Boat Buying Tips for First Time Buyers


Boat Manufacturer Web Sites

Tips, Tools and Ideas for Those New to Boating

  • Go boating with some friends several times. Make sure the activity really fits your interests.

  • Be aware of the true cost and time commitments of being a boater. The old joke about a boat being a hole in the water you pour money into may not be far off at times, and yet a boat can provide great recreational and learning experiences for you, your family and friends. We just ask that you do some serious looking at original cost, insurance, interest, fuel and oil, trailer, storage, repairs, setting up a tow vehicle, lodging, weekend food, extra fishing gear, skis, life jackets, licenses and permits, maintenance, etc. Also realize the time required to round up the gear, get to the water, participate in water activities, get back home, unpack, and service the boat. Millions of people do this and couldn't enjoy it more. We only suggest you consider it before you plunge in. Relatively developments in engine efficiencies, sport jet boats and inflatable boats are making boating both easier and more economical. Also, many moving up from PWC's already have a pretty good idea of what the boating experience will be.

  • Go to some boat shows, but leave your pocket book at home. DO NOT buy your first boat at a boat show. The sales pressure is too intense and you have "boating fever." Boat shows are a great place to review products from the various builders, obtain brochures and gain some knowledge of local dealers.

  • Decide what your main boating activities will be and how many people will be in the boat. Will you be fishing, skiing, tubing, cruising? Will you ever operate in salt water? Do you plan on trailering your boat?

  • The importance of a good dealer - We encourage new boaters to "buy a dealer" instead of buying a boat. Many first timers buy a used boat from the want ads but we strongly discourage that unless they have grown up in a boating family and already have a lot of boating experience. They lose the safety net a good dealer provides. Ask around, shop around, and visit with other boaters and dealers in your area to find a reputable, honest, dealer that provides good service. Then take your general list of intentions for the boat (My wife and I want to fish and my two teenage boys want to tube, we expect to trailer it our to lake XXX most of the time and take it down to the ocean once a summer) to the dealer along with what you expect to spend for the whole boating experience. A good dealer can put you in an appropriate "first boat" and help you have good boating experiences. He (or she) will help you with questions, parts, repairs and winterization. On your second or third boat you will begin to develop your own likes and dislikes about certain models and have more specialized needs. By then you will have a good network and should be able to have a more focused idea of exactly what you need at that time. Then you might "price shop" more widely for what you need and be willing to take on more of the maintenance yourself in exchange for a good price. You will still need to have access to a parts dealer.

  • Don't buy too much boat your first time. Get a small, economical, sound, easy to get around, easy to handle boat you can learn in that doesn't cost a fortune and that doesn't go 75 miles an hour or eat gas like a rocket ship. You won't be so sad when you crash it into the dock a few times and scratch it up trying to learn how to get in on a trailer on a windy day. Your whole family can learn on it and you might even keep it on as a second boat for the kids if you "move up" later. Your dealer might have a nice used boat that still has some warranty and is in excellent shape that could make you a nice first boat. Big boats are more difficult to handle and more costly to operate. Your dealer can help you find an appropriate sized first boat.

  • Small builders - If you are a beginning boater interested in a boat from a small builder, buy one from a builder in your area, don't buy one from a small local builder half-way across the country. Strong large builders can service boats across the country, many small builders do a good job of servicing boats in their region, but may struggle as servicing certain problems across the country.

  • Beware of instant low dollar deals you have to take "right now". Good, well established firms want to sell you a boat, but they want to sell you the one you need. Firms struggling for dollars sometimes resort to "must buy now" offers. Shop around and think about your potential purchase for a while. Don't make spur of the moment decisions.

  • Drives - If you have questions about the basic kinds of drives and which one might be best for you, there is an excellent on-line article directed at skiers that can also provide a great deal of information to others at Canadian Water Skiers Page FAQ

  • Consider going "partners" with a friend who has more boating experience and may already own a boat. Being a part owner has a lot of economic advantages. If your families boat together there should be minimal "its my weekend to use the boat" conflicts. After you gain additional boating experience, you might purchase your own boat and "mentor" another friend into boating, or perhaps you and your first friend might purchase a "bigger and better" boat together.

  • Read the Press - Go to a large bookstore / magazine stand and purchase a handfull of boating magazines, especially any directly dealing with the type of boats you are interested in. This industry has several excellent magazines. You can learn a lot from them. Most magazines have online counterparts, but few are as informative as their printed cousins.

  • Asking Price vs. Selling Price - Just like cars, most boats sell for less than the asking price. Learn the approximate value of the boat from the guides and comparison shopping, then be prepared to deal.

  • Check Powerboat Reports for a review of boats your are considering.

  • Read the free BoatUS Guide to Buying and Selling a Boat.

    Be sure to see our page of Power Boat Manufacturer Links for a list of boat builders and other tools for boat buyers.


    If anybody has any suggestions for additional advice or comments about the existing advice we would be happy to hear from you. Just click on the mail box at left.

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