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10 tips to consider when buying a boat

10 Tips

10 tips to consider when buying a boat

You have finally done it. You have worked hard and have arrived at a place where you and your family are ready to take the plunge on buying your first boat. Congratulations! So how do you choose the right boat? Below is a list of considerations we have assembled from a former Sea Ray Sundancer owner and now Searay Sedan Bridge owner that may help you out.

  1. Consider how you will use the boat: Avoid buying the wrong boat for your needs.  If you have never owned a boat before and your experience is limited to going out with friends, take the time to think about what you liked and did not like. Did you enjoy water sports, e.g water skiing, wakeboarding and tubing? Or do you prefer heading out with friends for a day of fishing? Perhaps overnighting with the family is how you want to enjoy the water. Each of these activities and many other ways to spend time on the water is not mutually exclusive but it is worth thinking about so you don’t end up disappointed. 
  2. Where are you going to use the boat? It’s easy to buy the right boat for the wrong boating area. So now you know how you want to spend your time on the water, where are you going to use it?  Will you keep your new boat on a trailer and take it to many different places, or will it stay at a dock or a mooring?  What about the ocean or a lake?  Buying the right boat for the wrong area can lead to disappointment. A boat suitable for small lakes and rivers may not work on a large lake or the ocean due to the conditions you would encounter on a typical day of boating. For example, pontoon boats are very popular these days and becoming more so. They are a great way to take a lot of friends out for the day.  Some are even capable of towing water skiers.  However, Pontoon boats are not rough water craft. If you are boating in a large body of water where conditions can change and waves over 1 foot can build up, this is not the right boat. I have observed pontoon boats on the ocean and they lack the reserve buoyancy to handle larger waves and can put those on board at risk. Similarly, a large boat may be too much for you lake or river.
  3. Getting enamored with big horsepower and promises of speed you will never use: Buying your first or next boat can be a very personal thing. What attracts us to a boat varies from person to person. What gets your blood pumping may not be what gets mine going. That having been said, seeing that 40 foot center console with quad Verados may be overdoing it a bit much.  Hearing that a boat can reach 50 plus miles per hour or more may put visions of ocean racers in your mind.  Similarly, that larger long range cruiser may have you thinking about exotic south pacific destinations. There is nothing wrong with these visions and if that’s what you seek, go for it!  However, most of us will never use these extreme capabilities. Paying for more boat than you need or can use ties up cash that can be used elsewhere.  Be realistic in your goals and you will end up with the right boat for you!
  4. Understanding boat economicsStaying within your boat budget: Having now owned two boats, a Sea Ray 310 Sundancer and now a Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge, I received a crash course in boat economics. Affording the purchase price of a boat is only the beginning. You have to plan for annual maintenance, storage, upgrades and repairs when figuring out your budget. It’s important not to overspend and be boat poor! There is nothing worse than struggling under too much debt or the ongoing cost of more boat than you can afford. We have created a boat budget tool that is free to use for subscribers.  The model will give you an idea of what to expect in cost based on information that you enter.
  5. Buying too little boat for your needs: The flip side of buying too much boat is not buying enough boat.There is an old adage that says to buy your second boat first. Meaning that boat buyers sometimes take the view that they will start with the less expensive, slower, smaller, etc  boat first to see if they enjoy boating.This can be a good strategy. However, if once you have the boat and you love it and the fun you can have but discover the boat does not hold all your family and friends or cannot tow your teenage kids on skis, then the cost of seeing it and buying the right boat for you, may exceed the cost if you had bought the larger boat in the first place.This takes us back to tip number 1, be thoughtful about how you will use the boat today and tomorrow. Plan on getting 3-5 years out of your first boat. You can keep it longer but selling too soon in many cases will result in more of a loss vs. the amount of enjoyment you received from it.
  6. Being a first-time boater- consider taking a class to learn how to navigate and operate the boat safely: You just bought your first boat and before the ink is dry on the check, you want to launch it and get out on the water. If you have never operated a boat before or have limited experience driving your buddy’s boat, stop! All you have to do is check out YouTube which is full of boaters who exhibit a lack of skill and understanding of how to operate theri boat. Remember, when you have friends and family on board, their safety is at risk with an unprepared captain.
  7. Commit to the care a boat needs-boats are big investments and when cared for will give years of enjoyable family fun. They also can take a fair amount of time to maintain properly. I can’t tell you the number of boats I have seen on moorings with no cover on them, which allows the sun’s UV rays to damage the seat cushions, the gauges, the electronics. This is not to mention rain and bird bombs that will also land in your boat. Taking the 20 minutes to cover your boat is time well spent. Similarly, taking the time, or having a professional do it,  to perform annual maintenance on your motor, trailer if you have one, or any other mechanical part of the boat. Not only will the boat lose more of its value faster but it will not be reliable increasing the likelihood of a breakdown while underway with friends and family. 
  8. Overlooking the used market– While new boats are great and have all the latest style and equipment, an older boat of the same type you are looking for can be an excellent alternative to new or slightly used boats. Boats depreciate like cars so within 5-7 years, they will sell for half their price when new. At 10-15 years old, re-power the engine, update the electronics and repair any damaged upholstery and you will have an excellent boat for a lot less.  Older boats can represent an excellent value. The one word of caution is despite their attractive price, you can still get in over your head and should follow the guidance discussed in 1-8.
  9. Not getting a survey of a used boat: Unless you are a marine mechanic or have a high degree of experience with boats and marine engines, its money well spent to have the used boat you are considering purchasing get a marine survey. The survey typically takes place after you have made an offer and the owner has accepted it. At that point, you can hire a surveyor to go over the boat and motor(s). A survey can point out any issues of concern or things that should be addressed.  Having a survey is not a guarantee that something won’t break but it gives you good visibility into what is at risk.
  10. Have fun: Boating is about bringing friends and family together on the water in a safe, responsible way.  If you get the right boat, you will be making memories from the turn of the key!

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