Boat Buying Tips
1. How much does it really cost to buy a boat?
Do you have the dough? Before buying a boat, determine how much money you’ll be able to spend on boating activities. This figure will take into account not just the purchase price of the boat, motor and trailer, but also the craft’s registration and insurance fees. Fuel costs are a biggie too, as is the cost of safety gear, a marine radio, an EPIRB, a fishfinder, and any other fittings you may require.
2. What will you use your boat for?
Once your budget is sorted, pinpoint exactly what you intend to do with this boat. Is your intention to use it as a family runabout that can handle a bit of fishing and skiing? Is it a dedicated fishing or scuba platform? These things will help steer you in the right direction.
3. What will your boat be required to do?
Once you know what you intend to do with your boat it’s time to consider the type of craft that will best suit that purpose. If your use is general and involves maybe a bit of fishing and an occasional waterski for the kids, then a general purpose craft with a cabin of sorts and an outboard that’s sufficiently powerful to pull skiers will serve the purpose. The dedicated diver or offshore fisher will have significantly different, more specific requirements.
4. Is a bigger a boat better?
All states have towing regulations that you need to be aware of. Weight limits determine your tow vehicle’s capacity. These limits are there to make sure dimwits don’t tow a loaded boat and trailer package that’s much too heavy for the tow vehicle. This is an important safety issue! To keep yourself safe and legal you may need to buy a smaller boat or a bigger car, but of course the latter is much more expensive. It makes sense that the larger the boat, the higher its price and operating cost, be aware that these tend to rise exponentially.
5. Which boat brand is best?
Many manufacturers will make a boat that fits your exact needs, but only you can decide which boat you like best. Trade-a-Boat Magazine, both online and in print, can be a big help in making a purchasing decision.
6. Will you buy a new or used boat?
There are convincing arguments for either but, generally speaking, you can save around half the price of a new boat by choosing a used one. This, given the fact that you’re not likely to be satisfied long term with your first boat, makes those huge initial savings even more important. Somewhere in the two to five year-old range is the best compromise between cost saving and good condition.
7. Outboard motor or sterndrive?
This decision comes down to weight, since sterndrives are heavier than comparable outboards. If you intend to moor your boat for any length of time then buy one with an outboard.
8. Dealer or Private?
Do your research. It’s generally safer to buy from a dealership with an accredited franchise, plus a major brand of outboards and sterndrives. This is especially true if you don’t know a lot about boats. For the more experienced buyer, you may find a greater variety and a more competitive price from a private seller.
9. Take your boat for a test drive
New or secondhand, never, ever under any circumstances buy a boat without taking it for a test drive on at least a choppy, but preferably rough day. Ride quality is paramount. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll “only go out on calm days”. The sea makes up its own mind about those things and can quickly turn on you. Lots of boats can do so in a seaway so if the seller won’t arrange a test drive, say goodbye.
10. Never take boat warranty for granted
Never, ever take warranties for granted. Make sure you get boat warranties in writing and check the small print.