Your Step By Step Guide to Buying a Boat

If you’re thinking of purchasing a boat, there’s a lot to consider – a boat is a big purchase and an even bigger responsibility. Here are some helpful tips to guide you through the process of this major purchase.

Assess your needs

Evaluate your needs and preferences by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who will use the boat? Just you and your family, or do you want to have room to accommodate friends?
  • How will you use the boat? Do you plan to take day trips, weekend trips, or week-long excursions? Will you use the boat for fishing, water skiing, or just cruising?
  • When will you use the boat? The occasional weekend trip, or almost every day? Year-round, or just the summer months?
  • Where will you use the boat? In a lake, river, or on the ocean?
  • How much do you have to spend? Don’t forget maintenance, insurance, registration costs, and instruction and safety course fees.
  • What kind of boat will fit your needs? Do you see yourself making waves in a motorboat or maneuvering in a sailboat?

Do your homework

  • Know what to look for when buying a boat and become familiar with terminology, styles, and prices.
  • Buy a book or two on the subject and talk to friends who own boats.
  • Read boating periodicals.
  • Attend a boat show.
  • Sign up for a class. Your local Power Squadron or Coast Guard Auxiliary can provide instructional classes on basic boating skills and information.
  • Learn the laws applicable to safe boating in your area.

Make the big purchase

When you are ready to purchase your boat, keep in mind:

New or Used: A new boat will be ready for immediate use, but may come with a hefty price tag. Used boats can be a bargain, but, like used cars, may require immediate maintenance or repair.

Buy from a dealer, broker or individual: In addition to individuals selling their own boats, and dealers selling new and used boats, you’ll find brokers who sell mostly high-end boats and receive a commission when they find a buyer. Typically, brokers work for the seller, but they can save you hours of time and multiple trips to look at boats that don’t meet your expectations.

Resale value: Although selling your boat may be far from your mind, resale value is something to keep in mind. To get your money’s worth from your investment, you should plan to keep a boat at least three years. When you do sell, brand and model will be important and may have an impact on your sale price.

Inspect before buying: Carefully inspect any boat you’re considering. If you’re spending thousands of dollars on a boat, new or used, you may want to have the boat professionally inspected by a surveyor. If you’re borrowing money, your bank or insurance company may require a surveyor to appraise your boat. To find a surveyor, ask around at boating shops, boat yards and marinas, or check online with the National Association of Marine Surveyors or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors.

Surveyors charge a fee based on the value of the boat, and you’ll have to pay the fee, regardless of whether you bought the boat. If possible, accompany the surveyor to the inspection. If the surveyor discovers problems with the boat, you can walk away from the deal or use the information to negotiate a lower price. For used boats, you’ll also want to know the boat’s repair history, so get a copy of the maintenance log or service records.

Calculating Costs: Ultimately, your budget will dictate how much boat you can afford. Be certain the monthly payments are within your comfort range. If you plan to finance the purchase, you’ll likely be expected by your lender to make a down payment of at least 20 percent. Beyond the monthly payments, however, owning a boat incurs other costs you’ll want to factor into your financial picture, including maintenance, insurance, dock fees, winterization and more.

Insuring Your Boat

Your new boat is likely to represent a significant investment on your part, and you’ll want to be sure it’s adequately insured against loss or damage. Basic insurance coverage includes physical damage to your boat, bodily injury and property damage liability, and medical payments. You may also want to consider optional coverage for such things as personal effects, emergency service, and trailers. See your particular policy for terms and conditions.

Generally, yearly coverage could run several hundred dollars. Factors that affect the premium you pay may include the type of boat (sail or power), the cost of the boat, the operator’s driving record, and whether the boat is operated on inland or in coastal waters. Shop around to get estimates from several insurers, and make sure you’re comparing fees for equivalent coverage.

Overall, it’s important to take the time to do your homework and ensure you’re making the right decision for you. Protect your investment, and you’ll be able to truly enjoy this major purchase.