First-time boat buyer? What you need to know before buying your first boat.

First time boat buyers
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Buying your own boat is a rewarding experience whether you grew up spending weekends on the water or you're desperate for a new hobby that lets you escape the house in a COVID-safe way. We've pulled together a list of things to consider as a first-time boat buyer. This list is meant to help you choose the right boat for you, understand what avenues are available to you for boat-buying, and alert you to the key pieces of the process you need to prepare for. Consider us the buddy you bring along for that second opinion.


What kind of boat do you want? Consider the different experiences boats provide.

Jot down some features you find important about a new boat. How far should it be able to go? Where will you use it? Is your area suitable for these kinds of boats? There are so many things to consider before you start viewing boats. Be mindful of your surroundings, your goals in life, and—perhaps even most important—your price range.

There are plenty of different reasons for a first-time captain to buy a boat; to reach that blue state of mind every new boat owner is hankering for. But what's YOUR reason? Are you looking for the quiet of the ocean, going for a slow trip along the winding rivers, or are you more interested in taking your family along the coast?

There is an abundance of boat types and each provides a unique experience. Whichever experience you pictured while reading the paragraph above, should narrow your options down a bit. However, don't feel too limited too early, as the boating world provides you with a cornucopia of boating activities. It's just helpful to understand the different boat types and the experiences they provide, upfront, so you don't get overwhelmed on the hunt. Just start to define what activities you'll want from your boat.

We came up with a list of the frequently sought-after boat types and experiences that could fit your interests. Check them out and see if any of them might pique you interest:

Sailing boats - Are you looking for a green and sustainable experience that involves exercise, learning new skills, and guiding your way through the wind's immense power? Then sailing is your go-to. This boating experience requires hard work but with a pay-off that's 100% worth the effort.

Motorboats - A versatile, fun, and low-effort option is a motorboat. The speed and agility that define motorboats make them high-demand according to our sellers. They are easy to take in and out of the water, and allow for fun activities like wakeboarding and tubing. There is no way a motorboat will disappoint you.

Fishing boats - Enjoying a peaceful moment to yourself on the open water, lake, or river is what drives many to buy a fishing boat. This is the ultimate way to get close to nature and its endless gifts.

Yachts - The ultimate boating experience. A yacht compliments everyones desire to sail the open seas, as well as offering a wide variety of sizes, degrees of luxury, and sailing ranges. There is no going wrong with a yacht.

While the options above cover the greatest needs for owning a boat, there are many other things to consider:

• Will your boat be used for day trips or for longer trips? This consideration should also include the overnight possibilities and the cabins (bedrooms) available on the boat.

• What is the distance you want to travel? Keep in mind the range each boat offers. Make sure you will be able to go the extra sea mile.

• Will your boat be used for specific leisure goals, like enjoying the sunset to the fullest, or will it be used for specific reasons, like sports or fishing? Writing down your goals will make it easier to decide.

Now that you've evaluated your boating options, created a draft of needs, and carefully decided on the experience that you want, it's time for the next step: getting your finances ready. Before making a hasty decision, however, feel free to take your time and get comfortable with your decision.


How much can you afford? Understand all the costs involved, not just the purchase price.

Owning a boat opens seaways to great opportunities, experiences, and memories for you, your family, and friends. But before you start planning all the upcoming boat trips, you need to consider the costs involved with owning a boat. And these costs include more than just the purchase price.

Before purchasing a boat:

• Before deciding on a specific boat, it would be wise to go and see it. Visiting dealers and boat shows are a good way to get a sense of the market. These trips will involve some planning as some boat shows ask for a small entrance fee and are not always nearby.

Cost of purchase:

• The most important part of the purchase process is the actual payment. Get your finances ready. Make sure you're ready to pay it all at once in cash or with a loan, or make the payment in installments, which you can sometimes do with the dealer.

• Like cars, boating laws require you to change legal ownership. This involves registration fees, notary costs, and license expenses among others. Depending on the place you live, there might be different legalities involved—check your state and local government website.

• The boat will have to get to the water. If you buy the boat at an inland dealership, you'll need to transport the boat to where you're docking it before you are able to use it.

• You can also choose to be part of a boating club. These clubs come with perks like boating education classes, on-the-water training, and social events. This is by no means a necessity, but if you decide to join one, they often come with some extra costs.

Continuous costs of owning a boat:

• Many harbors ask for a fee to moor your boat. Depending on the size of your boat, consider storing your boat or be willing to pay a certain monthly amount for mooring.

• It may seem obvious, but when you have a lot on your mind, it's easy to forget, you'll have to fuel up your boat frequently. The costs of fuel for boats differ widely depending on the engine, the age of the boat, the size, and its weight.

• Depending on the size of your boat, the place you live, and the waters you will sail on, insurance might be a necessity. Check with your local authorities if insurance is mandatory. If it's not, it's always wise to have insurance in order to protect you from any third-party liabilities.

• Although many boats come fully equipped and with safety supplies, it's always good to see if they need replacements and if they are up to the safety standards. High quality products are important when it comes to safety.

• Whether you use your boat very often or only a couple of times a year, maintenance and repairs can become hefty expenses.

• A skilled sailor keeps all their licenses renewed and stays up-to-date with the newest training courses. The costs of these licenses differ widely depending on the place you live.

• As mentioned above, everyone has the option to become part of a boat club. If you decide to join one, these fees will add up to your monthly or yearly costs.


What's the best way to buy a boat? Here are a few tips when shopping for your boat.

There are many different options when it comes to shopping for a boat and many variables to keep in mind. Do you want a new boat or would you like to buy a second-hand boat? Will you buy your boat at a private seller or are you interested in buying your boat at a dealership? The possibilities are endless, as long as you know where to look. Below we've listed some options to look out for. It will help you find the best channel for you.

What are your available options for buying a boat:

• New or used - The price is by far the biggest reason to go for a second-hand boat. However, when it comes to used boats, you never really know what you get. You need to be very wary and inspect all components to make sure you get value for your money. This won't be the case with new boats, since you'll be the first owner of the boat and often have a warranty with purchase.

• Private seller, broker, or dealership - Generally you would buy second-hand boats at private sellers or at brokers. As brokers are the liaison between sellers and buyers they are professional boat sellers and prices would be a bit higher than at private sellers. However, having a broker could mean the quality of the boats would be more reliable than with private sellers. For new boats, you would likely need to go to a dealership.

Where you can search for available boat inventory:

Online marketplaces - There are many ways to get an overview of the available boats in your region. Online marketplaces offer you the possibility to filter according to your boating needs just like here on BOATIM!

• Local marina - Visiting your local marina to see what boats are for sale allows you to get a quick look of the options available and get in contact with sellers.

International dealers - Many international dealers offer a large inventory of boats. Here you can find new and used boats, sold by professionals that know everything about boating.

Boat shows - Visit a local boat show to get an idea of the boating market, brands and dealers, or to simply get hyped about boating.

Get your 2021 Boat Show Calendar for free!

Tips for comparing potential boats

After having finally made the decision on what kind of boat you want to buy, you've narrowed the potential boats down to a few candidates. How are you going to approach this? What do you have to look out for? The list below gives you an idea of how to make a valid decision:

Review the listings you have found and compare them. Make sure you check what information is provided and, perhaps more importantly, what information is omitted.

Examine the photos available, and if there are only a few, ask for more. The more photos available of the boat, the better you can see the quality of the listing.

• See if there are similar models for sale and find out what their prices are.

• Make sure to check the reviews of the dealers. Bad reviews often equals bad service.

Write down as many questions as you can think of or any doubts you may have before you go on visits. It's important to write them down because you might forget them during your visit. During the visit, write the answers down so you can compare the options available later in private.

Once you've found some dreamy boat candidates, how do you finalize the sale? And other things to look out for!

You've done it! All your hard work finally paid off. Your dream boat is within arm's reach. The only thing you have to do now is finalize the purchase. This step shouldn't be overlooked, it is equally important as the steps you took before. This is where you don't want to make any mistakes. The following list provides you with steps to be mindful of:

Before purchasing your boat:

Take a sea trial - Taking your boat for a test run should be essential when it comes to the boat-buying process. Bring a plan to see what you should look out for. It's important to thoroughly do this, as this will be the time to finally take your dream boat for a drive.

Have the boat taken out of the water for a walk around the hull - If the boat is already in the water when you want to buy it, it is important to have a look at the hull underwater. This is where most erosion takes place which means this place is vulnerable for defects.

Hire a surveyor for an expert opinion - If you're not an expert but need someone who is, hire a surveyor. Even better, take them with you on the sea trial.

Have a written agreement about what's included in the sale - It would be a shame if you end up buying the boat and some parts, gear, or safety supplies are not included when you thought it was.

• When buying from a dealer, know you can negotiate price - At dealers, the price is always negotiable. You can come with a counteroffer and use your bargaining skills to lower the price so it fits your budget as much as possible.

• When buying at a private seller ensure there is proof of ownership documents - Make sure the ownership documents are transferred to your name when finalizing the payment. This process differs according to the place you live.

Check your motor vehicle agency (like the DMV) website for a checklist of necessary paperwork and legal requirements - This process, like many described in this list can differ depending on where you live. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to make sure all your documents are in order as you don't want to walk into unwanted surprises.

When finalizing the sale:

• Clarify what paperwork you need to bring ahead of time! Whether you need to sign over ownership or need to be able to identify yourself at a dealer, always make sure you have the right papers with you.

• Does anything need to be notarized? Depending on the price of the boat, sometimes paperwork is best to be done by a notary.

• Will you need any paperwork if you're transporting the boat? Depending on the place you live, there are different rules for road usage. In order to prevent getting unnecessary fines, make sure you get the right papers. If you're planning on using a company to transport your boat, make sure all the paperwork is done for them before they start the actual transportation.

• Get originals or copies of warranty cards, maintenance records, and any other paperwork from previous owners/sellers. Find out what is important when it comes down to the transfer of ownership. Make sure you get copies of everything that's important.

• Last but not least, confirm there are no outstanding bills associated with the craft, like at the marina or loans by the previous owner.

• Even if it's not legally mandatory in your area, we highly suggest having spent adequate time in safety courses and getting a little more than basic knowledge of boating, before getting on the water.

Hopefully, after reading this article on the important steps of a first-time boat buyer you have learned many things. We talked about the different experiences that come with different boats. If you're into the hands-on boating experience, a sailing boat could be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you like the fun and versatile experience of speed and water sports such as wakeboarding, then a motorboat would be a fun adventure. There is a boating experience for everyone, you just have to find yours.

The buying process requires preparation as well as some previous knowledge. Luckily, this article sums up the important steps to consider. Lean on planning. Whether you visit a dealer, are ready to finalize your purchase, or casually visiting a boat show, a well-thought-out plan will support you in this process. Make sure you ask the right questions, do your research, and get all the right documents and everything will be smooth sailing. Right into the sunset with your dream craft. Bon voyage!

Disclaimer: This article is meant as guidance and isn't guaranteed to be the perfect solution for every situation. Please check your local government or maritime boards to learn more about the maritime laws and legalities.

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