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The World's Best Shopping Trip

Buying the Right Boat.

In this chapter, we provide useful tips that can assist you with that big boat purchase.

Should you buy new or pre-owned? What do you need to research? Where are the best places to shop and browse? If you have questions, we have the answers. If you already know what you want, we still have great information to enhance your boating experience.

What's Inside This Chapter:

  • New or Used?
  • Marine Surveyor Information
  • Researching Manufacturers
  • Where to Buy

New vs. Pre-owned, Pros and Cons

Choosing the Greater of Goods

Pre-owned or new, which boat is right for you? Whatever your inclination, start your shopping process by looking at the newest makes and models of boats in the market, so you have a grasp on the latest advancements in design and technology.

Hitting a boat show is a great way to get started. Boat shows allow you to compare different makes and models instantly, giving you a better idea of what is available. And they’re just plain awesome. It’s also the perfect opportunity to catch up on the newest nautical gadgets and gizmos and lets you determine what you want and what you may not need. After you‘ve gathered a head full of nautical knowledge, it’s time to have some fun and go shopping.

Shopping for a new boat means you can go out on the water knowing that the hull, onboard systems and engine are in top-notch condition. If, by off chance, something does go wrong, your boat will be under warranty and you’ll have a ready resource for help.

Following the same course of thought, when you buy new, the boat’s history starts with you. You control its destiny. You get to live the fantasy of taking her out on her “maiden voyage” rather than settling for a redo. Buying new also gives you the special honor of naming the boat, rather than inheriting a name.

Buying new also gives you the freedom to be selective. Go ahead; be picky. Comparison shop. With all the information you gather, you may find yourself in a position to negotiate a better price when you’re ready to buy your boat.

Moving on.

Maybe you aren’t ready to dive right in as a newbie. That’s okay. Pre-owned boats are a great option for those just starting out or those with a slightly smaller budget.

Aside from featuring a lower purchase price (and perhaps saving you from the paranoia that your new boat might get a scratch), pre-owns may already be “region ready.” When you buy a new boat, you’ll need to equip it for where you’ll be boating and what you’ll be doing out on the water. However, if you pick a vessel that’s already been outfitted with gear to salmon fish on the big lakes, tow a couple skiers in the calm waters of the bay or cruise the Intercoastal Waterway, you’ll be free to focus on getting out rather than getting ready. For many, “used” means “good to go.”

Be sure to thoroughly check for structural defects or mechanical problems. In fact, we strongly recommend you get a marine survey on any pre-owned boat you wish to buy. Think of it as a home inspection, but for a boat.

Try Before You Buy

It’s not so much a test drive as a sample sail (or confirmation cruise)

You wouldn’t buy a pair of pants before trying them on. You certainly wouldn’t buy a car without first getting behind the wheel. Buying a boat is no different. Before you buy a boat, ask to take her out for a spin.

It’s important to know how the boat handles and how you feel behind the wheel. Look for a dealer or rental marina that offers test rides. They’re out there.

It's also highly recommended that you bring a marine surveyor (or knowledgeable friend) with you on your test drive to help you more thoroughly inspect the boat. Your second set of eyes provides information that can give you peace of mind.

You have a lifetime of boating ahead of you. Make sure you’re pointed in the right direction when you start.

Researching Manufacturers

Again, boat shows are a quick and convenient way to get familiar with manufacturers and compare their products. At a show you can see what new gadgets are on the market, discover new ways to use your boat, attend safety and maintenance seminars, and even get that “fix” you so desperately crave when you can’t get out on the water.

Websites help, too, in choosing manufacturers and models. Be sure to take the time to discover which boating companies cater to your needs. The link to the right will bring you to a complete list of NMMA-certified manufacturers who have completed a program designed to help boat manufacturers comply with industry safety and construction standards and federal regulations. And, in order to be NMMA certified, these boat manufacturers must certify each boat model they produce. How's that for a little boost of confidence?

Where to Buy

Believe in your boating brethren.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to find the boat. New or pre-owned, there are a number of resources where you can find boats to purchase: want ads, web postings, cardboard "for sale" signs stuck in the window of the 20-footer that’s trailered on the side of County Road B. ...

Or, you can take the much easier and safer route:

When buying a boat, your best bet is to visit a few dealerships. More often than not, you’ll find knowledgeable sales staff to answer all your important questions, from A to Z. Plus, shopping around gives you an opportunity to compare and contrast prices, models and more. Finding the right dealer always works wonders in the long run, for your pocket and your fun.

You can also visit a Marine Industry Certified Dealer. Their commitment to excellence, knowledgeable employees and reliable service guarantee your satisfaction. Chances are there’s a certified dealer nearby that can take care of you before and after your purchase.

Plus, they’re great people to talk to. Not like the guy who's selling his boat up on County Road B who doesn’t know when to shut his big ol’ yap.

However, if you want to talk to someone in person, head on over to a boat show, where you can be certain that you'll be hearing about the latest and greatest that the manufacturers and dealers have to offer.