How to Start Boating: Breaking Down Barriers

"How do I start boating?"—it's a question that's often asked by many beginners at their initial discovery of the boating lifestyle. Many different issues can keep someone from becoming a boater, but the barriers you face are often a lot easier to overcome than you might think.

For example, say you’ve been exploring our Boat Finder tool and you’d love to buy a boat, but…?

how to get started boating

The word “but” comes up a lot when people consider the ins and outs of buying a boat. Just as with anything, there are plenty of reasons not to go through with it—you can always find a reason not to do something. But the rewards of boating are so tempting that if you consider each “but” one by one, you’ll almost certainly agree that buying a boat is a terrific idea.

After all, what could be more fun than enjoying some wet and wild watersports? Is there any way to bring the family closer together than going camping on your boat, or taking the kids fishing? No way!

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What is Keeping You From Being a Boater?

So, let’s consider each of the potential hurdles one by one.

  1. Cost
  2. Time constraints
  3. Access
  4. Inexperience
  5. Safety Concerns

1. Boating Costs

Yes, becoming a boater does require a financial investment. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge one. In fact, buying a boat can be surprisingly affordable. We realize that what’s “affordable” to one person isn’t necessarily affordable to another.

Visit our Boat Loan Payment Calculator, however, and you might be surprised at just how easy it is to afford a new boat. There are many boat loan financing options these days and boat dealers can arrange it, often on the spot, so getting a boat loan is seamless and easy.

boating beginners

Alternatives to Buying Your Own Boat

If you want to dip your toe into boating rather than dive right in, there are plenty of other options available to you. You can always try renting a boat or give peer-to-peer boat sharing a shot. Many people also find that getting a boat club membership is an attractive option. This not only allows you to get your feet wet, it also lets you try out different types and sizes of boats—without having to worry about issues like insurance and maintenance.

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2. Time Constraints and Boating

A lack of free time is a problem many people have, not only when it comes to boating, but for just about any recreational activity. This does seem to have changed somewhat as people have gravitated towards boating during COVID-19.

Many families have come to understand that among the advantages of boating is the ability to go out and enjoy what free time you do have, in a completely COVID-safe way. Many other people have realized that a shift in cultural priorities is long overdue and that making time for recreation isn’t just fun, it’s a necessary ingredient for a healthy, happy life.

The bottom line? Everyone has to judge their own personal time constraints for themselves. But if your spare time is short, we’d point out that every moment spent afloat with the family counts as quality time.

Oh, and did we mention boating is actually good for you and your loved ones? Learn more in The Science is Clear: Boating is Good for Your Health & Mind.

3. Boating Access

In some parts of the country boating access is a non-issue, though in some others it can mean a longer drive to the boat ramp or marina. But many people look at traveling around with their boat in tow as more of an adventure than an inconvenience. Trailer-boaters have essentially unlimited horizons, and can take a trip to one lake or reservoir one weekend, then head to a different bay or seashore the next.

If you’re not entirely sure how good access is in your own personal neck of the woods, see our Public Water Access Guide.

4. A Lack of Boating Experience

getting started in boating

It’s perfectly natural for someone who’s not an experienced boater to wonder just how much they’ll have to learn to have a fun, safe time aboard their new boat. Here’s the good news: there’s a ton of information right here at Discover Boating, starting on our Boat Ownership pages, that will help bring you up to speed.

Other good resources include boater education courses. Education and training is widely available (including plenty of hands-on, on-the-water training) throughout the nation. And remember: there was a time when you didn’t know how to drive a car, right? You probably found the learning process fun and exciting—and it’s a fair bet that the same will be true as you start gaining some experience out on the water.

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5. Safety Concerns

The aquatic environment is very different being on dry land, so it makes sense that people who aren’t too familiar with it might wonder just how safe boating is. In reality, the fatality rate for passenger vehicles on land is more than double what it is for boats according to National Highway Traffic Safety Association and US Coast Guard statistics. And boating is statistically safer than activities including mountain biking, snowboarding, and even hiking.

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the US Coast Guard, the National Safe Boating Council, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, boating safety has improved dramatically since the passage of the Federal Boat Safety Act in 1971, with fatalities-per-100,000 boats cut by 75-percent since then. On top of that, about half of all boating accidents are alcohol-related. That means it’s within your power to make boating twice as safe as it already is, simply by using good judgement.

Regardless of your boating experience level, a quick read through our Boating Safety Guide can help boost your confidence on a variety of different safety topics.

So, Are You Ready to Start Boating?

Sure, there are other reasons for not becoming a boater that a person can think of. But these are five of the most common issues, each of which is easily addressed. And as we pointed out earlier, it’s easy to find a reason not to do any particular activity.

In this case, however, we’re betting that when you think things through, you’ll realize that all the great things about becoming a boater vastly outweigh the impediments. We’re also pretty darn sure that once you become a boater, you’ll never look back.

Read Next: 10 First-Time Boating Tips for New Boaters


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