Many people like to buy cheap, old boats as they can often get them for pennies on the dollar. If the hull is good, you can build out the inside of your boat to your own specifications, providing you with a custom-built boat.

You’ll be the only one on the water with a boat like yours. Sound like something you want to get into?

Buying a cheap boat is only the first step. What comes next is where it really gets fun. You’ll need to start acquiring boat parts to install onboard, which you can often get free or cheap as well.

Though, there are a handful of parts you’ll probably want to buy brand new, as their condition will determine the performance of the boat.

But if you are ready to get started on your new boat build, keep reading to familiarize yourself with the parts of boats that are most important to the function and comfort of your vessel.


What boat parts do I need in order to build out a custom boat? When people become used boat owners for the first time, this is often the first question they ask

There are many different types of boat parts you’ll want to familiarize yourself with. This includes things like the steering system, the engine, seating, storage, electronics, and more.

However, few are as important to the performance or the function of your boat as the propeller, also known as a “prop” for short. The prop is what moves your boat forward.

As the engine uses up gas, it powers the prop, causing it to spin underwater. This thrust is what propels the boat forward.

There are many different types of propellers, made with different materials, different numbers of blades, and shaped differently. If you want to maximize performance in the water, make the most of your fuel consumption, and ensure a smooth, enjoyable ride, getting the correct boat prop is key.

You don’t want a propeller that is too large for your boat, as your engine is going to work too hard to power it. You also don’t want a prop that is too small, or you’ll waste tons of fuel.

It needs to be sized perfectly for your specific boat and the engine you are running. And buy new, if you can. A dinged-up, old prop is going to ruin a day on the water very fast.

Boat Motor

Your boat motor, or engine, can come in different styles; the inboard motor out the outboard motor.

Inboard motors are built into the design of the boat. They connect to the prop on the underside of the boat. Because these are built-in, they are more difficult to access, clean, and repair.

As a result, many people prefer the convenience offered by outboard motors. You install these on the rear of the boat. When not needed, they can be folded up, out of the water.

Once you are ready to use it, you just drop it back into the water and let it run. Because they live above the surface of the boat, it’s easier to clean and repair these.

Steering and Console

Most boats have a familiar type of steering wheel that allows you to control the boat. Where the steering wheel is located is known as the helm. The helm is essentially the control station of the boat or the driver’s seat.

This is also where you’ll find the console of the boat. The console contains many of the other controls of the vessel, such as the engine starter, the stereo system, pumps, horns, and other essential functions.

The size of the helm on your particular boat will dictate if you can even have a console, and if so, how big it can be.

The console will also contain a killswitch. This is a type of key that needs to be engaged in the console in order for the boat to operate. It’s usually connected to a lanyard. If it’s removed from the console at any time, the boat shuts off to prevent any accidents. Having a killswitch is very important for your safety.


The rudder is what steers the ship. Turning the steering wheel in the cockpit steers the boat by turning the rudder. The rudder is essentially a flap underwater.

By adjusting the angle of this flap, the boat can either move left or right.


All boats should have an anchor on board, as well as a safe place to store it when not in use. If you need to prevent your boat from drifting around in the current, you’ll drop the anchor.

It sinks to the bottom where it stays put, holding the boat in place. This lets you focus on swimming, fishing, or relaxing without worrying about the boat moving of course, or in the direction of other boaters.

Bilge Pump

All boats have a bilge at the bottom of the vessel. Over time, the bilge collects with water and debris and can get quite dirty. This waste needs to be removed.

The easiest way to do this is by installing a bilge pump to constantly move water out and prevent it from getting too messy inside.


Unfortunately, once your boat is up and running, you won’t be using it 24/7. At some point, you’re going to need to dock your boat and get back to normal life.

When docking your boat, you’ll need to tie it up to the dock to prevent your boat from floating away. Located on both the dock and your boat, are cleats. These are simple plastic or metal objects that allow you to wrap and tie your rope to them, securing your boat to the dock.

Make sure to install cleats on either side of the boat, as you never know when are where you’re going to need to dock.

Navigation Lights

When driving your boat at night or in foggy conditions, you’re going to need to use navigation lights. These will help you avoid collisions with other boats that your naked eye wouldn’t be able to see.

Bi-colored lights are those with both a red and green light. Tri-colored lights add an additional white light. Navigation lights need to be installed and used on all sides of your boat in the dark.

VHF Radio

When out in the water, you may not have a signal on your cell phone. If you are in trouble and in need of rescue or assistance, you need a way to communicate with authorities.

A VHF radio uses specific radio waves that both local marinas and the coast guard monitor constantly. Should you need help, using this radio is likely your only chance. Don’t skimp on the radio and make sure you know how to use it before going out.

Bimini Top

One of the reasons boating is so popular is that’s it gets you outdoors. The more time you spend outdoors, the more opportunity you have to experience the mental and physical health benefits of being outside.

One of those many benefits is sunlight. Our bodies need it, as do our minds. But too much sun can quickly become dangerous.

In fact, just a few minutes of direct sunlight is enough to cause a sunburn. And getting only a handful of sunburns over the course of your life increases your risk of skin cancer.

Luckily, many boats make it easy to install a bimini top, which is a soft, retractable sunroof. So you can operate your boat, or lounge around in the sea shaded by the sun. These allow you to spend more hours on the water without damaging your skin.

Swim Platform

These are often located at the rear of the boat. They are flat surfaces that lay low next to the surface of the water. Some even have a small ladder attached to them for super easy boarding.

These make it easy for swimmers to climb back up onto the boat. Or, if someone has fallen overboard, these platforms are simply the easiest way to get people back inside, as you won’t have to help lift them over the entire hull.

Just make sure the outboard motor is always disengaged and removed from the water when people are using the swim platform.

Safety Kit

Every boat, no matter how big or small, should always have a safety kit on board. You can stock these full of many different items, but some of the most important include flairs, whistles, blow horns, flashlight, a dive knife, goggles, and an additional radio.

Having a small first aid kit inside is also helpful. The items in this kit have the power to save a life in the event of an emergency. Each time you are about to leave the shore, check to see if your safety kit is on board.

Where to Get Boat Parts

There are many ways you can stock up on boat parts to build or update your boat. The first choice is to always check your local boating shop. Sure, prices won’t be cheap.

But you may be able to find used or returned parts and receive a discount on them. The benefit of buying from a local shop is that they’ll be able to recommend the specific boat parts you need for your boat.

If you know exactly what you are looking for, you can also order your boat parts online. With many websites to choose from, it’s easy to compare prices and find a better deal. But it’s difficult to know if a certain part will be compatible with your boat or not.

But if you are looking for the best deals, such as free, you can look locally. Check Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. Many people list old boats, or boat parts for free or super cheap, as they just need to clean out their garage.

You can also create posts letting your local community know what you are looking for.

Speaking of community, you can probably find online forums where boat owners list parts that they have for sale. Or you can ask around at local boating clubs and get-togethers.

How to Replace Boat Parts

The difficulty of replacing boat parts will depend on which particular part you are replacing. Changing out cleats, for example, is as simple as using a drill. Swapping out an anchor is easy since it’s not even attached to anything.

Upgrading your steering wheel? Replacing a rudder or prop? If you aren’t confident in your mechanical skills, these tasks are best left to professionals.

Bring your boat into a local shop and let the pros get the job done the right way. Otherwise, have one of your boat-owning buddies come over for a beer, and casually ask him how he might go about replacing a rudder.

He may show you how to do it, or even do it for you. Boat owners love showing off their skills and knowledge.

Staying Safe On the Water

Putting together a functional boat is only the first step to enjoying your time on the water. Next up, you’ll need to know how to safely operate a boat in varying conditions.

Coastal regions in particular are known for rapidly changing weather conditions. While you might know how to drive your boat, knowing how to do so in battering waves and high winds is another story.

The best thing you can do is take a boater safety class to ensure you understand exactly what it takes to keep yourself, your boat, and your passengers safe each time you get out onto the water. You’ll also come away with an official boater’s license, which may be useful in more ways than one.

Stock Up and Build That Boat

Now that you are aware of some of the basic boat parts you’re going to need, it’s time to start searching around. If you’re patient, you can often get really good deals on quality parts.

It just takes some digging, some researching, and some asking around. After all, fellow boat owners are always looking out for other boat owners.

Looking for other articles like this? Be sure to visit the rest of our blog today to keep reading.

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