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Elijah Hernandez
Elijah Hernandez

Buying My First Boat

Editor's Note: Thinking about buying a boat? The process for buying a boat during the COVID-19 pandemic raises a lot of questions for prospective boat buyers. Learn more in our Special Edition Boat Shopping Guide that will address those questions involving safety concerns, tips on working with a boat dealer while social distancing, and how to schedule appointments, sea trials and drop-offs.

buying my first boat

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Now that you have decided to embrace the boating lifestyle, you'll want to establish a budget so you can start building and prioritizing your wish list. That budget will likely be a key factor in the decision to buy a new or pre-owned boat. Either way, the considerations for size and type of boat will be the same.

Not unlike car buying, there are often a few additional costs not listed on the sticker price. Dealer fees, insurance, registration, accessories, storage and upkeep should all be discussed with the dealer early in your shopping to determine the full cost of boat ownership and to avoid surprises later.

And before you depart on your first outing, find out where you can take a boater-education course. Learning basic seamanship skills and absorbing some local knowledge will give you a greater confidence level once you hit the water. Completion of boater-education courses might also get you a discount on your insurance.

Finally, it's time to enjoy your purchase. Get out on the water and have fun, not just in the immediate future but in the months and years to follow. One key component of that fun is regular maintenance to keep your boat in tiptop running condition, from a regular wash and wax to scheduled maintenance. Another is to expand your boating knowledge, whether through one of many fun programs offered by local dealers or an online resource.

Ready to join the fun on the water? Buying a boat, whether new or pre-owned, is the first step. But there are a few details to consider before you turn the key. For all you first time boat owners out there, follow these simple steps to help ease into ownership.

You need to insure your boat, both for liability and for damage to the boat, and in that regard boat insurance is similar to a policy that covers your automobile. But there are some types of coverage that are specific to boats. For example, a policy with specific fuel-spill liability protects you from clean-up claims or third-party damage caused by the accidental discharge of oil or fuel, if you boat were to sink in a marina. If you have an accident while towing, your boat policy pays to repair or replace the trailer. If your trailer causes injuries to people or damage to property your auto policy should cover the liability. Check both policies to make sure you are covered. Other factors to consider are special requirements for boats in hurricane zones, and boats leaving U.S. waters.

The boat launch ramp has its own etiquette, developed to keep things moving smoothly even on the busiest weekend morning. Knowing the drill will help you keep your stress level down and get your day on the water off to a great start.

You might store your new boat on its trailer, but where will you park it? Not all communities permit boats to be parked-long-term in a residential driveway. Will your boat trailer fit in your garage? Maybe you need a trailer with a swing-away tongue. There are many other boat-storage options, from a dry stack valet service to mooring in a marina.

Get a solid foundation on boat handling and docking, rules of the road and navigation by taking a boating education or safety course, as offered by your state or through one of the resources listed on How to Get a Boating License.

Safe boating is always fun boating for everyone. Consider taking a boating safety and education course such as those offered by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary or by your state or local authorities.

Spice girls aside, you really need to know what it is you want in a boat and that is exactly why many start out sailing in community fleets or chartering in the Islands. Do you want a catamaran or a monohull? A cat is all the rage right now and the epitome of comfort, but finding a place to dock a boat with a 15 to 20 foot beam is impossible in some places. A keelboat, while easier to dock, can often force even the stoutest of souls to the leeward rail in even the most minor chop. Do you want to lay out your hard earned cash to find that no one in your family has the stomach for your newest toy? A boat can be a lonely place when your wife refuses to join you.

Physical limitations including proclivity to sea sickness are a factor. Do you want to spend weekends on this boat or just day sail it? Numbers of berths, layout of the boat and galley contents can all make or break a love affair with your new boat. So be honest with yourself and ask the tough questions. Do I really need a whosywhatsit or can I get by without it?

Buy used and work your way into it. The more work you do on it, the more you will learn from it. If you installed the battery system, then you will understand how it works. Stuff that is done for you teaches you nothing and I have heard all too many tales of guys who bought a boat and can only tack left because they never learned how to move the starboard jib car.

Boats I would avoid like to plague for newbie sailors- for various reasons but mostly because they are expensive or complicated rigs or designed to go faster than any newbie sailor should ever consider going. (In some cases they have all three factors working against them) J-boats, Stiletto, Morgan, Swan, Hinckley, Tartan all top my list of great boats. I have sailed each of them and love them. But I do feel that they are a little too much boat for a learning sailor so save that for your next boat, because you know there will be another eventually. By the way, anything over 30 feet should be avoided until you have at least one full year of ownership under your belt. The costs associated with and the more elaborate systems of a 30 plus foot boat is more than anyone who is still mastering the basics of ownership should take on

Unsurprisingly, a Bass Boat is a boat made specifically for catching bass fish. These boats are equipped and designed for catching bass and other panfish, usually in freshwater. Modern bass boats feature swivel chairs, which allow the angler to cast their rod from any position in any direction. The boats have storage bins for bait, rods, and lures in addition to live wells where the fish can be kept alive while you continue to fish. Bass Boats are traditionally outboard boats and some have a trolling motor, which allows you to cruise at a very slow and consistent pace. They are usually aluminum or fiberglass.

Center Consoles get their name because the console, or steering cockpit area in any boat, is located smack dab in the middle of the boat. They are easily recognizable because you can walk completely around the boat, circling the steering wheel. Center Console boats do not have a cabin or foredeck. These boats make great fishing boats, especially sport fishing in offshore waters. They are usually equipped with fish lockers, rod holders and other tech and equipment for fishing.

Cruisers, often referred to as Cabin Cruisers, are powerboats that have onboard accommodations for passengers. Cabin Cruisers are usually in the 30 foot to 45-foot range. Cabin cruisers will often have a kitchen, bathroom and a dining area within the living space, which is maximized as you might see in an RV. The benefit of a cruiser is that it provides many of the benefits of a yacht, but in a much smaller package, which means no crew is required. Cruisers are on the bigger end for a boat though, which benefits them because they can handle choppy waters and provide a stable ride.

This is a broad category, but it is dedicated to one thing: Fishing. Fishing boats can range in size, power, price, and style widely, but they are all built with stability, durability, and power in mind. They include features that make fishing easier and more practical for the passengers like rod lockers, a trolling motor system, and live wells. There are smaller, lighter aluminum fishing boats, which are typically used in calm freshwater environments and there are also offshore fishing boats, which are mighty watercraft built to sustain high winds, waves, and swells.

Performance boats are for the speed seekers in your life. These boats vary widely in size, ranging from 20-foot to 50-foot boats. Performance boats can have inboard or outboard engines, as well as a center console or a closed deck. They come in a lot of different variations. These boats are traditionally designed to go as fast as possible, but many newer models are also including many comfort factors like below deck accommodations and additional seating. The primary function for a Performance boat is to go fast.

Pontoons are one of the most popular inland water boats. They are flat, rectangular boats, which feature a wide and spacious area for passengers to move about. They float with two pontoons attached to the bottom of the boat (they look like canoes). The pontoons contain a significant amount of buoyancy, allowing pontoon designers to create massive deck place fitted with tons of additions and luxuries, like bars, lounge chairs, slides, etc. Pontoons range from 15ft-30ft and are often thought of as party boats.

Boat size mostly depends on two factors: 1) how many people you want to fit on your boat comfortably and 2) how you will use your boat. There is a dependency on the first factor. Not all boats can fit 20 people. Some smaller boats like a ski boat or a bass boat typically hold 2-6 people comfortably. Here are some examples of the typical sizes of a boat based on the activity:

If you are planning on traversing the oceans and seas where the waves and waters can get fairly rough, you should consider looking at boats 30ft and up. A boat this size will better handle the choppy and unpredictable water and currents, as well as longer trips offshore. A dealer or factory rep should be able to help you discern the right size boat for your needs and budget. 041b061a72


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