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Tips That May Help With Buying Your First Boat

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  • Super User

It seems there are always questions as to what boat is best suited for any given situation we have.  There are so many options out there, how do we know which one is right for us?


Here are a few guidelines that may help you with your decision.


First things first when you consider the purchase of a new (or new to you) boat.


1.The first item to consider has to be safety, without a doubt, This is the most important factor when you are considering a boat purchase,  used or new.  What could be wrong with a new boat?  Plenty.  Don't overlook the importance of anything when you are out there looking,  It could be a boat that has been bought back or repossessed for any number of reasons.  Dealers and sellers can be a tricky group of people.  You could be getting a great deal or you may be getting shafted.  Don't assume anything when you are in the market and leave nothing to chance when it comes to your safety and the safety of others on your vessel. 


If this is your first boat, or you have never driven a boat, or have little experience,  make sure before you even open the first page of looking for a boat that you have at least a little experience.  Even though it's not a requirement, you will find this to be very helpful.  It is in your best interest that you have at least some experience on the water.  Rough water can be tricky to navigate,  especially your first time.  Finding out that your boat is under-powered in these conditions is not a fun time to be on the water.  It's always a good idea to have your experience be, if at all possible,  with someone who knows how to navigate and safely operate a water craft.  If not,  take a boaters safety course (if you have not already done so) before you make that leap.  You can often find them as a hands-on class.  Take a boat out on the waters you want to fish,.  It's not hard to find someone willing to rent a boat or teach you the responsibilities that go along with ownership.  You just have to look,  but your very first step should always be to be prepared and know the guidelines, not only for your safety but for others you may have with you as, well as others on the waterways.


While we are on the subject of safety, be sure to look up good qualified marine service centers, they will/can be instrumental in the decision making process,  should you have the need for one.  Nothing beats a once-over by a good qualified tech.


2.  The second guideline is financial.  Make sure the boat you are looking at is well within the financial means of your pocket book.  If you want the biggest, baddest boat on the water, just make sure you are prepared to cover the cost of what a new engine can cost you for the boat after it is out of warranty,  especially if you had to break the bank to get that Ranger you really, really wanted.  Think about the long run,  don't just think about right now.  Look at how well it will hold value.  You may want to trade it or sell it,  or even upgrade it with lots of electronics in the future.  If you want to run it at night,  it's going to require navigational lighting if it does not already have it.  These kind of expenses can all add up,  even though some seem small,  they can be more than you wanted to spend on a given project,  if you don't know how to do it yourself then you will have to pay someone on top of that.  Labor hours are not cheap for marine applications if that may be your only resource.  Further, consider the cost of boat insurance.  Make sure that you have at least $100,000 of liability.  If you plow into someone's tricked-out Ranger, it's going to cost a wad.


3.  The third guideline is to ask yourself, "Is Is it the right boat for me?"  We have already made ourselves failure with the safety of the waterways and now we have found a boat that looks really good in our price range.  Take the time to sit down and figure out what exactly you wish to accomplish with your new boat.  Where will you be fishing?  Will it be on large or small lakes, ponds, river systems?  All of these areas play a key roll in what your craft is able to safely traverse and navigate.  Will you be alone?  Think about all of the safety equipment you will need.  Will you have enough room for all of these things,  plus your fishing gear and maybe a friend or two?  Trust me,  you will have new friends.  


Fiberglass or Aluminum?  That is a question for the ages.  When we members on the forum get this question,  we always want to know the specifics of your water ways.  Since this is an information highway and not a waterway,  it's hard for us to help you with that decision if we can't get a good feel of what hazard lurk in your water system.  Take strongly into account what you will be doing with this boat.  As above,  the right boat for you is going to have to perform and navigate and be durable enough to withstand whatever punishment you have in store for it.  If it's mostly rocky waters,  of course you need a metal type hull,   Fiberglass hulls are not meant for the daily beating of a rocky river system, one bump from a rock on a glass hull and you could be in deep deep trouble in a hurry.  It will also be advisable for you to navigate your new waters at a slow pace until you know where all the hazards are located.  Not all waterways have everything marked the way they should be.  Take your time when exploring new waters and enjoy your new surroundings.  Pay close attention while you are on the move.


One big thing to consider with each is stability, not so much with glass boats.  Most all glassers are fairly stable to begin with.  If you should choose to go with an Aluminum boat,  make sure it's as wide as you can possibly get it.  The wider the hull and beam the more stability it is going to have.  This is particularly important if you wish to want to raise the seating platform or put a fishing deck on the boat.  Most standard "V" hulls are not really good for modifications that add any height added to them.  They become very unstable and easier to roll over the higher you set your seat,   if you should find that a "V" hull is what you want then try to find a deep "V" these are much more stable and will allow some modifications you wish to install should the vessel not already have them.  Modifications are based on what the boat can safely handle and still be able to perform.  Keep in mind,  aluminum boats that are not built with these mods, are not intended for modifications,  factors are height, and width primarily,  plus the weight of the people fishing from the vessel and the added gear,  this also adds to the draft, (how deep the boat sets in the water.)  Keep your modifications low.  The smaller and more narrow the craft is,  the lower you need to keep them.  Alll of these things are important when considering your investment.


When you consider a glass boat, or any boat for that matter,  be absolutely sure!  If the boat has some age on it, there are many hidden areas that could potentially have problems.  The transom  at the stern is always a potential weak link,. The wood inside the glass could be weak or rotten.  It's one area that requires a really good inspection.  The floor of the boat may have weak spots or may have been recently replaced.  The engine may not be in as good a shape the seller says it is.  The steering and shift cables may soon be an issue if they are not already.  The electrical wiring may be in poor shape and may need lots of attention.  This is why it is so important to know a good marine service center.  If you have no experience with fiberglass boats,  it's best if you have a good qualified tech or someone who knows what they are doing look it over for or with you.  A few bucks spent here will save you big time headaches in the long run.


Once you decide on a boat that you really like,  have good relations with the seller if you can,  It makes it much easier for both of you.  Don't settle for anything.  Make sure you get a test drive in the boat and that you get familiar with the settings and how everything is supposed to work.  Check it over for leaks.  Talk the seller into going fishing with it even if it's only for a brief period of tim.  You may find it's just not right for you and there you are stuck with something you can not use or really don't like to use. 


Take your time!   I just can't stress that enough.  There are boats everywhere for sale or trade.  Be true to what you want from a boat,  "your boat",  and get the most bang from your buck you can.  Trust your instincts!  If for any reason you feel it is not the right one for you, then walk away from the deal and keep looking.


Owning a boat,  especially your first boat, should be fun and adventurous. You want to enjoy your time on the water.  Problems are going to come about; no ifs, ands or buts about it.  Be prepared for bad days and it won't be as difficult to handle.  B.O.A.T. (Break Out Another Thousand)  or, a hole in the water that we just keep throwing money into.  We have all heard that time and time again,  but if you make your decisions wisely and keep a close eye on the service of your vessel and it's trailer,  boating can be and is a lot of fun and gives you a lot of freedom to enjoy the outdoors.


Hope this helps!!


Good luck and be safe !!!

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Great article! I have been boating for 35 years now and bought my first boat when I was 15. I have owned over 20 boats in that span from a 12' rowboat to a 42' Gibson houseboat. I have always had realitively good luck and until recently ONLY bought used. Boats depreciate much faster than cars in the first two years - let someone else take the hit. Many people buy boats on a whim only to realize they can only take it out 3-4 times a year. Buying a boat from someone who trailers it back and forth is usually a good sign it has not seen the water very much. With a little mechanical aptitude (or bring a friend that does) a used boat is genarally the best bang for the buck! My biggest piece of advise when buying used is to request a test drive before final purchase. The sellers response will always be a good indicator of the boats performance.

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  • Super User



This may become a pinned thread.




Whhhhooo Hooooooo !!!


Thanx RW !!


If it don't it still means a lot to know what you think about it !!



Can I get tips for buying my 4th boat? :wink2:

Good info


Sure !!


Sell the other 3 first ..... your wife is saying the yard is becoming a boat yard BAHAHAHA !!!

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  • Global Moderator

Great thread!


We have decided to quit pinning articles, but this will be left here

in this Forum and another  in "Best Of BassResource.com" at the

top of the General Section.


Again, Thank you!



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  • Super User

That freaked me out man !!


LOL , I saw it was pinned this morning and I was actually in the process of adding to the thread with some more insite for used vs. new etc...and then it was gone, I was like what did I do ?  did I do something wrong?


Well, far out then, I will work on my other post to add to this one, thanx RW !!

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  • Super User

Buying your first boat or your 21st boat,  all depends on your application and what your intentions are for the use of the craft,  hard core bass fishing or moderate or beginner,   if you are on your second boat or more you should by now have a good idea of what you need from your boat.


Are you going to fish tournaments and how serious are you going to take it?  Well,  we all know that it's not the boat that catches the fish,  it's you the angler,  but at the same time we have to consider how many times we loose out because someone has beaten us to our spot,  high end tournaments are going to require a good higher end boat with lots and lots of options for extra storage and speed,  you have to take in account your fishing gear along with everything else including the kitchen sink it seems,   and be prepaired for anything,  these upper class bass boats are purposely built for the hard core angler who live and work on the deck and can handle just about any kind of weather mother nature can suprise them with, so a full blown bass boat may or may not be what you need. 


Are you just fishing for fun and competing in tournaments? well maybe a mid range boat will be good for you,  you can load up your boat with all the fancy nick-nacks and big huge monitors just like the pros and still go out for fun for about half the cost of a pro,   what really makes this mid range boat is there is a wide range of options, these boats come in both Aluminum and in Glass,  the width and length is decided by you for the options you choose to have,  when you are out there looking at mid range boats,  one very important factor to consider is family and or friends or both,  room on the bow deck and room on the stern deck are couple of things you want to think about along with seating,  you may find a fish and ski model is best for you or you may find a bass boat style is more along the lines, either way,  the advantage's that each have over one another must be thought out for all involved, not just for your intentions or you are simply throwing your money out the window,  If I were to ask myself what I thought the most important option was on a mid range boat,  it would have to be the engine size,  more often than not I find these boats are under powered for the length and size,   this application for me would have to be at the very least be powered by a 150hp engine,  excellent tourqe range,  plenty of power for skiers and really good speed across the board for fishing with lots of options for more speed if needed and generally cheap to keep serviced and maintained,  if you go higher than a 200hp engine it really starts to get more and more expensive to maintain and work on.


Just fun fishing, here is where it gets interesting,  the options you have are absolutly endless,  jon boat to bass boat,  new or used,  pump up's or kyack's,  the mind gets a little fried when looking around in this area.


To each their own,  we can throw ourselves to the wolves it seems,  the best advise here is to find what interests you the most and start there,  start weighing the options of this craft vs. that craft,  eliminate the options that are of no use to you and find things that can be easily upgradeable in the future,  you will find that most boats will only allow you to upgrade to a small extent,  jon boats for example,  a small light weight boat is not ment for anything more than roughly a 10hp outboard and maybe two people depending on their combined weight,  yet if we want to upgrade we have no room to do so,  if I am fishing by myself,  this may be a great option to consider depending on my areas I have available for use of that kind of rig,  but if I want my children to go, I am limited as they grow older and I will eventually need to upgrade,  once maybe twice,  maybe even three times, why not save your money and get something that will expand and have the option of being able to upgrade without the hassle of looking for a whole new boat,  so it's really up to each individual to think for themselves and plan ahead for the future needs of their boating and fishing experience.   


New vs. used,  What would be the first thing to consider for each,  well, here are a couple of things to think about.


New, there are so many things that we look at, the first thing to get over is the sticker price, new boats have a really wide price range no matter the material it's made from, first thing to consider is luxury, do you really need a wood grained steering wheel and leather seats,  you might be suprised at how much that knocks off the price of a boat,  depending on the price then you need to figure out what the property tax is going to set you back as well,  cost of ownership will also include the service on that new boat,  some manufactures require that the services be performed by the selling dealer so that the break-in is recorded and properly performed,  if not performed correctly the company has the right to void that warranty,  usually it's the engine manufacturer that is really strict,  most services are in the $300 range,  a new boat can cost as much as my house or more and just how can I justify that?  some of us only see the sticker price and go into a thing called sticker shock,  what are you really paying for?  first off is technology and the brand name that builds that technology,  not the technology in the electronics but the craft itself,   for starters,  research and development of new and improved hull designs, (Engineers)  research and development of safety ( More Engineers)  research and development of newer and more enviromently friendly materials and paint that can stand up to all conditions and still perform ( and yet more Engineers )  and then we have to build the boat and train people on how to put together and apply this new technology so we also have a labor force added in there somewhere,  plus the manufacturer needs to make a profit to be able to keep supplying the product,  all of these things go into each and every boat on the market and we do our part by paying for the new advances in technology,  another quality to look at is it has a warranty against any manufactures defects,  this means or should mean less problems for you on the water to think about or worry about,  at least for the first year or so,   no matter what,  there are always going to be problems,  but they should be lessend by the product being new and durable,  one thing to keep in mind as well is that the boat manufacturer does not build the power plant attached to the stern,  that is outsourced and attached to the total build sheet,  that new technology is also something else you are paying for from a completly different source,  and then there is the trolling motor up front,  another outsource and more technology, PHEW !!!,   and then there is one more factor to consider,  that would be the WOW factor,  the bling, bling factor,  There is nothing wrong with having a brand new boat,  it's something you have worked really hard for and if it's within your means to do so then you should be able to enjoy it no matter the cost with or without all the bells and whistles.


Used, These boats have their good and bad points just like the new ones do, only these can be or are more pronounce,  lets start with the good,  the biggest advantage of a used boat is that it is cost effective,  you can get a really nice boat for half the money and only a couple of years old to boot,  thats more money you can spend on upgraded electronics,  who knows,  it may already have some of the latest and greatest and you could already save even more and put it toward upgrading your fishing gear,  or even buy that wife of yours a really nice gift...........  it is also more cost effective to own with lower personal property taxes and being able to service it yourself.


Owning a used boat however has some down sides to it as well,  start with the service,  that's the most important part after it is deemed to be safe,  how well was it taken care of if there are no records to go by,  both the trailer and the boat,  it's the unknown chances that we take that are the biggest disadvantage to owning a used boat,  it helps if the seller has all the records of it's history,  it's also better if the seller had taken it to a marine center for everything,  but how many of them are out there like that,  very few that I can find when we think about how many boat owners are out there in the world today.


It's definatly a buyers beware kind of market for used boats,  don't go after it alone if you have no experience, no matter the condition on the outside,  there are always some kind of hidden bugs that may be learking from within,  I have been in the Automotive and Marine industry for a very long time now,  every day is a learning experience for me and what people try to get by with still drives me crazy,  when you are considering a used boat,  no matter how big and powerful or how small,  just make sure it's the right one to fit your needs safely, one that will allow you to grow as you and your family grows,  if it looks like junk it very well just might be junk and cost you more money than the boat is worth,  if you are not sure of what the boat is worth then get an unbiast opinion from your local marine service center,  look at the book values before you even go to look at the boat you found,  chances are always greater you are paying much more than you really need to be.


If you are thinking of getting a "new" or "like new" or "new to you boat",   talk to your banks and your finance people who loan you the money if you should have to use a loan,  find the best deals with and without down payments and how much of a down payment or trade-in, wait for the right time to buy,  some of the best boat deals will yeild more for a trade-in allowance than what you originally payed for your used boat,   just recently a friend of mine got 8 grand more for his trade than what he paid for it toward a new Nitro Z-8,  so stay in touch with dealers and the locals and be sure to look around for some really great deals,  they are out there !!!      

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