Key considerations when buying a boat.

If you’re thinking about buying a boat, chances are good that you already have a very clear picture in mind of you and your family and friends enjoying time on the water together—be it cruising, fishing, entertaining or traveling. Becoming a boat owner always starts with a romantic notion. The trick is then finding the exact watercraft that will bring that notion to life. And the right place to start is discerning the right boat type for your needs (and specific questions) even before you enlist the help of a boat dealer. Doing your homework is paramount in the buying process—after all, it is you that will be at the helm of your ship.

Each boat type serves a specific purpose or use. An offshore boat is built to handle the potentially capricious demands of blue water outings whether for fishing or simple enjoyment of big, open water. A day cruising boat on the other hand, while fit for big water, might be better-suited for more predictable and relaxing near-shore or intercoastal excursions. Likewise, a more general-purpose craft would fit a more multi-purpose demand somewhere in-between. There are a host of functional choices, so there could be several that fit your needs. When it comes to considering specific manufacturers (or even models), there are consumer reports that weigh-in on quality, reliability, value and more available online. 

Along with identifying its primary use, when buying a boat you’ll also need to take in consideration: 

• How many people you’ll have on the boat

• Whether you plan on trailering or docking at a marina or your own dock

• Space available for those docking options – both from boat-size and open slip perspectives

• Space available for winter storage, whether your own or paid space

Once you’ve landed on the type of boat you want, you’ll want to look at available trim options that will make an ideal day on the water. Consider the floor plan and whether it would be conducive to the activities and flow of normal use. Weigh your choice of amenities that would make you and others aboard more comfortable or would afford the flexibility for more spontaneous over-night trips—think of everything from storage and cabin space to electronics and audio to fuel capacity and engine size. 

When you’re comfortable with the choice you’ve made or the options you’d like to discuss and narrow down further, you’ll need to lean on the expertise of a boat dealer to help clarify and answer questions. If there is a showroom and boat models available, visit and spend time actually engaging with the space and amenities. If a sea trial or test drive is possible, request one so that you can experience the boat firsthand. 

If you feel like you’ve stepped out of that picture in your mind and right into that boat, you know you have years of on-the-water enjoyment to come.

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