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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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