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A Buyer's Guide to Getting a Used Chaparral Boat


Chaparral unquestionably makes some great boats. Unfortunately for those of us on a budget, those boats don't come cheap. But before you give up on your dream of sailing the high seas on the back of one, there's a solution, a solution that comes with the words ' previously owned'. Sure, you might not be able to customize a used boat in the way you would a new one, but does it really matter when you can slash several zeros off the asking price as a result? For any would-be Chaparral owners in the market for a used boat, there's a lot to consider. Not all used boats have been properly maintained (and springing a leak when you're 30 miles off-shore is something no one wants, regardless of how much you might have saved in the process). Others might give you a headache when it comes to sourcing parts. But pick your used boat wisely, and you're looking at good times all the way. So, how exactly DO you pick a used Chaparral boat wisely? Is there anything to watch out for? Anything to avoid? Yes, and a whole lot more besides...

Choose a Model

Aimlessly browsing the 'For Sale' notices for recreation is one thing. But if you're serious about buying a used Chaparral, a sense of purpose is going to come in handy. Before you start worrying about engines, electrical systems, or any of the more technical details, figure out exactly what kind of boat you want. The options aren't that extensive (not in the way of a car, in any case) but there's enough variety to mean you're going to have to make a choice.

When it comes to boats, you're looking at 5 basic varieties. some are best for cruising, others are preferable for fishing, and others still make the best choice for water sports. As helpfully outlines, the basic models to consider include:

  • Cruising Yacht: If you want something large, long and with enough space for entertaining, a cruising yacht is going to be your best bet.
  • Fishing Boat: If you plan on catching your supper, an aluminum or fiberglass fishing boat is going to be your boat of choice. Just bear in mind that some are designed for freshwater applications only, and are likely to rust if you take them out on the open seas.
  • Pontoon Boat: If you want something affordable, adaptable, and easy to use, a pontoon has your name written all over it.
  • Ski Boat: Ski boats are strong, spacious, sleek, and ideal for lazy days on the lake.

Sailboat: A sailboat is a classic design that warrants little explanation. Sizes can vary considerably, so be sure to find one that's large enough to accommodate the number of passengers you intend to set sail with.

Work Out Your Budget

A used Chaparral might be significantly cheaper than a new model, but let's face facts - it's still going to be one of the most expensive things you ever buy. Before you get too deep into the process, work out exactly what your budget for the boat is. The worst thing that could happen is that you find a boat you love, only to find your budget isn't quite as generous as you thought. When you start doing the math, don't just calculate the cost of the boat itself. Ongoing costs can eat up a massive amount of your savings, particularly if the boat you eventually settle on needs any work to make it sea-worthy. Tot up the fuel costs, insurance, maintenance costs, docking and marina fees, and storage costs - then make sure to include these in the overall cap you set yourself for the boat itself.

Find Out What It Would Cost New

Not all used boats are quite the bargain they're made out to be. If you wind up paying just a few hundred less for a used boat that you'd have spent on a shiny new model, the only person coming out of that deal with a smile on their face is the seller. Before you start plowing through the 'For Sale' notices, give yourself an education on the retail price of new models. Fortunately, Chaparral makes the process much easier than it would be with other manufactures thanks to their 'One Pricing' philosophy. Regardless of where in the US you are, all dealers should be offering the same price for the same product. Intended to keep things fair, transparent, and free of the hassle of negotiating, it also makes sure you know exactly what you'll be spending before you even set foot in a dealership. Intentionally or not, it also makes working out how reasonable the asking price on a used model is a heck of a lot easier.

Ask for the History

Before you arrange to inspect a boat, ask the seller for details of the vessel's history. If it's sustained any major damage in the past or undergone significant repair work, you might want to consider eliminating it from any further consideration.

Conduct a Physical Inspection

Never, ever buy a boat or any other major purchase without first seeing it in person. No matter how great the seller seems, no matter how fantastic the pictures, and no matter how great the price, you won't ever be sure what you're getting until you see it in person. A physical inspection isn't just recommended, it's mandatory.

Check the Engine

Unless you're planning on buying a rowing boat, the first thing you should always check on a used boat is the engine. Chaparral boats might come with the promise of quality craftmanship and high-class parts, but no mechanical part is entirely invulnerable, especially if the part in question is an engine. Regardless of how great the audio system, how spacious the seating arrangement, and how jazzy the color, a boat with a bad engine is a bad boat, period. Before you welcome Trouble with a capital T into your life, do as recommends and make a good, long inspection of the engine (and if possible, show up earlier than planned to make sure the seller hasn't had chance to start it up beforehand - an engine that's already been warmed up isn't quite so easy to assess as a cold one). Give the dip-stick a tug: if the oil is milky, it indicates the presence of water (which, lest it needs to be said, is NOT a good thing). Check the plugs for any sign of carbon build up, and cock your ear to how smooth the engine sounds as it runs. If you know less about engines that you'd like, bring along a friend who knows what they're looking for. Even better, throw a mechanic a few bucks to tag along, too.

Check for Cabin Leaks

As you complete your physical inspection of the vessel, check out the cabin for any signs of leaks. Watermarks are a dead giveaway, but can all too often be cleaned away by unscrupulous sellers before you arrive. The easiest way to check for potential trouble is to spray a hose at the hatches, ports, and seams from outside. If any of the water makes its way in, there's trouble afoot.

Check for Rot

If you're buying a relatively new Chaparral, rot isn't something you should have to concern yourself with. If, on the other hand, the boat is one of the brand's earlier models, make sure to inspect the transom and deck coring for any large cracks or other indications of rot.

Check the Wiring

Chaparral makes complicated boats - complicated boats which hide a host of hidden electrical systems. Be sure the wiring is up to scratch- anything that's not concealed or that's threadbare, poorly insulated or badly sealed (and no, electrical tape doesn't constitute a proper seal) should set off red flags. While you're at it, take a look at the fuse boxes too. If they contain a variety of different brand fuses, ask yourself (and hopefully the seller too), why some have been replaced and if the problem causing the fuses to blow in the first place has now been rectified.

Check for Loose Seats

Unless you want your passengers to be in for a bumpy ride, do as recommends and check for loose seats. If there are any, it could just be that the bolts have slipped (which is easy enough to repair). But it could also mean the floor's been compromised in some way - a far bigger problem and one far more expensive to rectify.

Inspect the Fiberglass

The fiberglass used by Chaparral is generally hardy. But it's not completely immune to issues. Inspect it thoroughly for any signs of wear. Even the smallest, most insignificant looking spider crack can quickly expand into a big problem.. and a massive expense that you're unlikely to have factored into your overall budget.

Always Conduct a Sea Trial

Completing a physical inspection of a boat when it's on land is one thing (and a very necessary thing, at that). But if you really want to know what you're getting yourself into, never skimp on taking it for a sea trial. As very wisely notes, the sea trial will give the seller the opportunity to show you the features of the boat - and give YOU the opportunity to check out just how well those features perform. Make sure the trial lasts long enough for you to complete an accurate assessment: if the seller starts to suggest a return journey just seconds after you've pulled away from the dock, take it as a warning sign.

Ask About Warranty

Just because you're buying a used boat doesn't mean you have to give up on the idea of warranty. All Chaparral watercrafts come with a Premier Limited Warranty that provides comprehensive accessory package protection for a total period of 5 years. If the used boat you're interested in is still within the warranty period, happy days.... although just make sure you get all the right documentation from the seller to allow you to transfer the cover over.

Inspect the Paperwork

Just as important as checking out the boat itself is checking out the accompanying paper work. If you're buying one of Chaparral's larger models, ask to see the title (a requirement in most states for boats over 16 feet in length). Double check its validity, ensure there's no liens on the title, and verify the Hull Identification Number is the same on the title as it is on the boat. If the boat is less than 16 feet and doesn't require a title, ask the owner for the bill of sale to show they're the legal owner. If they can't produce it or seem reluctant to let you see any another standard paperwork, it's best to walk away, no matter how attractive the asking price.

Consider Hiring a Marine Surveyor

You might want to own a boat, but be realistic with yourself about just how much you actually know about them. Not everyone who drives a car knows how to check an engine, let alone how to change a tire, so don't beat yourself up if the only thing you know about boats is the difference between starboard and port. If you're not sure what details you should be checking, or what warning flags you should be looking for, save yourself a whole heap of trouble by calling in an expert. A Marine Surveyor may charge you for their services, but if hiring one means the difference between spending $20,000 on a boat that will see you through a lifetime, and $20,000 on a boat that will struggle to take you to next week, it's money well spent.

Use a Broker

If there's just one thing you take away from's very helpful guide to buying a used boat, it's this - use a broker. Whether we're talking new or used, a Chaparral boat costs a lot of money. And by a lot, we mean a LOT. That's a fact that's going to hold true whether you negotiate a deal yourself or use a broker. But the chances of you landing a good deal with a broker are far, far greater than you doing the same alone. As TGYG very wisely put it "A good broker’s experience is your best asset as you pursue a used boat purchase" - commit that to memory (then actually abide by it), and the chances of you coming to regret your purchase will be far less than they would be otherwise.

Know Where to Look

Now you know exactly what you're looking for in a used Chaparral boat, it's crunch time. But where do you start? Fortunately, the used boat market is vast. It shouldn't take too much research (or indeed, time) to find a seller. Some of the best places to start include boat shows (a great way of checking out and comparing a good selection of boats, not to mention assessing how trustworthy the dealer seems); online listings (obviously, you're going to want to see the boat in person before you commit to a sale, but online listings are a great place to start the buying process); boat dealers (dealers don't just sell new models: many also offer used models that come with the additional benefits of dealer guarantees and warranties).

Spend as much time researching and investigating the different options as possible. Unless you're blessed with a particularly big bank account, buying a boat is likely to be one of your most significant ever investments - don't come to regret it be falling short on the prep work.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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