Used boats are awesome, but finding the one you’re looking for can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re looking for a boat that has been out of production for some time, or so new that there are few people selling yet. Here are a few methods I use:
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  1. The no-brainer choice for our area is to keep you eye on Northeast Paddlers Message Board For Sale or Wanted forum. A “wanted” post can be surprisingly effective.
  2. BoaterTalk GearSwap seems to get a lot more boats (and gear) listed for sale than NPMB, but most of the listings are down south. That said, if you know what you want and see a good deal it’s worth checking with the seller. As you well know, we kayakers tend get around and you can often figure out a way to get the boat a lot closer to you. The seller might know someone going north or you might know someone going south. You can also post on NPMB or BoaterTalk to find someone to help you out – especially if you offer to put in a few bucks toward their gas.
  3. eBay and Craigslist are hit or miss, but you can use SearchTempest to search both in multiple regions at once. If you use an news aggregator like Google Reader or Feedly you can get an RSS feed of your SearchTempest results.
  4. You can use Google Alerts to deliver results for your search terms to your reader or email on a schedule you choose. One great thing about Google Alerts is that it will only give new results, which I find tend to be either new articles/reviews on the boat you’re searching for or sale/used listings. It generally won’t send you results for all the kayak stores that have new boats in online catalogs. However, you might want to start off with a regular Google search for your boat and limit the results to “past month” so you don’t miss something that’s still out there waiting for a buyer. Google Alerts also tends to pick up eBay and Craigslist results, so number 3 above may be redundant if you’re using this method.
  5. Finally, one of the best ways to pick up a newer boat for a good price is to get end-of-season demos from stores and brand reps. This can take a bit of patience because the sell-offs tend to happen in September/October, but if the timing works out reps are required to sell off the demos at that time and pass on a predetermined amount of money to the company they rep for. Usually, that amount is pretty low – around $450 – so they have room to price the boats well. Of course, these boats have been demoed all season, so make sure it hasn’t been trashed before committing and don’t be afraid to ask for any missing outfitting. Note that, like any used boat, demo boats generally don’t come with warranties. Also, some kayak companies designate their factory seconds as demos (I know Jackson does), but the issues tend to be cosmetic, not structural. I just went this route to pick up a Liquid Logic Stomper 80 that has been demoed twice – one of those times by me this past spring – for about half of what used Stompers are going for elsewhere. Anyone want to buy a well-loved Mamba 7.5?

Have any suggestions to add? Post them in the comments.