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Is this a good deal? Echelon...


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Hello all. I am shopping around for my first ski boat and I found one that appears to be a good deal, but I want other people who know Malibu's to confirm. It is a 1997 Echelon with a Mercruiser 315HP Scorpion 350ci EFI with only 10 hours on the motor and only 85 hours on the rest of the boat. The seller is asking 13k OBO for it. The hours on this boat is what really caught my eye, because it's basically brand new. The trailer also looks nice. 

I've been scrolling forums talking about Echelons/other Malibu's of this era/the different engine options and it seems like this hull with this motor is sought after.  But I would like to hear what other people have to say about this year/engine. The boat will be used solely for slalom both freeskiing and on the course. 

A couple cons for me with this boat are: 1) the price. I was hoping to spend around 8k on my first boat. 2) there is no sort of speed control I don't believe so I'm guessing I would want to add perfectpass later, and 3) it appears that this model with the open hull basically has no storage so I would need to add a tower/rack to avoid clutter everywhere on the floor. 

I'll attach a photo of the boat so you all can see. Thank you in advance!

 

101188851_3308725029195130_5751306224066

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Confused how a boat that old only has 85 hours? I believe the 10 hours on motor as I assume they had to rebuild for some reason.

I’d make sure you get an understanding of the 85 hour first.

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The seller says that it was a new crate motor that was installed. He said that it was replaced because of winterization issues or something. The hour meter on the dash shows 85 hours. That's what I found hard to believe. 

 

84247591_3308710282529938_36406016823976

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Sure looks good in photos. I would make any deal contingent upon an inspection by a Malibu dealer. Take it for a test drive as well - of course. Sometimes "barn finds" are real...

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25 minutes ago, Lakesidemn said:

Sure looks good in photos. I would make any deal contingent upon an inspection by a Malibu dealer. Take it for a test drive as well - of course. Sometimes "barn finds" are real...

If someone cracked the block, I'd wonder what else was missed.  The OP should be able to get a 2-4 year old Malibu for the same or not much more.

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Ask about the upholstery.  It looks pretty good in that photo (but I do see that the netting may be bagged out a bit).  Is it damaged at all?  Was it replaced?  If so, who did it?

Best offer is exactly that.  Start him low and see what happens.  If he's reasonable at all, he'll understand that the real price is somewhere between yours and his.  I checked the NADA pricing, and he is right in the range (although I have no idea what options the boat has).

                                                                    Suggested                  Low                     Average
                                                                    List Price                    Retail                   Retail

Base Price                                                 $27,150                      $11,100               $12,690

Engine 301-350 HP (5.7L - 8.1L ##)                                               $550                    $550

1997 Tandem 20 Feet                                                                       $480                    $540

Trailer Options (Change)

Aluminum Step Plates (4)                                                                  $90                     $100

Surge Brakes                                                                                      $140                     $160

Total Price                                                 $27,150                      $12,360               $14,040

OK, so I just checked the ad.  It has a boom mount on the pylon.  Does the boom come with the boat?  

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Thanks for you input everyone.

justgary, they said that the boom is not included with the boat and the mount was on the pylon when they bought it. Also, they said that the upholstery is original and in near perfect condition. No cracks or anything in the gel coat either. I think you have pretty much everything there in your NADA calculation except he has a bimini cover as well as a full cover as well. 

So it seems to be reasonably priced if it appears to be what is in the ad. I of course would need to test drive and would plan to have it checked by a dealer as well. But do you think the low hours makes the boat worth much more than the NADA values show? Or should I just go for a different boat that's listed below the low retail value but has 500-600 hrs on it. 

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I like it.  85 hours, or 450 hours, really there's no difference.  It's how it was maintained.  Sometimes a boat or car that sits around forever has been neglected and ends up needing work shortly after once everything gets going again.  And it's OBO, so I'd water test it and expect to get somewhere around $12.5, which, if it checks out really well, is a good deal.  Do you have others that you can compare pro and cons with?  It definitely needs a new cover.

To answer your questions - no, the low hours do not make it more attractive, to me they throw up red flags or "proceed with caution" signs.

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Last summer I sold my 94 ELX with a carb motor, a gel coat chip and rubrail punch in the nose from a previous owner that I never fixed, and some rust on the trailer for 10k. It had a new cover ($300 Carver, not a $1k custom), a boom and a nice interior. That price is almost 4k more than I paid for it 11 years prior, although I did wet sand and re-graphic the boat. Nice ones aren't getting cheaper as new boat prices keep rising.

Re: storage. Mine had side panels that were open all the way to the floor, large enough to carefully tuck my slalom ski facing aft and boom facing forward on one side and a wakeboard on the other standing vertically on it's side. Ropes in the cooler under the observer seat or on hanging velcro straps behind the side panels. A box anchor and tool kit/spare parts under the bow seats. Spare prop tucked way back in a rear side corner by the gas tank. Vests in the only large compartment--behind the observer seat back. Soft sided cooler behind the driver's seat with snacks, drinks, and towels. Go-bag with wallets and keys, plus shoes and sandals tucked between driver seat and outer wall. Combo skis or guest slalom skis in the floor locker or on the floor behind the cooler on the driver's side. Phones and incidentals in the glove box. Pretty much the entire floor was open other than behind the driver's seat, which is almost never used as a walkway except occasionally at dock. 

Edited by jk13
  • Like 1
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Congrats on your hunt.  As an ELX owner and one that has been very happy with it, you are looking at a great boat and certainly one of the best slalom boats of that era, you can read reviews if you can find some Waterski magazine boat reviews.  The SV23 hull is one of the best for both slalom / barefooting.

Some comments relative to the specific boat you are looking at:

  • Malibu's of that era from my experience across several are well made, had few problems and run great.
  • The Echelon LX is a great boat, excellent slalom wakes of that era, lots of nice features as the Echelon was the top of the line slalom boat in the lineup.
  • The Merc Scorpion is a very good option, Merc's are a good quality powertrain.  Also, GM engines from '96 on have the higher flow Vortec cylinder heads which bumped Hp from 265 to 310+ depending on marinizer and specific package.  Might be worth knowing more detail on the replacement engine to verify the crate unit used.
  • Low hours are nice and will offer many years of service, that few, as noted means that boat must have not seen water for many years.  If you scroll threads you can do a casual estimate that a typical annual usage is ~50 hours +/- a lot but at least this gives you an idea of what is 'typical'.  Hopefully, if that boat was stored for an extended time, they did it well so weather did not get to the boat.
  • As for a good deal, not financially.  But certainly is as a low hour boat option compared to rest of market.  Once you start putting hours on it and as they accumulate you will then take the depreciation hit as hours will trend more towards the average of that year.  You should have many hours of run time ahead before the typical wear and tear items need attention.  If properly cared for having low hour upholstery will be very nice as that can be costly to replace.
  • That boat is certainly reflective of the mid 90's color trend which may not make it as appealing upon resale v a boat with a more generic color scheme.
  • Speed control is a very nice feature and highly recommended.  For that boat, Perfect Pass is what you will want and well worth the investment.  PP Stargazer (for slalom) is their current offering which is a GPS version.  It will make your slalom course runs much more enjoyable and consistent.  Lots of information to study on speed control although be careful not to get too caught up in some of the comparisons of different systems (ZO in particular) as it can send you down a rabbit hole.
  • Given the hour meter reads that low and has a price reflective of that, I would go through it with a fine tooth comb to support it has seen little wear.  Upholstery, carpet, grime in difficult areas to clean can give you clues to how 'used' it is.  The local dealer may be able to offer feedback.

Good luck and happy shopping!  You will certainly really enjoy a true inboard ski boat, they are great to ski behind.

  • Like 2
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My only comment is time can be hard on a boat, just in different ways than use.  Boats are made to run, not sit for long periods unlubricatred.  It depends a lot on how it was stored.  And it is still an older boat with older tech and older styling, so there is no getting around that.  These are only words of caution so you don't get enamored with the low hours when it comes time to negotiate.  You will pay a slight premium for low hours if the boat is in good shape, but don't pay too much more than a slight premium.      

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Thank you for the feedback everyone. I am hopefully going to go look at it by the end of this week. I will provide more information about what I see in person. Thanks again for your honest takes on the boat. 

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