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Things you need to know before buying a boat

a small boat in a body of water

To buy or not to buy? What are the things you need to know before buying a boat?

What are the things you need to know before buying a boat?

The joys of boating are life-changing and owning a boat is a lifetime dream of many people. Boating is really a wonderful thing, but owning a boat is both wonderful and demanding. If you are wondering what it takes to become a proud boat owner, do yourself a favor and learn what is the best boat for your lifestyle and budget. Buying a boat is like getting married or getting a pet. I mean that!! Buying a boat is a big commitment. It is worth the risk, but still, it is a big commitment. In many ways getting married, getting a pet, and buying a boat can bring countless unforgettable moments to your life but if you decide to end that relationship, it will literally be like a divorce or having to find someone to adopt your “wonderful pet”.

So let’s learn what is the perfect boat for your lifestyle and budget before you buy that beautiful boat you have been dreaming about.

So, we put together a few things you need to know before you buy it. I know you probably already thought about trailering and storage options, the benefits of buying from a dealer, and choices for financing, right?!

Here is a list of 8 things you need to know before buying a boat:

    1.  Choose the right boat type
    2. Decide to buy new or used
    3. Find a certified boat
    4. Review boat financing options
    5. Get a boat loan
    6. Work with a boat dealer
    7. Sea trial – Take it for a spin
    8. Research values and prices

1 – The most important thing is to find the right boat for your lifestyle.

Finding the right boat is all about identifying how you want to spend your time on the water. Whether high speed or low key, there’s a boat for every lifestyle and occasion. Select your preferences across a few categories and discover the perfect boat for you. Here are a few questions we put together that you should ask yourself:

What is the right boat for you?

What activities are you interested in is one of things you need to know before buying a boat.
    • Boat Offshore
    • Day Cruising
    • Freshwater Fishing
    • Overnight Cruising
    • Personal Watercraft
    • Sailing
    • Saltwater Fishing
    • Watersports

How many people do you want in your boat?

For personal watercraft (PWC) designed to carry more than 2 people, you must follow the load and capacity shown on the ABP or similar plate. For other vessels – such as sailing vessels, paddle craft and rowing vessels – the capacity and load are set by the manufacturer.

What types of engines are interested in?

How do you want to transport your boat?


2- Should You Buy New or Pre-Owned?


    • That shiny, new-boat feeling – Buying new means you’re the first person to turn the key, push down the throttle and make some waves.
    • A reliable warranty – If something does go wrong, you’ll have a manufacturer’s warranty to back you up through your dealership of choice.
    • Customizable – Down to every detail, you can get the features you want, not just what’s available on the pre-owned market.
    • Latest design & technology – New boats come with all the bells and whistles to make your friends “ooh and aah.” From storage space and seating configurations, to onboard technology and entertainment features, you’ll get the most innovative features.
    • No surprises – While most pre-owned boats are perfectly fine, buying new takes all the guesswork out of knowing what you’re getting.



    • Low stakes for first-time boaters – If you put a scratch in the hull, it’s likely not the first one. What a relief!
    • Water-tested – Any initial bugs in the boat or motor will have likely surfaced and been dealt with.
    • More inventory, wider price range – The market for pre-owned boats is quite expansive— providing a lot of different choices in terms of price and overall condition.
    • Trading in & trading up – Found a new boat on the showroom floor that’s just a bit out of your current price range? Finding a similar pre-owned model in good condition with a reasonable amount of hours is the next best thing. Then, when the time comes, work with your dealer to trade in and upgrade for that newer model.
    • More money to outfit your new ride – Buying pre-owned means you can put money into the latest GPS tech, comfy seat cushions, or other accessories to make boating even more fun.

3- Find a certified boat cannot be out of the list of things you need to know before buying a boat.

Make sure it complies with industry safety and construction standards and federal regulations. Certification helps ensure whatever boat you choose is of the highest quality and offers the latest in safety and reliability. NMMA Certified boats undergo third-party inspection to ensure all applicable standards are met; the result is a thoroughly inspected, high-quality boat for you and your passengers.

What about financing and loan options. Should it be on the list of things you need to know before buying a boat?

4 – Review boat financing options.

Once you’ve identified the boat you want, and negotiated the right price, securing financing is simpler and easier than you might think, which leads us to the next question.

5- Is it possible to get a boat loan?

There are a few ways you can set up a loan to buy a boat.

Get support from your Boat Dealer – Dealers set up boat loans every day, so you’ll be working with someone who knows the ropes, has established relationships with lenders, and wants to make the entire transaction happen as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Go to your personal Bank – Some buyers who have a lot of equity in their home find it advantageous to take out a home equity loan or a second mortgage, either because they may get a lower interest rate or for tax purposes. Remember, however, that this will add some time and complexity to
the transaction.

Get help from Marine Dealers – Since financing a boat is a bit different than financing other things, there are some lenders who specialize in it. In fact, there’s even an organization, the National Marine Lenders Association, made up of lenders who are familiar with all the ins and outs of making boat loans.


6 – Should you work with a Dealer?

Working with a dealer can help make the buying process easy and simple. Buying at a boat dealership has several advantages:

  • Most dealers service what they sell, so you’ll establish a solid foundation for future customer support.
  • Dealers are extremely familiar with the brands they offer—making them an excellent resource on general boating knowledge and terminology.
  • Dealers can act as a liaison between you and the manufacturer if warranty work is necessary.
  • They can assist with arranging boat financing, titling and registration, deliveries, and pick-ups.
  • Like a real estate agent, they’ll ensure that your buying experience and transition to ownership is smooth and enjoyable.
  • Well-versed in local boating areas, dealers are your go-to source for guidance and advice post-purchase.

7 – Sea trial – Take it for a spin

Taking a boat for a sea trial, also known as an on-water demonstration, is an essential part of the boat buying process. Successful sea trials involve creating a “real-life” environment on the boat. Ask your dealer about scheduling this before making your decision.

8 – Research values and prices

Think of the key expenses of buying a boat to help calculate your boat ownership costs.

Initial Expenses

Boat: Base purchase price + taxes/fees
Installed options: Like a car, you can customize your boat with manufacturer/dealer installed options— electronics, entertainment systems, water sport/fishing options, canvas (bimini), flooring, etc.
Required safety equipment: Varies by state, but typically includes life jackets, fire extinguisher, visual distress signals
Accessories: Must-haves generally include an anchor, line and fenders. Good-to-have items include a paddle and dry box
Title: Varies by state
Engine: Purchase price + taxes/fees (if not included in initial purchase price)
Trailer: Purchase price + taxes/fees (if not included in initial purchase price)

Ownership Expenses: Monthly

Monthly Loan Payment: (if you are financing your purchase)
Insurance: To protect your investment
Fuel: Your costs will vary based on usage and market price
Storage (if applicable): If you will house your boat at a boat yard or other facility
Dockage/Marina Fees (if applicable): If you plan to keep your boat at a slip

Ownership Expenses: Annual

Regular Maintenance
Engine/electrical/steering systems: Just like a car, routine maintenance will keep
your boat running smoothly and ensure its longevity
Hull cleaning: For boats kept in water, especially saltwater; prevents damage and increases fuel efficiency
Seasonal Maintenance
Winterization: For boats that will be stored for winter or an extended period of time
Spring Tune-up: Get your boat ready for the upcoming season
State Registrations
Boat: Requirements and frequency (annual, biennial, etc.) vary by state
Trailer: Trailers are registered separately

Optional Expenses:
Extras/Toys: Accessories to enhance your time on the water such as tubes/towables, water sports equipment and fishing gear

The most important things you need to know before buying a boat has to involve the most important things for you!

  • Do your own research.
  • Check boat pricing guides.
  • Consider your budget.
  • Partner with your dealer to find your next boat.

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