Your Ultimate Guide to Boat Shopping: Tips, Tricks, and Expert Advice

Your Ultimate Guide to Boat Shopping: Tips, Tricks, and Expert Advice

Whether you're a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of boating, finding the right vessel can feel like navigating uncharted waters. In this blog, we'll be your compass, guiding you through the process of selecting the perfect boat for your needs. From where to start your search to the key considerations when evaluating potential purchases, we've got you covered. Whether you're envisioning relaxing days on the lake or thrilling adventures on the open ocean, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to make an informed decision. So, let's set sail on this journey together as we explore the ins and outs of boat shopping!

Where to buy...

Let’s first discuss the popular ways outdoor enthusiasts purchase their vessels. As with anything, some of these methods are better suited for some than others. Here is a breakdown of typical purchasing channels as well as some Pros and Cons for each;

  • Boat Dealerships:
        • Pros: Dealerships offer a wide selection of new and used boats, often with financing options available. They may provide warranties and after-sales support.
        • Cons: Prices at dealerships can be higher compared to private sellers. Limited opportunity for negotiation, and you may face additional fees for services.
  • Marinas:
        • Pros: Marinas often have boat sales and brokerage services, making it convenient to find boats for sale. You may find sellers who are knowledgeable about the local boating scene.
        • Cons: Selection may be limited, and prices might not be as competitive as other options. Sellers may not always disclose all issues with the boat.
  • Online Marketplaces:
        • Pros: Online platforms offer a vast array of listings, giving you a wide selection to choose from. You can easily compare prices and features, and many platforms offer buyer protections.
        • Cons: It can be challenging to assess the condition of the boat without seeing it in person. Scams are a risk, and shipping or transportation costs may apply if the boat is not local.
  • Boat Shows:
        • Pros: Boat shows allow you to see a variety of boats from different manufacturers in one place. You can talk directly to dealers and manufacturers, and sometimes find special deals or promotions.
        • Cons: Prices at boat shows may not always be the best, and you may feel pressured to make a purchase. The selection might not include as many used boats compared to new ones.
  • Private Sellers:
        • Pros: Buying from a private seller can sometimes result in a better price compared to dealerships. You may have more room for negotiation, and sellers may be more flexible with terms.
        • Cons: Private sales lack the protections and guarantees offered by dealerships. It can be harder to assess the condition of the boat, and sellers may not always disclose all issues.
  • Out-of-State Purchasing in Cheaper States:
        • Pros: Buying a fishing boat from a state with lower taxes or a lower cost of living can potentially save you money on the purchase price. You may find a wider selection of boats or better deals in states with larger boating communities.
        • Cons: Purchasing a boat out of state may involve additional paperwork and logistics, such as arranging transportation or dealing with registration and tax issues. You may not have the opportunity to inspect the boat in person before buying, increasing the risk of purchasing a boat with undisclosed issues. Additionally, warranty and after-sales support may be more challenging if the seller is located far away.


    Keep an eye out for these...

    Now that we have an idea on where to search for a boat, let’s break down some key points to look out for. 


    1. Condition of the Hull: Inspect the hull for any signs of damage, cracks, or repairs. Check for osmosis (blistering) on fiberglass hulls.
    2. Engine Condition: If the boat has an engine, carefully examine its condition. Check for leaks, corrosion, and ensure it starts smoothly. Ask for maintenance records and consider having a marine mechanic inspect it.
    3. Electronics and Equipment: Test all electronics such as GPS, fishfinder, and radio to ensure they are in working order. Check the condition of safety equipment like life jackets, flares, and fire extinguishers.
    4. Interior and Deck: Look for signs of water damage, rot, or mold inside the boat. Inspect the deck for soft spots or delamination.
    5. Trailers (if applicable): If the boat comes with a trailer, inspect it for rust, wear and tear, and make sure it's roadworthy.
    6. Title and Registration: Ensure the boat has a clear title and is properly registered. Check for any liens or outstanding loans on the boat.
    7. Sea Trial: Whenever possible, take the boat for a sea trial to assess its performance on the water. Pay attention to handling, speed, and any unusual noises or vibrations.
    8. Overall Maintenance: Consider the overall maintenance of the boat, including regular servicing of the engine, hull cleaning, and storage conditions. A well-maintained boat is likely to be more reliable and have fewer issues in the long run.
    9. Seller Reputation: Research the reputation of the seller, whether it's a dealership, private seller, or broker. Look for reviews and ask for references if necessary.
    10. Negotiation: Don't hesitate to negotiate the price, especially if you find any issues during inspection or if comparable boats are available at lower prices elsewhere.

    By paying attention to these key factors, you can make a more informed decision when purchasing a fishing boat and ensure you get the best value for your investment.


    Keep In Mind...

    Now that you are ready to start searching for your next boat, here are just a few more pointers to keep in mind. 


    Don’t look at your boat as an investment:

    We may be breaking your heart here, but DO NOT look at your boat as a financial investment that you will be able to make money on. Of course this can be true with sought after hulls, chartered vessels, or commercial boats. But the majority of watercraft are simply a luxury and tool for enthusiasts. They cost money to maintain and depreciate in value. A common issue with boat owners stems from over-expectation of their vessel’s value. To make your boat ownership as positive of an experience as possible, expect that your boat will cost you money and not the other way around. The trips, memories, and experiences should be the real end value. 


    Take Proper Precautions before and after you purchase:

    Boat ownership is much more than buying a vessel and getting on the water. Take the time to do required maintenance and take required safety courses to be a responsible operator. 


    Always be cautious of other vessels:

    Unfortunately, you’re usually not the only one on the water. Stay alert for other vessels that may be acting in an unsafe manner. With the joy of owning a boat comes the urge to act irresponsibly. Always know there may be others operating under the influence or without proper training. In the end, it is your responsibility to keep your boat and those on it safe from harm.