Avoiding Boat and Outboard Scams

This is just a short article / rough guide on how to avoid the common scams when buying marine equipment i.e. boats, engines, trailers etc.

Boats and Outboards website

This site is now littered with scams and hence though there are honest genuine sellers on there here are a few ways to avoid some of the scams and save you some time.

Calling the number on the advert is very costly and due to many adverts not even stating where the boat/ engine/ bits are it is far easier to create some text in a word document and cut and paste it into the required fields i.e.


I notice you advert for xxx on boats and outboards for Y. Can you please tell me/ confirm




Is there any documentation including servicing history/ repair bills etc

Where is it and can you give me your postcode

A Landline number so that I can call you

Please note I will be collecting in person and will pay cash when I collect.

Remember if you call the premium number on the advert or call a mobile number the person you are speaking to could be based anywhere in the uk. A landline number can have its location traced and hence is a starting point as to where they live.

If you get a reply with a landline number, google the area code to see if it matches the location of the boat/ outboard. If you do not get a landline number or they are not willing for you to collect it and check it before you pay then there is a good chance that the advert is a scam.

Please also remember that just like cars, boats and outboard engines are often stolen, so again you must know where the current owner lives or be prepared to have no chance of getting your money back.

Boats and outboards has a huge number of false adverts as well as real ones and hence if you are not sure please walk away and never send any money to anyone until you have seen, tested the boat/ engine/ trailer unless it is registered business


If you have the spare time and don’t mind a few trips to look at boats/ engines that end up being a waste of time there are great deals to be had, but please remember t is “ buyer beware” so please be careful.


As the world’s largest auction site it still amazes us that we see the same problems day in day out and problems range from:

  • Boat / engine have no identification marks and is not what is being advertised
  • Very little information i.e. no age of the boat / trailer/ engine ( would you buy a car without knowing how old it is?)
  • Hearsay terminology: the classic of the trailer/ boat/ engine was fine when it was last used x months ago! This does not mean it is working now and what they call fine is often very different from what the buyer calls fine.
  • Unproven facts are often given: If you were to believe 90% of ebay adds then the boat/ outboard/ trailer has only been used a few times, the outboard has been used mainly in fresh water and has v v low hours.

If the seller cannot prove these things then please dont take them as being true. We know this is a harsh thing to say but sadly we get many customers coming in with “ so called “good working condition engine’s that they have seen running only to find major problems i.e. low compression, faulty gearboxes etc

Our biggest tip for this site is to ask lots of questions through the site i.e. are the bearings ok, has the engine got good compression, doe the boat leak, do the electrics work etc as that way ebay can check their reply’s and refund you if it is not as described.


Ebay gives you the chance and opportunity to get some amazing deals but sadly you need to be very careful and ask  the right questions through ebays contact the seller option so that you have the reply in writing.  This way you at least have “some chance” of ebay/ paypal giving you your money back and a small chance is far better than none!

Note: remember that just because an engine starts it does not mean it will push a boat through the water as it could have gearbox or compression issues.  Please see https://clydeoutboards.wpengine.com/how-to-guides/buyers-guide-to-second-hand-outboard-engines  for more information

None Auction sites

Sites like Preloved, Gumtree etc are getting bigger and more popular for selling boats, outboard engines and related bits and pieces. So as long as you do your homework and buy from the current owners house, test the items why you are there, then there is a good chance of picking up a good deal. Obviously do get it confirmed in an email/ writing that the item is not stolen, and don’t ever give any money by any means until you have seen it and are happy it is what it says it is.

Again Remember/Just because an engine starts does not mean it is working properly.  Please see https://clydeoutboards.wpengine.com/how-to-guides/buyers-guide-to-second-hand-outboard-engines for more information.

Boat Brokerage

The first and biggest thing to remember about a boat broker is that they are the same as estate agents i.e. they promote and sell the boat but any implied or given warranty is backed of to the seller.   This means that you are responsible for checking the boat is what it claims it is and the condition.

Boat Brokerage does have some major advantages over other methods of buying a boat and these include:

  • Far more information is provided
  • You actually get a contract of sale
  • The broker will help you get answers to any questions you have and confirm them in writing.
  • For more expensive boats they often know an fully independent local boat surveyor who can vet the boat for you.
  • It is often very easy to test the boat on the water.


By far the safest way of buying a boat and though there are some bargains to be found  they are few and far between. On a more positive note, it is also rare for a boat to be overpriced as the broker knows that he cannot sell the boat if the owner is asking too much.


Boat dealers are like car dealers i.e. they range from very bad to very very good. Most boats will be in good mechanical order as they must be sold by law with 3 months warranty. However it is your job to read the sales contract and check what is covered and more importantly not covered.

We have been to many dealers with pals to inspect boats and having checked the engine and the trailers are ok- good working order we have then lift up cushions to find serious damp problems, electrics not working, and fixtures missing i.e. fish finders, plotters, and in one case a built in fridge!

Obviously most boats in dealers are reputable and many have great boats that are ready to be towed away but experience has shown us this is not always the case, so remember to look over the boat as if it was being sold by a complete stranger.


Many dealers are great and are very helpful but that does not mean you can let your guard down so if you are keen on the boat and you cannot afford to lose the money you can always get the boat surveyed.  Also remember to check everything as if you were buying from ebay or a site like gumtree as it is your responsibility to check the boat is as described before you take it away. If you do find a problem point it out to the dealer and in most cases it will either be fixed or a small price reduction night be offered. Dealers are also great if you have a boat to trade  in or are looking for finance.

Other common things to look for:

Low hours/ little use                                                         Can this be proved and if not don’t take a strangers word for it

Just been serviced                                                              Ask for receipts for parts or the invoice for any work done  or take as a white lie

Asked to Pay before you see and collect:                 Please never do this from a private seller.

Nothing in writing:                                      Any genuine seller will have no problem with you writing down what you are buying, what condition it is in , what extra’s come with it and that they confirm it is not stolen. Date and sign 1 copy and  do an identical copy for the seller and ask them to sign both so that you both have a  copy.

I painted / sprayed the trailer  for ……                    This is a great way of hiding major rust problems so tap the trailer all over to check for rust problems.

Sorry that was not included                                          This can  happen when things are picked up a few days later so remember to write down a list of what is included and ask the seller to sign it.


There are lots of genuine bargains being sold by genuine sellers but with the proliferation of scams it does not hurt to ask questions, examine things closely and only pay when you are 100% happy. For more expensive boats/ engines you can always get extra peace of mind by having the boat surveyed or the engine checked by a professional surveyor or marine engineer. Typically a boat survey will cost between 10-15 per foot with most having a minimum cost of 200-300 pounds. This is a lot of money if you don’t buy the boat but could save you thousands if you don’t get it done and you later find problems!