So You Want To Buy A New Boat?
As someone who has been in the marina business for over 50 years, here’s some “inside” advice we’d like to share with you, the first time boat buyer. Boats will boost your opportunities for fun and add an entirely new aspect to your recreational activities. They’ll also rev up your social life. Just buy a boat and you’ll have at lest 20 new best friends!
But remember, buying a boat takes time, research and a clear understanding of how you want to use it. For now, forget all the great deals out there, and they are there, and step away from the emotional side of becoming a boat owner. Abide by the guiding principles that follow and you’re well on your way to finding exactly what you need and becoming a happy boater.
Suggested Guidelines for Buying a Boat
• Do you have navigation experience? If not, head out right now and get some at your local Coast Guard Auxillary (see link below).
• How much time will you use your boat? Remember, boats are made to run and they need their owner’s time to exercise and maintain them.
• How many people will you have in the boat at any given time? (The Coast Guard limits the number of people allowed onboard, and that includes kids, too).
• Where will you keep your new boat? Do you have a dock with a hoist, a local marina with available dockage, or will you trailer your boat to and from the water and home?
• Will your primary activity be fishing? Inshore or offshore? Waterskiing? Or cruising with your friends?
• Do you like taking sunset cruises with family and friends?
• Will you travel far in your boat or possibly live aboard?
• Where will you do your boating? Will it be on a river, a lake or on the ocean? I live on the Gulf of Mexico but the boating here is very different then in Newport Beach, California.
• How will you pay for your boat, its maintenance and insurance costs? Will you need financing?
• Who will use the boat? Just you? Your kids? Your uncle from Idaho that no one really likes? Will the family dog be coming along? Remember, kids need Coast Guard boating safety classes too. Please visit Boating Safety.
• Set your budget and stick to it.
Personally, I like a boat that has many uses. I fish, but I also like to take friends on quiet sunset cruises, so comfortable seating is important. So are the water conditions in your area. All boats are not designed equally; there are different hull designs for different environments and knowing the difference will make your boating experience more enjoyable.
If you’re considering trailering your boat, make a realistic assessment about how easy (or difficult) it will be to tow, launch and haul it out. Can your car handle the weight or will you have to buy a new truck to tow your boat?
I belong to a Grady White Boat club and together we enjoy exploring new locations that take us away from home for a day or sometimes even a few weeks. But I must admit, when I’m away from home I still prefer solid land on which to sleep, so a boat’s beds are not too important to me. Are they to you?
Providing realistic answers to the above list will help you identify your wants, needs, expectations and what it is you’re really looking for in a boat. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be on your way to owning the right boat for you.
The Next Step
Once you know the type and size boat you’ll be buying, check resources on the Internet, boating magazine reviews, boat shows and JD Powers for honest reviews. Check with friends and neighboring boat owners. Stop by your local boat dealers and check out their new and used boats. Talk may be cheap, but by talking with other boaters you’ll learn a lot about what to do and what not to do.
While we’re on the subject of dealers, one of your biggest considerations will be the service they provide and the type of relationship you’re likely to have. If you don’t feel comfortable or you don’t feel a dealer is working in your best interest, walk away. There are plenty of others out there. Dealer relationships and service are two of the most important factors aside from the quality and type of boat you’re interested in.
Dealerships can make or break a great boating experience. People who love their dealer have a great experience owning a boat and those who don’t, well, they usually don’t. Find a dealership that prides themselves on building customer service relationships with their buyers and with their community.
Typically, a dealer with a proven record of satisfactory customer service will be your best bet and may eventually become your friend. Regarding cost; be honest with yourself. What can you truly afford? Your deliberations should include all the additional and sometimes hidden costs such as life jackets, docking equipment, electronics, insurance, a trailer and your annual maintenance costs, to name but a few.
Owning a boat is really fun. The water is magical, relaxing and will provide you, your family and friends with special times and fabulous memories. So get out your pencil, follow my guidelines and do yourself a big favor before you buy!