So you’ve been bitten by the boating bug, and the only cure for it is the wind in your face and the sun glistening off of the water as you captain your new boat through the Hamptons? Like many prospective boaters, your experience on the water may be limited to a few weekend expeditions on a friend or family member’s boat, in which they did the driving and you did the cocktailing. While this type of chauffeuring can be quite relaxing, you desire a more direct connection with the water, one that is only attainable by taking the wheel of your very own boat.
The first step in buying a boat is to determine what type of boating you will be doing. While this seems like an obvious starting point, you’d be surprised how many people shop for and then purchase a boat that does not fit their boating needs. A mistake that many prospective buyers who enter a showroom or boat show make, is to start their search by any number of effects including, but not limited to, familiar company names, amenities, colors, seating arrangements and aesthetics. Determining factors such as the length of our boating season and the water depth in your area can cut your search time in half.
Let’s say, for example, a local family of five is searching for the perfect boat. They have in mind a 32’ cabin cruiser just like they rented during a recent Florida vacation. This boat met their criteria in size and amenities, but they’re not taking two major factors into account. A 32’ boat needs at least 40” of water beneath it to run safely, and the new dock in front of their house only has 30” of water at its deepest point. So even if they were able to get their new boat into their dock slip, it wouldn’t be able to get out of it, even at high tide. The second major factor is that they would only be using the boat on weekends and much of their boating season will be cut short because of the school year. With such busy schedules, a 32’ cabin cruiser might need more maintenance than this busy family is willing to do for a boat they use so infrequently. Deciding what type of boating they wanted to do and how much dock space they had to store the boat are two very important factors to consider before beginning a search for the right boat.
Once you have decided what type of boat suits you and your family’s needs, the next step is to determine whether to buy a new or used boat. This is not an easy process, but can be resolved by considering a few major factors.
The first and most obvious factor is your budget. If you are looking for a new boat that is a desirable size, but out of your price range, a viable option is to search the used market. As with cars, it is best to buy from a dealership or individual who has records showing that the boat has been cared for and maintained properly. Usually, sellers can also provide a warranty or guarantee, which is invaluable to a new boater.
If an excellent manufacturer’s guarantee, as well as the newest, most updated styles and amenities are important to you, then a new boat may be the best for your needs. Manufacturers tend to give dealers extra incentives to sell new boats by increasing their factory warranties on the boats’ hulls and engines. The purchase of a new boat can be a seamless experience, which brings us to the next step.
After deciding how the boat is going to be used and whether new or used is the way to go, your next step is to select which manufacturers best suit your boating needs. One of the best ways to find information regarding boats and boating, without leaving your house, is searching on the Internet. Most major manufacturers have extensive resources on their websites, which allow you to do everything from build and tour a virtual version of your new boat to read about what sales programs they are currently offering. A simple online search can also produce numerous resources on individual customer experiences with various boat companies.
Another helpful resource is other boaters. To many, boating isn’t just a sport or a way to relax – it is actually a way of life. In our community, you will find plenty of experienced boaters who will be more then willing to share their experiences with you. Ask friends, family members, even local boating instructors, about their experiences with various manufacturers. The more information you have, the easier your boat buying experience will be. This information can also be valuable in the next step of the process – selecting a dealership.
There are three major aspects of all boat dealerships with which you should be concerned during your purchase – sales, delivery and service. A quality sales team will make your purchasing experience an easy one, and should be able to help you differentiate between and dissect each boat that piques your interest. They should also be able to confirm your decisions on the aforementioned topics and help you select the right boat based on your needs.
At most marinas, the delivery team works in direct conjunction with the service team. For a new boater, there is nothing more important then the quality of delivery and, eventually, service to your new boat. A good delivery team will go over your new boat from bow to stern, explaining each facet of the boat clearly and concisely. They will then give you on-water instruction in order to get you acclimated with not only the boat, but your local waterways as well. Before purchasing a boat, make sure delivery and thorough instruction are included in the purchase price. A true glimpse into what to expect from the service department of your future marina will be their initial handling of delivery and orientation.
While purchasing a boat can be a stressful experience, it will be fun and exciting if you are prepared. The steps above will help you make the transition from buyer to captain an enjoyable one. Good luck, and we hope to see you on the water!