Boat Buyer's Guide

So you’re thinking about taking the plunge and buying a boat. Awesome! But how do you buy a boat anyway? It sounds like a silly question, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t even know where to begin.

How to buy a boat tips

What to look for in a boat and how you’ll use the boat are the most important things to know before you buy. Here’s a simple guide on how to buy a boat.

What Type of Boat Do You Need?

There are a few things to consider to help you zero in on the type of boat you need:

  • Capacity: How many people do you plan on having on your boat regularly?
  • Weight: Do you have a trailer and a vehicle powerful enough to haul the boat to and from the water?
  • Location: Is the boat going to be used on larger waterways or smaller bodies of water? What kind of hull will it need for this?
  • Storage: Do you have a big enough yard? Will it fit in a garage? Are you planning on using a dry indoor storage facility or a marina? 

Boat buying guide storage

What’s Your Boat Buying Budget?

Set the amount of money you want to spend on a boat, and determine accordingly whether you want to buy something new or pre-owned. 

Guide to buying a boat

A new boat will get you the latest features and a factory warranty, but a used boat might get you a little more bang for your buck. If you’re buying used, make sure you evaluate not just the boat but the outboard engine as well if it has one. Also consider the downstream costs of the boat, like maintenance, storage and insurance.

The Boat Shopping Process

Start a web search and find a few boats that meet your criteria, then narrow down your choices. Also, a little word-of-mouth from someone with a boat similar to what you’re looking for goes a long way.

Boat shopping buying guide

Past that, many buyers find it helpful to work face-to-face with a dealer. A reputable dealership with a solid maintenance department can be worth doing business with in the long run.

Inspect the Boat

A thorough inspection is especially important for a used boat, and you should bring along a friend that knows about boats to help you evaluate a new or used boat.

Boat buying guide inspection

Check out the engine, bilge, steering, and the fuel and electrical systems. Give the boat a test drive if possible. Bear in mind that the way a boat handles out on the water with just you and a salesperson might differ from how it handles with your family and friends onboard, or even towing someone on a ski. Does the boat have enough horsepower? Is it the right size? Does it feel stable? Also consider hooking up with a marine surveyor — who’s like a home inspector for boats — to give the boat a good look and provide a professional opinion.

Make a Deal

If you’re buying from a dealer, find out about dealer fees, title and registration, accessories, and other things that can boost the price of the boat so you know what’s coming

Boat buying guide tips deal

Even if it’s not a dealer but a private seller instead, ask about what accessories and equipment come with your purchase, and find out what’s missing before you buy. Also, get information about delivery. And finally, make sure you know about all of the boat’s systems before you get the keys, and get a service history report, as well as the boat’s maintenance schedule.

 

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