What To Know Before Buying Your First Boat

You envision yourself with your feet up, lounging on the deck alongside lovely guests in fashionable boating wear, enjoying the sunshine and sipping cocktails while the staff passes hors d’oeuvres on your gorgeous teak yacht.

Snap out of it, sailor. What to know before buying your first boat includes accepting the reality of ongoing annual expenses and maintenance work, marina and slip fees, and unexpected costs that can arise at the most inconvenient moments.

What Kind of Boat Do You Want to Buy?

The first step toward boat ownership involves understanding what type of boat best fits your lifestyle and needs.

Sail or Motor?

Do you fancy the romanticism of sailing, or do you prefer the power and speed of a motorboat? Each type of boating requires a specific skill set. You could start by learning the difference between a bow and a stern or a boom and a bollard. It’s a start, anyway.

Gas or Electric?

Do you like noise or nature? If you’re one of those guys who loves the sound of a sports car accelerating, you might like the buzz and bone-rattling vibrations of a gas or diesel engine. But if you prefer the elegance and peace of a quiet day on the water, consider an electric boat motor. Bone up on the differences between traditional and electric boat motors and how you’d handle maintenance and repairs.

New or Used?

Are you looking for a shiny new vessel, or does a well-loved used boat appeal more to your sensibilities and budget? Are you confident enough about your ability to detect defects in a vessel and its systems to buy a used boat from some guy by the water who offers you a great deal?

Before you buy a boat, have a professional inspect it for seaworthiness and ask a mechanic to open up its motor to determine if it has all its parts and that they’re functional.

Fresh or Salt Water? Lake or Bay?

If you expect to be out on a choppy bay, the shape of your boat’s hull makes a big difference to the comfort and safety of your excursion. If you’ll be casting a line on a calm lake, you want a boat that can glide gently to your favorite fishing hole.

Storage and Maintenance

Boat storage is a critical aspect of boat ownership. Whether you’ll be keeping your boat in your driveway or in a boat storage facility, consider the costs involved. Remember that “boat” stands for “break out another thousand.”

What About Insurance, License, and Registration?

Before you start imagining yourself at the helm of your new vessel, check out the requirements in your state for licensing and find some insurance that covers not only the boat itself but also the trailer you’ll use to transport it.

Knowing what to consider before buying your first boat involves accepting responsibility for safety and taking on a perpetual financial obligation that could balloon into thousands of dollars in repairs and maintenance. But hey, it may be worth it to you for the chance to wear that jaunty captain’s cap!

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