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Boat Purchasing Information

Select The Boat That's Right For You!

Boating tends to be a social activity, so family members, fishing or sailing buddies should be involved in the process of choosing a boat. Determine what activities the crew wants them to do then go determine the models to fit those needs. Most boats are multi-faceted; they can be fish boats in the morning and ski boats in the afternoon.

Make the wish list long to start then make notes of the "must have," and "can do without." Determine your monthly budget for boat ownership and try to stick to it. But, don't give up a necessity for a few dollars which will cost you convenience or usage later on. Remember that you will often be inviting guests aboard, so plan a little extra room for them and for you.

Talk to people who already enjoy boating for selection tips; visit local dealers or the local boat show; pick up a few boating magazines at the newsstand or library; check the Internet. You'll quickly find a number of brands that fit your needs and budget. So, which is best for you? As with autos, differing prices generally equate to amenities and size.

All boats sold in the U.S. must meet U.S. Coast Guard basic safety standards. Don't think you're making a lifelong commitment to a particular boat. It's not a marriage; it's more like an enjoyable relationship. That's because most boat owners trade what they have as their skills grow and needs change.

Many boats are being pre-packaged with motor and trailer as a complete unit. These manufacturers have been careful to outfit such products for the comfort of the average boater... and the attractive prices of these units reflect cost savings passed on to buyers. Generally, the packaged boat units will offer some power choice: choose more for water skiing, for example.

Remember that the dealer that sells the boat will be your partner for advice and service. He or she should be willing to listen to what you want in a boat, then make recommendations. When the boat needs scheduled service or repairs, the dealer should be there to stand behind the sale. The point is, when shopping for a boat, also shop for the dealer you feel most comfortable with or one recommended by friends.

Boat Operating Considerations

Once a boat is purchased, what is the yearly operating cost? Like the boat itself, it depends on your budget and how much you want to spend. Most boat owners set for themselves an annual budget for boating. With a small, trailerable boat, you can spend as little as a few hundred dollars per year for your boating fun. As the boat goes up in size, the annual cost of using it also goes up.

Items to consider are insurance, dockage or moorage, fuel, minor maintenance and winter storage. Generally speaking, the cost of all of these items increases with the size of a boat. For example, a 17-foot powerboat with 150- to 175-horsepower stern drive engine that is trailered will probably cost under $1,000 a year to operate.

Hull and liability insurance will run about $300 to $500 annually; lower figures reflect West Coast and Great Lakes area premiums ranging to higher costs in the Northeast and Southeast. Maintenance and upkeep will cost about $100 for a new boat, with any major repairs likely covered by warranty through at least the first year of ownership. You don't have to pay for dockage if the boat is trailered, so the major cost remaining is fuel.

One of the misconceptions about power boating is that fuel bills are high. They can be, but the reality is that people don't actually operate their engine for as many hours per year as it seems. In fact, most power boaters use their engine an average of only 30 to 40 hours per year. Much of the boating enjoyment is at anchor, fishing, at the marina or cruising at idle.

A 17- to 19-foot stern drive boat with 30 hours of actual engine running time will require about $500 in fuel. Of course, family make-up and usage and water conditions will determine how much fuel is actually used. Families with teenage water skiers will obviously use more fuel, while devoted anglers will use less. In any event, using our example, the cost to operate and maintain this average boat divided by the number of days in a season's use, is reasonable.

Shopping At The Boat Shows

This year, literally thousands of boats will be on display at local boat shows across the country. Many experienced boat owners believe boat shows are the best places to shop intelligently for boats and related products and services. And many find shows a perfect entertainment destination for friends or family to spend an afternoon.

Shows offer comparison shopping for completely packaged rigs, but also for motors or sails, accessories, gear and everything else that goes on the boat or concerns the fun of boating. The concentration of exhibitors is a real time-saver for boat buyers where comparisons can be made in the course of a few hours, as opposed to days or weeks

In addition to the advantages of being able to shop a number of exhibitors under one roof, boat shows also bring in boating experts from manufacturers or dealerships. These professionals can answer the specific questions you may have about powering, speed, fuel economy, etc. Experts help in other ways, too. Describe your needs to them and they'll offer advice on which product is best for you.

Simple Boat Show Shopping Tips

Wear comfortable, soft-soled shoes. If you're a first-time buyer not exactly sure which boat is best for you, the show can help you narrow the choices. In addition to strolling the aisles, it's a good idea to decide beforehand what you specifically want to accomplish. Show directories, generally available at the entrance to the exhibit hall, categorize boats, products and services and identify booth locations.

Plan to visit your target exhibitors first so that after seeing the whole show you can return if necessary to double check a price or reexamine equipment. If you're comparison shopping for features and price, it helps to make up a list of points ahead of time.

Decide what's important to you. Everyone has their own individual style of boating. Go over the list while you check the boats in the size range you want. Check the features you want. If you have one, remember to ask about trade-in possibilities on your present boat. The local boat show is a great place to shop and dream a bit and a logical place to find your first or next boat.

Safe Boating Information

From the basic rules of the waterways to advanced satellite navigation, boating information is as close as the local library or video store. Hundreds of books and videos are available covering the how-to as well as the where-to. For current boating topics, tips and boat reviews, the U.S. boasts a wide array of boating periodicals -- national, regional and sometimes local in nature -- that can be found at the news stand.

If you want more advanced instruction, try giving a local boat dealer a call, or attend your local boat show where representatives from the U.S. Power Squadrons or U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will have information on upcoming boating classes (or call: 800/336-BOAT for the nearest course location). Many of these classes provide free instruction when you purchase the inexpensive instructional materials. There are also a number of private instructional companies located around the country which teach basic boating skills.

A free learn to sail hotline has been established by the National Sailing Industry Association to help you discover how easy it is to learn to sail. Call:800/535-SAIL to get information on the nearest school.

For more information, written or verbal, there's no better place than the local boat show where representatives of boating groups, periodicals, boat builders and dealers are ready to answer your questions.


Boat Financing Information 

There are many, many ways to finance a boat, as in any loan, key items to you need to be aware of are the money you need to contribute, interest rates, terms, and the small print.

After you have decided on the source of the boat loan you will need to be "approved" which means do you have the wherewithal to pay it back. The paperwork can be called a "loan application", "finance application" or "credit application" and is the lending sources information about you. Take the time to complete this form completely.

This is also a good time for your annual credit report checkup. Most lenders will require proof of income, and credit information. The interest rate you will pay can be all over the board and can be either fixed or variable. If you want to know what your monthly payment will be and have it stay that way, find a fixed rate loan.

If you are buying a large boat and this is the only loan you can get, go for the variable rate loan. which can have a little lower start up interest rate but these "go with the flow" so to speak interest rates often do rise. The other choice you may have is whether the interest is calculated on a per day basis, i.e., you pay for the time you borrow the money or if it has been calculated over the life of the loan. Also, be aware of any early payoff penalties or fees.

Lets say you want to pay off your loan, or, more realistically, want to go cruising. Will your lender allow the boat out of US waters and if not, can you pay off the loan early without additional costs? After all, they thought they were going to get you to pay interest for millenniums and its only been a lifetime so far. And ask what it will cost you to get into the loan, are there "points" which means a percentage of the loan to be paid as a loan origination fee, in other words they stick it to you with "points".

Determine how long you want to be pay for the boat, the longer the length of the note, the longer it will take you to acquire equity, which is the part you own. This can get complicated depending your cash situation, your income and how long you usually stay enamored with a particular boat. The "term" of the loan usually ranges between 5 to 20 years for most boats.

The amount of down payment can depend upon the lender, how much you are financing (the minimum amount being financed by a lot of lenders at this time is $25,000), the age of the boat, what you plan to do with it, if it is registered with the state in which is home ported or Federally documented (which a lot of lenders are now requiring) and where you are going to be taking it, and can be as low as 10% or as high as 25%.






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