has the boat been stored? Inside and inflated to soft pressure is best, but rolled and stored is fine to. As long as it isn't just thrown outside with no cover.

How much use has the boat seen?

Are there any leaks, patches or any repairs that have been done or need to be done.

Do your best to get a strait answer of what comes with the boat (if anything) and what shape the gear is in.

Things to do:

If you get the chance to look at a boat in person, ask them if they will inflate the boat. Doesn't have to be to full operating pressure, but enough to be able to spot any damage or find leaks.

Ask if you can do a soapy water test. This is done by spraying soapy water on the inflated boat and see if you can spot bubbling. This is an indicator of a pinhole leak.

Check all the valves and make sure they work well and are in good shape.

Check for fading in the material color. Most boats fade over time from use, but if it looks really faded, it may have been left out in the sun and this can cause the boat to start to deteriorate.

If there have been repairs made or it needs a couple of repairs, doesn't mean that the boat is no good. It just depends on how well the repair is done. A properly repaired boat can last for years.

Good luck on your search!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So let's say I find a used boat with patches, is that necessarily a bad thing? I've seen a few used boats in the classifieds on this site with patches that are tempting.
 

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I just went through this process for buying my first boat, and learned a lot...I would first recommend to see if you could get the boat taken to a repair shop and have it inspected prior to purchasing, just like you would a take a used car to mechanic for an inspection before buying.

If you cant do that then first get real familiar with how boats are constructed... especially the self-bailing floor. Then I would do the following when inspecting a boat for purchase.

1. go to a hardware store and buy one of those pressurized spray bottles for gardening and weeds. Fill it with a bottle of dishsoap, and spray down the entire boat looking for leaks. They will be pretty obvious. Dont fear a few small patches, but this can easily run you $100 in patch materials and glue, so account that into the purchase price

2. The main tubes are composed of 4 chambers and separated by a baffle inside. Blow up each chamber separately to make sure the baffles are not blown. If they are blown then run away.

3. Take a hard look at the floor. If there are long patches running the length of the floor, then an ibeam has likely been blown in the past. run away. A new floor can cost around $2000. If there are regular patches for small tears, this could also mean the water has gotten into the floor and damaged the ibeams.

4. Inspect the material to see it appears to be worn out, or sundamaged... this was a tough one for a new boat buyer because you wont have a good frame of reference for what is acceptable wear.

5. Most importantly... I have found most people in the river community to be very honest and trustworthy. If there are any major problems then I would hope they would be honest with you about them. If the guy selling it does not seem to be fully trustworthy, or seems like they might be holding something back then I would also just walk away.
 

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Also, if you plan on buying an Aire, check the zippers.

If you plan on buying a glued boat, check all or the seams to see if the glue is starting to separate anywhere along the boat.
 

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So let's say I find a used boat with patches, is that necessarily a bad thing? I've seen a few used boats in the classifieds on this site with patches that are tempting.
Like I said, it really just depends. I suggest you watch videos on how to patch a boat. NRS has a few of them. Make sure you watch videos on patching both rubber and PVC boats. This will give you an idea of what the finished product should look like and the posses that needs to be done. Then ask them what materials and glues they used to patch the boat. This should give you an idea of weather or not it was done properly.
 

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One note on patches... For large tears, then a patch needs to be placed on the inside. this is the air hold patch. The patch on the outside is just for cosmetic reasons. If it is just a small holes, tears or leaks, Ive been told one small patch on the outside is fine. So if you see a large patch, ask if there was an inside patch installed.
 

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One note on patches... For large tears, then a patch needs to be placed on the inside. this is the air hold patch. The patch on the outside is just for cosmetic reasons. If it is just a small holes, tears or leaks, Ive been told one small patch on the outside is fine. So if you see a large patch, ask if there was an inside patch installed.
To OP. General rule of thumb from what I heard is a tear under 3" is small and over 3" is big. Keep in mind the patch should be at least an inch bigger all around than the tear.
 

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If you look at hypalon boats, and you should, deflate the boat and rub the tube material against itself so the inside drags against itself. If it feels slick, move on. That means it has had water in the tubes. That's a deal breaker for hypalon as it causes the glue to degrade. It should feel like dry rubber on dry rubber.

Sent from my HTC One using Mountain Buzz mobile app
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the great answers, I have been looking for used hypalon, although the 12 foot maravia in the classifieds looks tempting, albeit faded and patched.
 

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Thanks for all the great answers, I have been looking for used hypalon, although the 12 foot maravia in the classifieds looks tempting, albeit faded and patched.
Could be a good boat. Just keep in mind it has been for sale for a while now. It was posted on NRS gear swap as being an outfitter boat. So it is has probably seen a lot of use. Probably still has some life in it though.
 

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If you buy an older hypalon boat with an I-beam floor I recommend immediately installing a pressure release valve that releases at lower pressure.
 

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Some lessons I have learned.

I wouldn't buy a boat that was previously owned by a guide company. Guide companies know just when to get rid of a boat. If it still had long term value the company would not sell it.

Make sure that you can still buy the right valves, patch material, and glue for the boat.

Don't buy a faded or sun bleached boat. This usually equates to sun damage!

Don't buy a project boat. Repair materials can be hard to find and spendy.

If you buy a new boat from a quality manufacture then it will most likely go 20+ years.

Good Luck
 

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The last four digits in the serial number are the month and year of manufacture. Look at the underside to see how much it has faded. The bottom will generally be much closer to original color. I would personally buy only top name brands if I were going used.
I have seen some good outfitter boats go to a second owner. I don't think you can or should rule them out. I have an old (86) Avon that has outfitter paint on it and it is still a strong boat. I know some folks around here who have but commercial boats and been happy. Some outfitters may sell them off as the warranty expires which is always half the years as private. Maybe a particular river would be harder on gear than others.
Don't wait for the perfect deal and lose out on a great deal. If you end up regretting your purchase you will likely be able to sell and get all or most of your money back. Maybe go to the "worst deal" thread and see what to avoid.


Jim
 

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If you look at hypalon boats, and you should, deflate the boat and rub the tube material against itself so the inside drags against itself. If it feels slick, move on. That means it has had water in the tubes. That's a deal breaker for hypalon as it causes the glue to degrade. It should feel like dry rubber on dry rubber.

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Totally agreed with this one, be really aware of floor patches, they are the most likely to get water intrusion. My whitewater experience started in an old Riken Comanche IK, it was my 1st boat I bought when I was 16. Over the years I got water in the floor chamber and then I decided to fix it. Once I attempted the repair, I could never get glue to stick to the inner material. I tried a few different techniques from locals who were well versed, but the damage was done. There is a picture of me in that boat in the book Paddling Oregon.
 

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1. go to a hardware store and buy one of those pressurized spray bottles for gardening and weeds. Fill it with a bottle of dishsoap, and spray down the entire boat looking for leaks. They will be pretty obvious. Dont fear a few small patches, but this can easily run you $100 in patch materials and glue, so account that into the purchase price

2. The main tubes are composed of 4 chambers and separated by a baffle inside. Blow up each chamber separately to make sure the baffles are not blown. If they are blown then run away.
#1 or save yourself the $ and use a bucket of soapy water and sponge...or a spray bottle. I think a sponge works best because you can squeeze it to for more suds.

#2 Just so the OP knows the number of chambers in main tubes differs.
 

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-Buy used october through december if you can. The prices will be lowest.

-Buying a "project boat" isn't necessarily the worst thing if you are handy. Yes it's nice to have some experience repairing before you drop alot on a boat but some boats go REALLY cheap and only need a few days of work. I just bought one of those for $50 and this boat will make it into regular rotation. If it wasn't gonna make rotation I would just sell it for a few hundred dollars.

-If the patch has a buncha glue under it, beading around the edges, or squished out from the edges or generally messy, it was probably done by a newbie and may not be the best patch.

-I may *kinda* disagree on not buying boats from outfitters...it really depends. Private boaters typically want more for their rig and try to suqeeze as much as they can out of it. Outfitters typically can give you great deals, but quality will vary. I see outfitter's Hysides from the Ocoee for $500...the boats hold air well but are heavily worn, maybe torn handles etc. I have one 15 year old Star used by a fishing guide on the SoHo and Watauga and it lookes great...I also have a 31 year old Hyside that was owned by Ace and guided paddle groups down the New and Gauley river for years. I also have a 4 year old NRS that was a practically new demo when a guide backed a trailer into it....was patched by the warranty shop and sold at 1/3rd the price. The point is be patient and look in the right places and you will find great deals.

I hate to be this way because it's a little predatory, but keep an eye out for people who maybe frustrated with their boat , who are moving, getting divorced, getting older (hence coming towards the end of their paddling career) or make friends with a repair shop and buy demo boats. If you see someone with newly a punctured tube...go talk to them, it's crazy to me how quick people are to get rid of boats that just need a little repair and or elbow grease. Maybe they can't get the floor stiff....well often it's just a dirty prv that needs washed (I've bought one of those)...or the floor needs reglued, or a slow leak needs stopped. People are lazy, so capitalize on that. I've bought boats from people in most of those ^^^ categories.

Now I have a reputation as "the guy who will take your boat", so that helps ;)
 

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Great Tip

If you look at hypalon boats, and you should, deflate the boat and rub the tube material against itself so the inside drags against itself. If it feels slick, move on. That means it has had water in the tubes. That's a deal breaker for hypalon as it causes the glue to degrade. It should feel like dry rubber on dry rubber.

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+1 on this one. Great tip to tell if you have a solid boat or something to skip.
 

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Try and buy as much as you can in a package, a cheap used boat is just the down payment on all the stuff you need for it. A cheap beater raft turns into an expensive multiday rig that probably could have been had for less in a good package. Also look for good accessories as well as the rubber. When the rubber is toast the frame, oars, dry box, cooler and other rigging may still be serviceable and work great on your next boat.
 

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Take somebody who already has a boat and gear with you when you're looking at a used boat, someone who will be objective about its condition.
 
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