Buying Your First Boat

Tips for Finding Your First Boat

1.    Every boat is a compromise. Make sure you are making the right choice.

2.    Your boat will usually be used for more than one activity. Make sure you choose a boat suited to your “primary” activity.

3.    How many people will be customarily riding in your boat? Will there be children aboard? The more people you have aboard the larger the boat must be.

4.    Where and when will you be using your boat? You don’t need a boat built to go around Lake Michigan, if you are only going to be using it in a lake during the summer.

5.    How much money is comfortable for you to buy a boat? How much of your budget is comfortable for you to spend on your boat monthly? There is a boat available for virtually every pocketbook. It may be an old aluminum Jon boat with an aging 2-stroke outboard, but there is something around you can afford. Don’t be too proud to buy “under” what is comfortable. Remember you are getting into boating to have fun, not to keep up with Mr. Jones. Sweating monthly payments and yard bills is no fun.

6.    Should you buy new or used? New boats cost more, but everything works and should be under warranty. For the same money you can buy a far larger boat used, but your maintenance and replacement costs will be higher. Examine your own skills and personal proclivities and that should help point to an answer.
a.    If it is a used boat and represents a lot of money to you, then by all means have the boat surveyed by a SAMS or NAMS member.
b.    Most surveyors won’t comment on the engines, so you will need a mechanic you trust to inspect it. Even then there are many things he can not check easily and you should consider an extended aftermarket warranty on the engine. If no one will sell you one there is a message there.

7.    How much time will you spend on your boat at a single stretch? Three hours? Six hours? Six days? Think about it an make sure that your boat has the room, storage capacity and the required necessities for your time on board. Does it have room for a head, cooler storage, life jackets, ground tackle, food, fishing gear, clothing, foul weather gear, water skis, etc.

8.    How large should the boat be? Your answers to the questions above will all point to the best size for you. But don’t just compare what the builders say what the length of their boats are ? get aboard and see for yourself how much room is really there.  Beam is also important. It adds stability, more room, may make the boat slower and not trailerable without a special permit. Check it out.

9.    What is your exit strategy? This is your first boat. If you choose wisely and you enjoy the experience, it may be the first of many. After a season or two on your first boat you will know if you made the right compromises. If not, that is what second boats are for. If boating turns out not to be all that you had hoped, then make sure the boat you buy is one that other people will want at a price your are comfortable receiving.