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What You Should Know Before Buying a Boat

Each year, millions of people who live close to the water think about buying a boat, whether it’s for fishing, traveling, or just relaxing with friends on the water. It’s a romantic concept, and one that serves as an idealistic long-term goal for many. 

These days, it’s easy to find the right boat for your needs. There are hundreds of types of boats available, and thanks to the internet, you can search among both new and used options to find something in your budget. That said, you shouldn’t jump into a boat purchase impulsively; there are some things you need to know first. 

Boats Vary Tremendously 

There are practically no limits to what kind of boat you can buy. You could buy something small and fast, designed for racing on the water by yourself or with one companion. Or you could buy something bigger and bulkier, made for leisurely cruises with friends. You could buy something extravagant, like a yacht, or something more modest, like a small fishing boat. 

As a newcomer, you might feel overwhelmed with options, and that’s okay. If you find yourself in this position, your best bet is to seriously consider your motivations for boat ownership. What activities are you hoping to enjoy? What functionality do you require? There are no right or wrong answers here, but your response should dictate which types of models you consider next. 

Boat Ownership Costs Are Complicated

When you first start looking at available boats for purchase, you might feel like many options are well within your budget. However, the “true” costs of boat ownership are more complicated, and hard to calculate. 

For example, you’ll need to consider: 

  • The initial cost of the boat. The purchase price is an obvious cost, and you might also owe interest if you take out a loan to pay for it. 
  • Fuel and maintenance. Boats can consume a lot of fuel, especially if you run them often, and you’ll also need to pay for ongoing maintenance. 
  • Insurance and registration. On top of that, you’ll be responsible for making insurance payments, and paying to register your vehicle. 
  • Docking and storage. You’ll likely need to pay a fee to dock your boat in the water, and pay for storage of your boat in the winter, when you aren’t using it. 
  • Safety items and other equipment. Lifejackets, GPS devices, and other equipment will cost you money as well. 

Even so, many boats are affordable; you just don’t want to make a purchase without understanding the long-term costs accurately. 

Boat Maintenance Is Vital 

As alluded to in the previous section, it’s important to keep your boat maintained if you want it to run smoothly and consistently—and stay in good shape for as long as possible. Like with a car, you’ll want to inspect the engine and all systems of moving parts on the boat, you’ll need to change the oil, and you’ll need to keep the boat clean and free of debris. Depending on your mechanical skills and knowledge, you may or may not be able to conduct this periodic maintenance by yourself. 

There’s a Lot to Learn

If you bought a boat today with no knowledge or experience, it would still be a while before you could take it on the water. That’s because there’s much to learn in relation to: 

  • Operation. Driving a boat is similar to driving a car, but there are some major differences—and different types of boats may have different operational systems. You’ll want some experience and familiarity before getting your own boat on the water. 
  • Laws. It’s also important to know the laws with regard to boating operation. Where are you allowed (or not allowed) to go? Are there speed limits for various areas? Do you or your boat need to be registered? These laws vary from area to area, so you’ll need to do proactive research. 
  • Safety. You’re responsible for not only your own safety, but the safety of everyone on board. Make sure you understand how to operate the boat safely, include the proper lifejackets and safety equipment on board, and that you know how to respond to various emergency situations. 
  • Etiquette. Though perhaps not a requirement, it’s also a good idea to learn boating etiquette so you can get along with other people sharing the water with you. 

If you have little to no experience with boats, there’s a lot you’ll need to learn and discover before finalizing your purchase decision. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to talk to other boat owners in your area. What has their experience been like? What bits of wisdom are they willing to share? What do they wish they’d have known or done before they bought their first boat?