Recently sold a 280SS to buy a lot on the lake. Had no real plans to buy another boat for a year or two while I build a house, but a very nice looking 1998 Sea Ray 180 just listed on a local classified page. Two owner boat, but current owner has had it less than a year. Claims he's selling to buy a bigger wake boat. No hour meter. I'm going to look at it on Friday. I've owned an 06 220 Select and an 01 280 Sun Sport, so I know the basics of what to look/listen for.
I'm not familiar with the 3.0 at all, nor am I familiar with the Alpha outdrive. It looks like the boat is carpeted (glued in?) Anything to look at with that? The boat is winterized, but the seller is willing to take it out on the lake for a full trial. WOT RPM 4600-4800? It's a simple 18' boat, so there can't be that much to look at. Any common problems with this model? Anything specific I should focus on?
Really not a whole lot to go wrong on that boat. The entire hull should be solid fiberglass. There is some wood in the transom I believe, so check that, if you see any weeping around the transom assebmly or if there is a transducer mounted and the boat spends much time in the water that would be something to look at closely - pull a mounting screw out from the transducer and you will find out if there is a water problem.. There might be one section of the floor that is wood - the removable peice over the fuel tank. I know in my 185 that is encapsulated wood, so if the boat was used for watersports and the carpet stayed wet a lot could be a problem - but an easy one to fix.
As far as the 3.0 / Alpha I, it's a solid performer. If it has been in salt water check for the normal exhaust manifold riser issues. As far as the outdrive itself, inspect the bellows best you can and find out last time the water pump impeller was replaced. A look at the gear lube bottle will give you an idea of the maintenance there.
It's usually pretty obvious with small boats, if they have been left in the water or outdoors and not cared for, it shows right away. If it doesn't look clean and maintained, you can figure the mechanical maintenance was not done either.
If you are uncomfortable assessing the condition of the boat, I would recommend finding a mechanic to inspect it for you - some surveyors offer an inspection type service for small boats where a full blown survey is overkill.
Good luck, for a small bowrider you can beat the smaller SeaRays. My little 185 has been a great boat.
______________________________ 1999 SeaRay 185 Bowrider - Current
2000 SeaRay 290 SunDancer - Previous
1979 Correct Craft Ski-Tique - Previous
1948 Chris Craft Custom Runabout - Oh man to have that one back!
I suspect that the size and rough ride will be a turn off for you after the bigger boats that you have had. The tiny engine is an underachiever. The evaluation of the boat itself is all about condition.
That's one of the best riding boats in its class. My 2001 180br had all fiberglass with carpet glued on. Never had any problems. Those era Sea Rays are built solid. I'm sure you understand it won't feel good in a 2' chop.
The 3.0 is not fast but propped correctly it will do whatever you want. 39-41 mph is what to expect running wide open. That was with the 21" aluminum at 4800 rpm.
As far as maintenance and parts availability, you're good to go.
No, nothing specific to look at other than what you likely already know. When that boat was being produced, it was the best selling boat in America for good reason. Hour meter wasn't included until 2001 (possibly some late '00's). 4,400 - 4,800RPM max - I'd like to see it right at the top end with only one person. A compression test would be nice, if possible. Sea trial is great. When I had mine, my top speed was 46mph (GPS) with a 23" prop. Most will have the 21" and I consistently ran about 43/44 with the 21" on every one I've been on. With two adults in the boat, I could pull two adults out of the water on two skiis (each) or one on a single. Really, it's just a great little all-around boat. If you wanted something with more power then look for a 185 from the same era as they came standard with the V-6 and weren't all that much bigger.
Let me sum it up this way... I absolutely love getting '98-'01 180BR's on a trade. VERY easy to resell. Makes the whole trade/new product sale process very simple. In and out and everyone is happy.
1999 260DA, 2000 215EC, 1998 210BR, 1999 190BR, 2000 180BR. And a few others...
1982 Grady 241 Weekender/Offshore 250HP Yammie OX66 (stern drive modded to be OB)
Sounds like no model-specific issues to be worried about.
Definitely not expecting it to be as comfortable/nice as the 280. Wasn't even really looking for a boat, but when this one popped up at a really good price I figured it would be a fun boat to putt around the lake on. It'll almost always be just me, wife, and toddler, so I think it'll be fine for a year or two.