Are you planning on buying a boat?
If you and your family love the water, a boat can be an exciting purchase. Whether you want it for fishing, cruising with friends, or sailing, a boat will definitely lighten up your social life.
When buying a boat for the first time, all the small decisions can be overwhelming. Just like buying a house or vehicle, it is best to take your time to find a boat that meets your needs and makes you happy.
I have experience in buying both new and used boats. And in this article, I will share tips to buy a boat. In the end, you can confidently go out and purchase a boat that checks all the boxes on your list.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in!
How To Buy A Boat?
A lot goes into buying a boat. This is a significant investment, and you should consider all the important factors before making a final decision.
This section will cover the basic steps and tips to buy a boat.
1. Decide on the type of boat you want
The first step toward boat ownership is determining the type of boat you want. There are many different boat types; your choice will depend on your needs.
Some important factors to consider when deciding on the type of boat are:
- Activities: When shopping for a boat, first decide what you want to do with it. A boat for deep-sea fishing will be different from a day cruising boat or a watersport boat.
Consider whether you want a boat for saltwater fishing or freshwater fishing, sailing or overnight cruising, or just a personal watercraft.
Once you know what you want to do with your vessel, you are well on your way to narrowing down on your dream boat.
- Passengers: Another essential consideration is the number of passengers you plan on carrying on your boat. Do you want a boat for casual sailing for just you and your partner? Do you want to bring extended family and friends on board? The number of passengers you plan on having will determine the boat size and type.
- Engine type: There are different engines types, but the main ones are inboard, outboard, sterndrive, and jet drive.
Inboard engines are popular for watersport boats and vessels needing more horsepower and torque.
Jet drive engines are mostly used in personal watercraft and work best in shallow water bodies. Sterndrives feature both an inboard and outboard engine and are common in boats that need more agility, power, and torque.
Outbound engines are used for steering and powering the boat. They are versatile enough to use pleasure boating, fishing, and watersports.
You will also want to consider whether you want to trailer your boat. The size of a trail-able boat will determine the size of the car needed to tow the boat.
Other factors that will influence the type of boat to choose include storage and the location you will be using your boat. If you want to use your boat in the ocean, a boat with a deep hull will be a better choice. A shallow hull is best suited to smaller water bodies and near-shore boating.
2. Determine whether you want to buy a new or used boat
A new boat is not always better than a pre-owned one. Whether you buy a new or used one will come down to your budget and personal preference.
A new boat will generally cost you more upfront. But, you will not have to worry about its history and condition. You will also have the manufacturer’s warranty to lean on whenever you need to. You can also outfit your boat with all the accessories and add-ons you want to personalize it as much as you need.
A pre-owned boat’s upfront and lifetime ownership costs are typically lower and more affordable. If you are on a budget, a used boat in good condition can be a good bargain. You should strongly consider hiring a marine surveyor to inspect the boat’s condition before purchasing.
Whether you buy a new or used boat, you should factor in all the costs of purchasing and owning your latest toy. These costs include:
- Purchase costs
- Cost of the trailer if you opt for one
- Monthly payments if you acquire the boat through financing
- Cost of storage
- Cost of boat delivery
3. Check that the boat is certified
At least 90 percent of the boats manufactured in the United States are certified. This means that about 10 percent of them aren’t—this is something you should pay close attention to when buying a boat.
The U.S. Coast Guard provides the bare minimum standard for boat construction to ensure that these vessels are safe to operate in water. Aside from these basic standards, there are more stringent standards set by the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA).
Ideally, you should ensure that the boat you want to buy is NMMA certified. There are several benefits of an NMMA certified boat.
A certified boat is thoroughly inspected from the start to the completion of the manufacturing process. This ensures that the boat is of the highest quality and safety levels possible.
A manufacturer who voluntarily chooses to undergo NMMA inspections and certification is evidentially committed to safety and is willing to go above the bare minimum standards.
All NMMA certified boats must also meet the equally stringent safety protocols put forth by the American Boat & Yacht Council.
NMMA inspections cover more than thirty criteria, including a boat’s ventilation, steering systems, warning label guidelines, flotation, weight capacity, fuel systems, horsepower, navigation lights, electric systems and more.
When a manufacturer builds a boat, the NMMA inspects it to ensure that all safety criteria set by the USCG, ABYC, and NMMA are met. If any changes are needed, the manufacturer will bring the vessel to compliance and eventually be NMMA certified.
To check that a boat is NMMA certified, look for the NMMA logo on the yacht or capacity plate. Ask your dealer if you are unsure or cannot locate the logo.
4. Find the right places to shop for your boat
These days, there are many places from which to start your boat shopping process. Once you decide on the type of boat to buy, whether new or used, and you’ve settled on a budget, I suggest starting by shopping online.
Trusted online platforms allow you to compare numerous models, specifications and features, length, location, and prices, and even take a virtual tour of the boat from the comfort of your home or office.
Here are some tips when shopping for a boat online:
- When you identify a boat model you like, compare that mode to other similar boats. This allows you to pick out any red flags, such as exaggerated features or missing specifications that may be on one boat and not on another.
- Compare the best features of each boat that catches your attention. This way, you will identify subtle differences that set apart one boat from another.
- Find out more about a dealer. Check the reviews, ratings, and other business-specific information such as an address, contact details and website to ensure you are dealing with the best dealers in your location.
- When buying a pre-owned boat, don’t get too caught up with flashy ”accessories.” These often become outdated easily and may need to be replaced sooner than you expect. Pay more attention to core systems such as the engine, fuel system, navigation lights, and the vessel’s overall condition.
Even though online shopping is convenient, you will want to go in person to check out the boats that interest you. This ensures that what you see online is what you get before making your final purchase decision.
Aside from online platforms, other places where you can shop for and buy a boat are directly from the manufacturer, boat dealership, boat show, or private seller.
5. Choose package boats wisely
As you shop around, you will hear the term ”packaged boats.” These are basically turn-key boats with all the parts and equipment installed, including the motor, trailer, seats, and add-on accessories.
With packaged boats, you can launch as soon as you buy the vessel. On the contrary, non-packaged boats require you to purchase different parts separately, causing the final cost to add up quickly.
Before you jump on a packaged boat deal, ensure that the vessel has the features you truly need. For example, check that the engine, seating, storage, center console, towing points and other add-ons are suitable for how you want to use your boat. You should also evaluate the quality, ensuring that you get value for your money.
6. Be sure to inspect the boat
Once you settle on your perfect boat, you should inspect and have it surveyed. This process is particularly important when buying a used boat.
Before hiring a marine surveyor, you can inspect the boat on your own. Do a walk-through to identify any cosmetic flaws on the boat’s interior and exterior. You will also get a chance to inspect features, accessories, and the overall aesthetic.
After your initial inspection, take the boat out on a sea trial. This will give you a feel for the boat’s overall riding experience. But, if you have a keen eye or ear, you might also detect any mechanical or system issues.
Next, get a marine surveyor to conduct a thorough boat inspection. Surveyors have the experience necessary to identify minor and major flaws in a boat, helping you determine whether the vessel will give you value for your money. Aside from this, most lenders and insurers will need a recent survey report.
7. Arrange for a boat loan
Most people buy their boats through some form of financing. If you want to finance your boat, you have three options:
Finance through your boat dealer
Boat dealers are connected to many lenders, and they can help you get your boat financed quickly. They perform these processes regularly, recommend the best boat finance deals and insurance, and fast-track the transaction, allowing you to get your boat quicker.
Finance through your bank
The other option is to apply for a loan from your bank. Depending on your lender, eligibility, and complexity of the process, getting a loan processed by your bank may take some time. In this case, you might have to wait a little longer to get your boat.
Finance through a marine lender
Some organizations, such as the National Marine Lenders Association, consists of a network of lenders who specialize in processing and issuing boat loans. Their terms might be more favorable than mainstream financial institutions in some cases.
There are a few things to keep in mind when considering a boat loan.
- Most lenders will look at your credit score. Scores of 700 and higher are ideal. You can still get a loan with a lower credit score, but the interest on the loan might be higher.
- The higher the loan amount, the lower the interest rates. At the same time, shorter loan terms attract lower interest rates.
- Bigger boat loans have a longer repayment period. It is possible to negotiate a repayment period of 5 to 20 years.
- Most lenders require you to place at least a 10 percent down payment upon which they will calculate your loan amount.
8. Research prices thoroughly
Like with any purchase, you want to ensure that you get value for your money when buying a boat. So, take your time and compare prices of similar boats; don’t just go with the first price a seller quotes for you.
When comparing prices, Google is your best friend. But, be sure to refer to multiple sites and resources to get a good estimate for the boat you want to buy.
It also helps to work with a trusted dealer. A good dealer will want to make a profit, but they will also be committed to getting you a boat that meets your needs and is within your budget.
Buying your boat off-season when the demand for boats is low can help you secure a good deal. Other tips for snagging a great boat deal are: opting for boat models that do not have a high demand and buying at boat shows where prices might be discounted.
Summary: 8 Tips To Buy A Boat
Buying a boat is a big, exciting decision. Like with any big purchase, a lot can go wrong if you don’t know what to look for in a new or used boat. Once you determine the type of boat you want, spend a good amount of time on research before settling for a specific boat. A reputable dealer can be a great asset in helping you secure financing quickly and matching you with a boat that meets your needs.