My wife was insistent. She had to have a boat, not just any boat, but a pontoon party boat…with two decks…and a bar…and plenty of shade. We live on the Florida panhandle and she obviously had been hanging around the marina too much. But, we have four teenagers and our kids have friends, we have friends, and our friends have friends. Maybe a pontoon boat was what we needed.

I started looking online one evening, and my 17-year old son looked over my shoulder.

“Whatcha lookin’ at, Dad?” I told him what we were thinking, and he was shocked.

“Online?? You’re looking online? That can be dangerous. What’s wrong with a dealer?”

I replied that dealers were fine if you wanted a new boat. But we had already been to the local dealers and they didn’t have any used.

“Well, would you at least go to They have a reputation to uphold.”

Smart kid. I hadn’t thought about that. I spent the next several weeks looking and finally found “the one.” Everyone in the family approved…right size, right details to suit my wife, right price…to suit me.

We have a genius in our house, and it isn’t me! Our 15-year old daughter said, “Well, that’s great, but you aren’t just going to buy it online, are you? Without a chance to try it out, without knowing the seller, without knowing anything about the boat? You’re just going to give some stranger your money? That’s not very smart, Pops.”

I asked if she had a suggestion. Of course she did. “Google ‘escrow companies for online purchases’.” Like I said, another smart kid. She told me her math class had been studying escrow and the teacher mentioned it for expensive online purchases.

I found and was immediately impressed. They would verify the seller, the title, look for repair records, and handle all the money. Seemed like a no-brainer. But would the seller agree? Would the seller even know about

I contacted him and asked if we could see the boat. He agreed. When we got there, we really liked what we saw. It was ‘as advertised,’ and there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with it. The seller appeared honest, but appearances can be deceiving. I asked him, “Would you be willing to use” He asked me to explain. After I did, he thought it was a great idea.

We agreed on a price, and then contacted After setting up the transaction, the seller brought me the boat. I played with it for a few days and discovered it was exactly what we wanted. The great people at assured me the seller was the legal owner, and everything was in order. The boat had had only one repair and it was minor, just like he’d said. I told the seller, “Yes!” and authorized to release the money.

Everyone sailed away happy! My wife had her boat and we have smart kids!