The challenge of buying a boat, either new or used, can be one of the most daunting and exciting tasks that you’ll ever face, especially if you’re a newcomer. You may have been on boats with friends, or looked out on the water and admired boats from afar — even a particular make or style of boat. Now you’re thinking of getting into the game yourself. Good! But before you take the plunge, here are some basic questions that will help guide you in your decision-making.
1. Location - How big is the lake — or is it an ocean? Make sure your new boat suits the local conditions. A pontoon boat that does great on a placid lake might not be suited for rougher coastal conditions.
2. Power or Sail? - What kind of activities on the water interest you? Cruising? Racing? Fishing? Waterskiing? Wakeboarding? Wine and cheese? Some boats are purpose-built and some are better suited to multiple activities. Study boats that will best fit your on-water lifestyle.
3. Skills Required - Do you want a boat that requires a crew or one you can handle and dock on your own?
4. Mooring or Storage - Where it will be kept? Will it fit the water depth, and how much will it cost to dock the boat?
5. Maintenance - Do you like to varnish or will you hose-and-go? Are you a do-it-yourselfer or will you rely on services to assist you?
6. Budget - Think beyond paying for the boat. What sort of taxes, interest rates on a boat loan, storage, insurance, and annual maintenance costs might be involved? Should you consider shared ownership or partnering with a friend who has more boating experience? Plan your boat budget carefully.
7. Boat Valuation - What do other similar boats sell for? How can you determine the value of a used boat? If you’re thinking about a new boat, consider the depreciation. Depreciation on used boats that are kept in good condition should level out with maintenance and equipment improvements.
8. Sea Trial and Survey - Would you buy a car without a test drive? Get to know the boat, and enlist a marine surveyor to inspect its integrity and systems.
9. Boat Reviews - Boating websites and magazines offer a wealth of information and reviews on boats to help you find the right boat.
10. Right blend of style, speed and safety. Start your search for your ideal boat for sale.
An earlier version of this post was published in 2010.
Boat Trader has plenty of Buying and Selling advice, but also check out the hundreds of articles in the Boating section, with tips on everything from seamanship to maintenance, how-to, where to find replacement parts, and much more.