A boat can be a great investment, perhaps not in the tangible way real estate or a mutual fund can increase in value, but certainly in a non-material way. Owning a boat is about the pursuit of pleasure or adventure, of bonding with family and friends, of a passion for freedom that many people find only on the water. Most boat owners will explain that their time on the water is priceless.
Few recreational activates deliver more “bang for the buck,” simply because boating is such an inclusive activity. Most boats can accommodate a number of family and friends, and a boat can enable so many different activities—from fishing to tubing to cruising and overnight camping, diving and swimming, rafting up with a group or simply sunning in the solitude of a secluded cove.
Only one or two people can ride a motorcycle, and an RV is just a place to stay while you do other things. Boating is simply fun in its own right, and it’s fun you can easily share with others.
A new pleasure boat is unlikely to appreciate in value. Like an automobile or RV, a snowmobile or a motorcycle, a new boat begins to depreciate the moment you take ownership. And like those other vehicles, a boat comes with a cost of ownership—for fuel and maintenance, insurance and registration, and accessories and storage.
The trick to getting the most out of boat ownership is minimizing the costs and hassles, and maximizing the fun. Here are some ways to make that happen.
1. Shop for Versatility
Some boats are so specialized they are literally one-trick ponies. A bass boat is an ideal platform for serious fishing, and an inboard wakesports boat is designed from the keel up for boarding, but the special designs of these boats limit them in other regards. If all you want to do is fish or wakesurf, these boats are perfect.
But you may have more fun in the long run with a fish-and-ski boat that offers more comfort and seating than the bass boat, or a bowrider with a forward-facing sterndrive that can be used for wakesurfing, but also casual fishing and cruising.
The chief virtue of a pontoon is its passenger capacity and stability, but new pontoons can also make great tow-sports boats and day cruisers when rigged with enough power.
Make a list of the things you’d like to do on the water, and then shop for a boat that enables as much of that fun as possible.
2. Take a Boating Class
In most states, anyone operating as boat is required to complete a basic, online boating safety and education course. That’s a valuable start, but if you’re new to boating you’ll almost certainly want to go above and beyond this minimal requirement so you’ll feel comfortable and confident in your boat handling skills.
When you are confident, you’ll have more fun and perhaps avoid a situation that could take the joy out of boating. More advanced, hands-on training courses are available throughout the nation and are always a great investment.
3. Maintenance by The Book
For many of us the boating season is short, which is why it can be so disappointing when a mechanical issue steals away a weekend or two on the water. Make sure your boat is always ready for action by keeping up with maintenance.
You can probably handle most of basics yourself if you want to, but it’s always a good plan to develop a relationship with a reliable marine service center and a skilled technician. Modern boats are generally quite reliable. Most issues are related to battery maintenance and fuel quality.
4. Tow to Go
Add even more variety to your boating life by towing your boat to new waterways. Avoid the key mistake of buying more boat than your tow vehicle can handle.
5. The Pre-Owned Option
Because a pre-owned boat has already depreciated, buying used rather than new is one way to stretch a boating dollar. There are pros and cons to buying a used boat, of course.
6. Turn Your Boat into a Money-Maker
Can your boat be a business? Some people make that work, and while you probably can’t expect to make a full-time living with it, defraying the cost of the boat and then some is quite doable.
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