It would be easiest just to find a decent used boat with a good service history and the telltale signs of good upkeep — but the savvy shopper would do well to wait for one equipped with the little extras that were options when new. Waiting for just the right model with the added equipment might take a little longer, but that boat will make your life that much better once you’re out on the water.
Let’s start with a depthfinder. Every boater needs to know how deep the water is. Every one of us. If you wait for a model that already has a depthfinder, you won’t have to add one later. Even better, you might just save yourself the repair costs of hitting bottom because you didn’t know how deep the water was.
Other items worth seeking out are canvas covers and bimini tops. Why? Every boat needs a cover, regardless of where it’s stored, and because the majority of your boating takes place during warm weather, it just makes sense that you should get a boat with a bimini. I can remember going boating when I lived in Florida, and with no bimini top, the summer sun was just brutal. Same goes for all those times I was out on the Colorado River. The sun is so merciless, a bimini is a must.
I also think a bow filler cushion and a removable dinette table are worth insisting on in runabouts and tow boats. Unlike a cover or bimini, it’s not immediately clear why you should want these items, so I’ll tell you. They are features you don’t realize you must have until you’ve used them at least once. For example, the first time you put the bow filler cushion in place, it’s likely you’ll never remove it. The “playpen” it creates is not only utilitarian, but it also makes it more fun to ride up front.
As for the dinette table, think about it this way: You bring fold-out tables to your tailgate parties at the stadium, right? So why wouldn’t you need one for serving lunch or a snack during a day on the water?
These items go a long way in rewarding used-boat buyers with features they might not realize they need at first. But once they have them, they will know the extra time they spent shopping for their boat was well spent — and you can’t put a price tag on that.