Used marine electronics often go overlooked when boat owners outfit a new vessel or replace pieces of marine electronics equipment like a mapping chartplotter, fishfinder, or radar on their current boat.
The cost of outfitting a recreational vessel with boat electronics can exceed $10,000 when you add up all the components, such as GPS chartplotters, radar units, fishfinders and VHF radios. Thinking about adding AIS, an autopilot, or the latest in marine stereo? These extra pieces boat electronics can add to the cost quickly.
And don’t forget about emergency communication devices such as an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). These are big bucks, too. An EPIRB can cost as much as $1,000 or more.
You may turn to the used markets for boats and engines, but have you considered a used sounder or GPS? The savvy boat buyer will hire a marine surveyor to inspect a used boat or a certified technician to check out a used marine engine. Finding a local professional or business to inspect a piece of electronics may be a tad tougher but your surveyor should be able to point you in the right direction.
Shopping for Used Marine Electronics
Start by asking boating friends if they know of any highly-qualified marine electronics repair shops near your boat. Be sure that the business is trained and certified to work on the particular brand of electronics you are thinking about purchasing for your vessel.
There are some shops around that stock used equipment for resale. They may even offer some sort of warranty. For example, if you have a Furuno radar in mind for purchase locate your local certified Furuno dealer and see if they have any working take-outs still in top shape that may be for sale.
Look for Corrosion
There are steps you can take on your own when you are looking at used marine electronics. Corrosion is a major issue in the marine environment. Anything and everything left on a boat will corrode soon or later if left unprotected. When you inspect a used piece of boat electronics, look for signs of corrosion. If you find minor corrosion on a few spots on the outside of a unit that can be easily cleaned up, you may want to consider this one for purchase. If a unit has anything beyond minor exterior surface corrosion I would take a pass and look for something else.
Since waterproofing has improved significantly in the past 10 years or so, the faces of the units are less of a concern. Focus on the back of the machine. For instance, examine closely the coaxial cable connection of a VHF radio. Is there any white, crusty material on the connection or end of the coaxial cable? Same goes for inspection of a radar set radome: Look for corrosion and any signs of water ingression. On a dome type radar antenna the cover should be easy to remove. Inside thing should look pristine if the waterproofing has been doing its job.
How can you tell if a sounder or chartplotter display has seen better days? If there is a line through the screen that is an indication that a full row of pixels is missing, not a good sign. Screens can delaminate, too, meaning their anti-glare material is starting to wear off. This often occurs in the corners of the screen. It almost looks like there is water inside the screen, but it’s the visual effect of delamination.
Sun damage should be taken into consideration. Are there any cracks in that VHF radio or GPS antennae you are looking at? Discoloration is one of the first signs that plastic has been exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time. Examine the antenna radome or face plate of a VHF radio for severe discoloration or worst case for cracks. If you find any cracks I would pass it up and move one. Minor discoloration of the plastic on a radio or plotter face wont have any detrimental affect but may be a good bargaining chip when you price the unit for purchase.
What About Installation
Think ahead about the unit installation—where will you mount it? Is the spot big enough? Will the access to controls be right? Where will the cables to the unit run? Unless you are replacing a machine with the exact same unit, there will be installation modifications that will need to be made. Any kind of installation modification can time consuming and costly, so plan ahead.
Be aware that a used piece of electronics might not include all the necessary parts, such as the mounting brackets, power plug or antenna. If significant essential ingredients are missing, youll need to factor in the cost of buying these parts into your overall investment.
What About the Warranty?
One big downside when purchasing used gear: Used or refurbished marine electronics are usually not backed by a manufacturer warranty, though if you purchase through a dealer you may get a short term warranty.
Clearly you can see that a boat owner must weigh both advantages and disadvantages associated with buying used marine electronics. But for cost-conscious recreational mariner who is willing to take the time to conduct the proper research and have the unit inspected, used marine electronics deserve consideration.