It's a buyer's market - but be careful

Today's economy has saddled a lot of anglers with debt and forced them to sell their boats.

As unfortunate as that is for them, it provides good buying opportunities for you.

It's best to buy from a reputable dealer you know and trust. He's more likely to share with you the pros and cons of the used rig he's selling. And, more importantly, he knows the legalities required to complete the deal properly and quickly.

On the other hand, it's possible to land a "better deal" by buying from an individual who needs to sell and will take less money.

"Finding your dreamboat is easy," cautions Charm Addington, BoatU.S. vice president of boat finance, in a press release. "It's harder, however, to walk away from a boat that pulls at your heart strings — but one that may have skeletons hiding in the closet."

Here are some tips to follow that can help you avoid some of the pitfalls when buying a pre-owned rig from an individual.

Check it out

Never buy a boat without seeing it start, run and without you driving it. Test the electronics and trolling motor to make sure they work properly. If it's your first boat, ask someone with bass boat experience to accompany you for a detailed inspection and an on-the-water test. Experienced bass boaters know where to look for gremlins and can detect potential problems you may not notice.

Examine paperwork

Before you buy, make sure the registration is current and the title information matches the registration.

Use a pencil and paper to get a "rubbing" of the boat's 12-character serial number known as the HIN (hull identification number) and ensure it matches registration and title. If it doesn't, make the seller correct the problem before you do business.

Also, a title will usually list any liens on the vessel, such as a bank loan that will need to be paid off in order to transfer the title.

Draw up a purchase agreement

It's a widely acceptable practice to include any contingencies the two of you agree upon. Include a statement that requires the seller to pay off any loan he has on the boat within a very limited amount of time. Any other liens should be cleared up by the seller before any sale occurs.

Also, get a statement showing that any state or local taxes on the vessel have been paid. Include that statement in the purchase agreement.

Consummate the sale

Prepare a bill of sale with the seller's name as it appears exactly on the title and registration. Provide the buyer with a cashier's check and make sure the name you put on the check matches the name on the title and registration.

Buying a good used bass boat can be a rewarding experience and a wise investment — if you take the steps to do it properly and ensure a clean purchase with no surprises afterwards.