How To Buy Your First Boat

Sea-DooPurchasing your first boat is a big step that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Many first-time boat owners ultimately come to regret their purchase for a number of different reasons, usually because they failed to complete the necessary research beforehand in order to make an informed purchasing decision.  There are several considerations which must be taken into account before one even begins to shop around for the boat that is best for them or their family.  Here are a few things to think about when buying your first boat.

Used Versus New: Which Is Best?

One of the first things that must be decided is whether you’ll buy a new or used boat.  There are many pros and cons with either choice, but usually a relatively quick decision can be made by keeping a few simple tips in mind.

open console boatBy shopping for used boats, an astute buyer can find great deals, particularly in this economy where many owners are selling in order to free up cash for other things.  Simply put, this is a buyer’s market.  That being said, buying a used boat without first ensuring that it is in good shape can be a path to disaster.  Unfortunately, assessing the condition of a boat usually requires experience and knowledge that the majority of first-time buyers simply don’t possess.  Even when one is capable of properly judging a boat’s condition, it is still impossible to know the history and maintenance record of a particular boat, especially when records haven’t been maintained by the seller.

While many motivated sellers are ridding themselves of good boats for financial or personal reasons, other owners are simply looking to unload their problems on unsuspecting buyers.  Inexperienced buyers, however, can avoid common pitfalls by simply not buying from strangers who list boats for sale online and through magazines.  Instead, choose a dealer that specializes in used boats. If something goes wrong when making a purchase from the dealer, the buyer has recourse that isn’t afforded to them with private transactions.

boat dealershipNew boats are supposed to be in perfect condition, having never been used before.  Additionally, the majority of manufacturers now offer some type of warranty on their boats when purchased new from a dealer.  Sea Ray, for example, is well-known for offering some of the most generous warranties in the industry today, providing repair coverage and protection under numerous circumstances that may befall a buyer.  Of course, buyers pay a premium for this level of support. New boats typically cost substantially more than similar used models, but many buyers feel their peace of mind is well worth the additional expense.

So which is the best choice?  New or used?  The answer largely depends on how comfortable the buyer is with purchasing a previously owned boat, which has inherent risks as mentioned above.  If one does choose to go with a used boat, many experts agree that the buyer should focus on models that are less than three years old.  These should still be in relatively good condition when maintained properly and the history of such boats is usually easier to ascertain.

Which Type of Boat Are You Looking For?

recreational boatsThere are dozens of different varieties and styles that have been developed with specific needs in mind.  Generally, people buy boats for either cruising, water sports, or simply fishing.  Cruising boats are made for weekends out on the lake with friends.  As such, the design is focused more around entertainment and comfort.  Water sport vessels, on the other hand, are for sporting purposes and include ample space in order to store various toys such as water skis and even smaller personal watercraft.  Fishing boats are usually the most basic and generally are smaller, have less accommodations, and are designed with open spaces to provide adequate room for fishing.  While some of the larger models do feature cabin space for overnighting, the majority of basic fishing boats do not.

Types of Cruising Boats

  • Bowrider – Smaller, runabout boat designed for cruising as well as certain types of water sports. Typically accommodates 4-8 people.
  • Deck Boat – Boats feature an expanded bow design to maximize deck space and seating.  Perfect for weekend excursions on the lake.
  • Pontoon Boat – Designed to have a large flat deck held up by aluminum drums, so more guests can be accommodated on day trips out on the lake.
  • High Performance – Manufactured with both speed and comfort in mind.  These are made to get boaters to their destinations as quickly as possible.
  • Express Cruiser – A fast cruising vessel designed to accommodate four to six people for overnighting and extended cruises.
  • Trawler – A cruising boat modeled after a fishing trawler design.  Features a large hull capable of hauling heavier loads compared to other cruising boats.
  • Motor Yacht – Features spacious living quarters with ample accommodations.  These are generally made to accommodate large groups of people, as size of specific models varies from 27 feet up to 90 feet or more.

Types of Fishing Boats

  • Bass Boat – A small boat designed for fishing lakes, streams, and rivers for freshwater fish.
  • Center Console – An open hull boat with the console in the center of the vessel.  Features a single deck design and occasionally a small cabin space.
  • Cuddy Cabin Boat – A smaller boat that features adequate storage and seating space but is generally lacking many of the accommodations that take up so much room in other types of fishing boats.
  • Sports Fisherman Boat – A type of fast-moving boat designed for anglers and specifically for use in saltwater fishing.  Features fixed chairs to which rods are secured, as well as a cockpit that is generally located in the stern area.
  • Jon Boat – A very simple, flat-bottomed boat that is designed for day fishing trips on the lake or for hunters wishing to travel by water.

Types of Water Sport Boats

  • Bowrider - Multipurpose recreational boat well suited for both cruising and water sports.
  • Ski Boats – Specially designed to safely tow skiers, these typically feature a direct drive design under the boat for a smaller wake.
  • Wakeboard Boat – Designed to create wake patterns that are then jumped by wakeboarders. Typically feature a V-drive design with the engine in the rear.
  • Jet Boat – These are personal watercraft propelled forward by jets of water which are ejected from the rear. (Typically greater than 13 feet in length).
  • Jet Ski – Personal watercraft propelled by jet pump that has a screw-shaped impeller to create thrust for propulsion and steering. (Typically less than 13 feet in length).
  • Inflatable Boat – A very lightweight boat designed from flexible tubing that is then filled with pressurized gas.

A number of financing options may be available to the buyer, depending on the type of boat that they’re wanting to purchase.  Many financial institutions specialize in marine loans and are more than happy to guide would-be buyers through the financing process.  Regardless of the boat being purchased, an owner should always opt to insure it for the purpose of limiting one’s own liability in the event of an accident.  Finally, new boaters should acquaint themselves with the laws regulating boat traffic, as well as actually taking the time to gain the necessary experience to competently and safely handle a boat.  The majority of states now require that inexperienced owners complete an approved boating course before hitting the water.