Sunday, February 19, 2017

Some thoughts on buying used stuff for boats...

Words, some bad (though much deserved) news for Utah, and a little depressing math...

OK, I'll admit it, at least once every week I check out eBay to see what's for sale in the boat gear category. Partly because you always need something for your boat and partly because it's good to know what stuff is worth.

That said, eBay is no longer the extended yard sale/swap meet it used to be and not really a good place to check prices because the greed has taken hold with a vengeance. Take self-steering gears for instance. You will often see used gears for silly prices. I suppose the fact that most new self-steering gears being stupidly expensive is a factor but still something used really should come with a price that reflects the fact that it used or, in far too many cases, used and abused.

Once upon a time I used to work in a consignment store selling boat gear. It was not a bad job as things go and it did teach me a lot about gear not to have on a boat and how the whole used gear thing actually works in practice. Being a consignment store it also taught a lot more on how not to sell things.

Which sorta/kinda brings us to the rule of half/half again... Let's say you have a self-steering gear on your new used boat you don't want and you want to sell it. Let's also say that you can buy the very same gear from its builder for $6K in spite of it having a retail price of $6.5K (face it everybody discounts). What would/should you price it at if you actually wanted to, you know, sell it?

Well, a guy on eBay today seems to think $5.5K which equals out to a $500 discount for a gear that predates his ownership of the boat, so it could be a decade or so old, possibly needs some work, and new bearings. At that price we'd never have been able to sell the beast in the store unless we lucked onto someone exceptionally stupid and drunk... Nope, at that price it would just sit in the corner and gather dust.

The fact is, used boat stuff really does not move until it hits the half off level rounded down to the nearest round with a kiss off that number... So, for the windvane in question, half of $6.5K is $3250 then rounded to $2999 is a price where it might actually sell for if it was in like-new condition, had all its bits, spares, and documentation. Truth be told, anything that was once bolted to a transom would fall into the half again rule where it might sell for $1500 at most.

Since one is predisposed to spend more in an actual brick & mortar store than from some dude on the internet selling off stuff he no longer wants, $1500 is actually way more than most people would fork out unless, of course, they were of the exceptionally stupid and/or drunk variety. A real world price is more likely to be under $1K.

As a consumer, you already know this to be true to one degree or another but there is a lot of pressure, both peer and otherwise, to forget the common sense you were born with and spend boat bucks like a drunken sailor (spelled exceptionally stupid and drunk) because... you know... you get what you pay for.

Working at the store taught me that the half/half again is just based on what good used stuff is really worth and nowhere near rocket science or voodoo. More importantly, it also taught me that there is always new old gear coming to the market all the time. If the guy selling that old funky winch for $500 or the $5.5K windvane won't come down to a real world price, someone else will have the same thing or a reasonable facsimile in the not too far distant future. All you have to do is keep looking and be patient...

Plus, the folks with the too-high gear will still be selling their gear next month or next year because it just ain't going to move anytime soon.

Listening to Barbagallo

So it goes...