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Buying A New Or Used Boat? 6 Important Things to Consider

In Boating by Shelby Sullivan

So, you have decided to buy a boat, but now what? 

A boat is a large purchase and before you make that decision, you need to make sure it is the right one. There are many things to consider before buying a boat. 

Being an informed buyer, is more likely to make you a smart buyer.

1) Should You Get A New Or A Used Boat?

Boat types

One of the most important things to consider when purchasing a boat is whether you should purchase a new boat or a used boat.

When deciding between a new or used boat, there is not a “one correct answer” but instead you will have to make a decision that is right for you. 

Reasons To Buy USED Boats:

The biggest advantage of purchasing a used boat is the price. Used boats, depending on what they are, can still be pricey. But they are likely to cost less than their new counterparts.

This can be ideal for a family on a budget.

Boats are similar to cars in that they depreciate.

Tip
Before you choose whether you want a new or a used boat you need to read our complete guide to boat depreciation. We have compared a ton of data to show you exactly what to expect for each type of boat.

If you choose a used boat, its value has already depreciated, so it will hold its value better for you.

When buying a used boat, you also have the advantage of purchasing from a dealer or a private party.

Disadvantages of Getting a Used Boat:

The major disadvantage of a used boat is that you are never entirely sure what you are getting. If there is something wrong with the boat, you will most likely not know until the purchase has been made. 

This means that before you purchase a used boat, you need to thoroughly inspect the important components.

One major issue with a used boat is that you do not know how reliable it is going to be and how it was previously treated.

You also have fewer options and have to take what is available and you will not have the option of customizing at purchase.

What to Look Out For With a Used Boat:

When inspecting your used boat, you should pay special attention to the hull and motor.

In the hull, you will want to look for any evidence of even hairline cracks. These can expand and cause major damage later.

Make sure the engine runs and has been properly maintained.

You should also closely inspect the rest of the boat, even if it seems less important. With a used boat, you could have broken levers, worn out seats, and other issues that you might not see until you are out on the water.

If you are unsure of your ability to find issues with your purchase, you might benefit from hiring a marine surveyor. This is similar to getting a house inspected before you purchase.

With a comprehensive list of what might be wrong with the vessel, or what might need to be replaced can give you an idea of any expenses you might have and can also be a bargaining advantage when you are working out the price.

You do not want to invest in something that you will not be fully happy with, or worse, that you will have to sink money into right after purchase.

Reasons to buy a NEW Boat:

The biggest advantage of buying a new boat is similar to building your own home. You can get exactly what you want.

Most companies have a wide variety of customizable features that you can choose from. This can include color, materials, layout, additional equipment, etc.

You also know that your new boat was not previously beaten up and your motor will be new and reliable.

You will also be more likely to have the best and most up to date technology in your new boat versus a used boat.

Another major advantage of a new boat is that they are often still under warranty.

This allows the consumer to have peace of mind that if something does go wrong with their new boat, it will be taken care of or replaced without having to spend a lot of money to fix it.

Disadvantages of New Boats:

The biggest disadvantage of a new boat is price. You will definitely pay more for your used boat than a comparable used boat. 

In addition to this, you will be taking on the majority of the boat’s depreciation of value. 

This means that if you decide to sell your boat in the future you will not get back what was paid, and in some instances,  you will not even come close to the same value at the sale that you paid when for it when it was new.

To make this decision you will want to weight the pros and cons of new and used boats and decide which option is best for you and your budget.

2. Should I Get A Motorboat or A Sailboat?

Now that you have an idea whether you want to look at a new or used boat, you will need to decide if you want a motorboat or a sailboat.

This is a very personal decision. 

Why a Motorboat?

Motor boats are generally easier to drive and can offer a more reliable experience.

Motor boats do not rely on wind or external factors to move and therefore should be able to be confidently used whenever.

Motorboats also offer more speed. This can also be important if you choose to do watersports. A powerful motor is often required for water skiing and other water sports.

Powerboats also generally have more space. The deck is not overcome by the sails and offers more open space.

Sailing is a difficult task. With a motorboat, you need much less training and education. As long as you know the navigation rules, the rest is pretty simple.

Motorboats are also more easily able to go under bridges since they do not have tall sails on top of their deck.

Cons of a Motorboat:

Guy doing an inspection of a tiny house on wheels

One con of a motorboat is that it is entirely reliant on fuel and if you do not have enough, you often will need help and have no other way to continue.

Fuel prices can be expensive and unpredictable and should be considered as an added expense.

Engines for a motorboat are also expensive to purchase, maintain, and repair. Make sure you get regular check-ups for your engine to make sure everything is in good working order.

Motor noise can also be loud. If this is not what you are looking for, you might want to consider a sailboat.

Motorboats can also be more unstable in the wind than sailboats.

Why a Sailboat?

Sailboats are perfect for gentle cruising.

Sailboats are also much more environmentally friendly and only use small motors for docking purposes.

These motors are also cheaper than those in a motorboat and since they are hardly used, gas is a much cheaper expense for sailboat owners.

Without reliance on fuel, you can also go farther with a sailboat.

If long trips without stopping to gas up sound ideal, your only option is a sailboat.

These boats provide a sense of adventure and satisfaction. While sailing you are in control of mapping your route, working with nature’s elements and controlling the sailing experience. 

Cons of a Sailboat:

Sailboats have less space than motorboats because of their masts and sails. The shape of the hull also allows for less space below deck as well as on deck. For a sailboat’s space to compare to a motorboat, you will have to purchase a much larger sailboat.

A sailboat is reliant on the wind and the weather. This means that if the wind is not with you, your trips might not go like you intended.

There is also much less sun cover on a sailboat while you are on deck, whereas a power boat might have large sun coverings.

Sailing is also more time-consuming. Not only does it take longer for you to get where you are going, but the training you have to undergo to know how to sail confidently can take much longer.

Sailboats are also expensive to maintain. The sails and rigging are the most expensive maintenance that needs to be done. Sails should be replaced between 3,500 and 4,000 hours of use and rigging needs to be replaced about every 10 years.

3. What Size Do You Need?

There are a few things to consider when you are looking at size. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Where will you be boating?
    If you are boating on rivers and lakes you are most likely looking for a small pleasure craft for daily use.
  • How long do you plan to stay out?
    If you plan to use your boat overnight or longer, you will want to make sure that you choose a bigger option that has a galley, cabin, and other amenities that might be needed for the trip.
  • How many passengers will you have? 
    Whether you are going out for the day, or plan to be gone for longer, you will still need to know how many people are coming with you. Most boats list the maximum number of passengers that can be on board. Make sure you purchase a boat that will fit the number of people you will have.
  • What is your budget?
    Budget is not just important while buying the boat. Maintenance, gas, mooring, cleaning, and storing can also be affected by size. The larger the boat, the more these expenses generally become.
    Make sure you do your research and know what you can afford. You don’t want to buy a boat and then never use it because it costs too much to run.
  • Will you be able to handle it?
    The bigger the boat the more people it will take to handle. Even motor boats need to be docked and this is not always possible without help. Especially on bigger models.

You want to make sure that you get the boat that is the right size for you.

If you do not think you will use all the amenities a larger boat offers then a smaller boat is possibly the way to go.

I had some family friends growing up that had a large boat with a multiple room cabin. They hardly ever had the manpower to take it out and only got out twice a season maximum. 

If you make this important purchase, you will want to make sure you actually take advantage of it and properly use your vessel.

4. How Often Will You Use It?

One thing that is not often thought about while purchasing a boat is how much time do you have to use it.

If you think you might only use your boat once or twice a month, it might be worth waiting to make this purchase.

If you are not getting any use out of it, then a boat is just a large expense and maintenance project.

You also want to consider where you live in relation to where you will be boating. If you are a busy, working family and it takes an hour or more to get to the lake, it could be difficult to find the time to get out there.

Even if your boat is not in use, you are still paying for its maintenance and storage which can make it expensive. Besides the cost and maintenance, you are also losing money while your boat is depreciating.

Make sure before you take on this expensive investment, that you will be getting your money’s worth out of the purchase.

5. Where Will You Store It?

Your boat will need to be kept somewhere at all times.

This is true of both boating season and the off season if you live in an area that experiences winter temperatures.

Storage in the On-Season:

During boating season unless you have a dock yourself, you will need somewhere to keep your boat.

One option for on-season storage could be in a marina. This can become pricey depending on where you keep your boat and for how long.

The price to get a slip in a marina in the United States can range from $12 to $50 per foot of boat per year. Prime locations can even get to be over $200 per foot per year.

If this option does not seem doable, you can take your boat out of the water and keep it somewhere on land while not in use. 

This could include a garage or storage facility. If you choose to rent something, this can also come with a cost.

Storage in the Off-Season:

In addition to storing your boat during boating season, if you live in a place that experiences winter temperatures, you will need to add in the cost of winterizing and storage.

Winterizing can include covering, shrink-wrapping your boat, and even spending money renting a space in a temperature-controlled facility.

If you purchase a boat, you will need to have a storage plan that you feel comfortable paying for.

Tip
Here’s a complete guide we’ve made with prices on boat storage. It’s great to give you an idea about what you should expect for each boat type out there.

boat storage

6. What Is Your Budget?

Your budget can be a big question when if comes to purchasing a boat. You will want to know what you can afford and what will be too much to take on.

Thankfully, you will most likely not be purchasing your boat completely out of pocket. Whether you purchase your boat through a dealership or private seller, you can get a loan with your preferred financial institution.

If you know you are looking to purchase a boat, especially in the late winter early spring, most institutions will offer specials on interest rates or even the purchase price of the vehicle.

It can be tempting to buy more boat that you can afford, so make sure you make a budget and stick to it.

Besides the purchase price, there are other factors to consider. These include some listed above like gas, storage, maintenance, equipment, and other expenses.

There are other factors to consider on top of this. You will also need to consider registration. Just like a car and other motor vehicles, you will need to register your boat. This cost can range widely depending on the state.

Some states in the United States charge a flat fee, but others may charge you based on size.

You will also need to get insurance on your water vehicle. If you financed your boat, you will need to get it insured and list the financial institution as a lien holder very similar to your car.

This price can vary as well based on insurance companies, bundling options, and coverage choices. You can even get a discount if you have passed a boater’s safety class.

Overall, a boat can be a new and exciting purchase. When choosing to purchase a boat, you will want to make sure you head to the dealership with a clear definition of what you want and what you can afford and make sure you stick to those guidelines.

Like all other things, a salesman is going to try to sell you stuff that you might not need or try to get you to go outside your budget. The more prepared and informed you are, the more likely you are to come out with exactly what you went in looking for.