Don't buy a boat without a clean title, in the name of the person/entity you are buying it from. If it has a bank lien on it, less than what you are paying for it, get the bank that holds the title involved with the payoff. NEVER make the check out to just the person on just "good faith", especially if it is a long distance transaction (like you drove 16 hours to get there). Make sure the bank's name is on the check too. If the bank lien is more than the price you are paying (ie, the "owner" needs to add some of his own $$) hire a good closing/title company (like the one's used in the house mortage industry), or work directly with the bank. Again, NEVER make the check out to just the owner unless you are leaving with the title signed over to you, in your hands. Same goes with boat dealers ... they are not all "straight up". Out of 9 boats I have owned, the only time I had any title problems was with a POS boat dealer who took my money and didn't provide the title, even though I had a signed, notarized, legally binding marine contract and bill of sale signed by the dealership owner and paid with certified bank funds made out to the dealership. Be sure to get the paperwork complete before you drive off with the boat hooked to your vehicle. Its amazing how they don't answer the phone once you have a paperwork problem.