Buying a new boat is like to buying a new car—thrilling but expensive. The moment you strip the showroom plastic off the seats and turn the key, the slippery slope of depreciation begins. That's one of the reasons why many of us buy used boats, and as these five bargain boats illustrate, buying secondhand will often get you much more than you might think.
One quick word of caution: the budget we're sticking to is $10,000, but you may also want to set aside some money for a survey from an experienced (and officially accredited) marine specialist. Not only will it help unearth any major faults with the boat, it will also buy you some valuable peace of mind.
1. Carver Montego
The Carver Montego line is an express cruiser design dating back to the mid 80's. Though relatively small (you'll see them mostly in the 23' to 27' range, for under $10,000) these boats often are equipped with big-boat features like air conditioning, microwave ovens, and full camper top enclosures. The Montegos are stern-drive boats, and you'll see them with a wide range of power: single engines, twins, MerCruisers, and Volvo Pentas. Designed to maximize room belowdecks, even the 25' has room for four people to sleep aboard.
See current Carver Montego listings under $10,000.
2. Pro-Line Sport Center Console
From 1980 through the mid-2000's, Pro-Line built a large number of Sport center console fishing boats—that means the used boat market is rich with choices under our maximum price, mostly in the 17' to 20' range. Some, in fact, come in well under the $10,000 mark. We saw a 17' 1986 with a 115 HP outboard and a trailer for a mere $4,995, and a 2000 model for $7,499. Both represent a real bargain when it comes to buying a used boat. Most of these boats come with trailers, have Bimini tops instead of T-tops, and carry outboards of varying makes and sizes. Since these are dedicated fishing boats, even the oldest ones come with perks like livewells and electronics. One down-side: unlike most center consoles built today, when these were built, 20' was generally considered too small to house a head compartment inside the console. As a result, you need to go larger to get a head compartment with this vintage boat. Or, if you're feeling flush with cash and can double the budget in the interest of buying a new boat, check out Top 10 New Fishing Boats for Under $20,000.
See current Pro-Line Sport Center Console listings under $10,000.
3. 16' to 24' Sweetwater Pontoon Boats
Lakeland boaters, rejoice: there are a ton of options for used pontoon boats under $10,000, and one of the most attractive is the range of Sweetwater pontoons from 16' to 24'. You'll find listing after listing for boats built in the mid to late 90's, right up to pontoons that are only three or four years old (For a look at even more modern pontoons that represent a bargain, watch Value Pontoon Boats: Get the Most Bang for your Buck). Due to the large number of second hand listings it's tough to be specific about what these boats come with—some have trailers and some do not; some have Bimini tops and others are uncovered; and some have horsepower measured by the hundreds while others have a mere 9.9 HP on the motor pod. Still, having a wide range of choices is all part of the fun, when it's time to go boat shopping.
See current Sweetwater Pontoon boat listings under $10,000.
4. Tracker Pro Team 170 TX
Anglers in search of an aluminum bass boat will want to take a look at used boat listings for the Tracker Pro Team 170 TX. With models available from Texas to Florida to Kansas, there are plenty to choose from. These are mostly recent builds, too, ranging from 1995 right up to 2015. Just think of how nice it would be to buy a "used" boat this new, and have a modern 40 HP Mercury on your transom. Most of these boats came from the factory with a custom-matched trailer, basic fishing electronics, and features like trolling motors, marine-grade carpet, and livewells.
See current Tracker Pro Team 170 TX listings under $10,000.
5. Yamaha PWCs (and More!)
Yes, personal watercrafts are actual boats. And there's a slew of Yamaha PWC choices on boats.com for under $10,000. Whether you'd choose a touring model like the Waverunner FX Cruiser or a speed machine like the VXR, there's a good chance you'll find the bargain waterbike you've been looking for. In fact, you'll even see a Yamaha jet boat or two mixed among the listings. The best thing about shopping among these PWCs? Since they started out as relatively inexpensive boats, you can pick up very modern models inside of our price range. In fact, many of the listings are for the 2014 to 2016 model years. If, on the other hand, you want a brand new PWC at a rock-bottom price, read The Personal Watercraft Expert: Three PWC Bargains.
See current Yamaha PWC listings under $10,000.
For more surprising boating bargains, check out Great Gear for Under $50 and Bargain Boats and Charters: Fun For Less. Sailors in search of a new boat with great bang for their buck should see 10 New Bargain Sailboats: Best Value Buys.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in April of 2014 and was updated in December of 2016.