Tips for buying a boat

Fishing Journal – Published: September 10, 2014 08:03 PM — First, determine what you want to use a boat for: water skiing, sailing, fishing, family outings, swimming, weekend cruising, or a combination. The use of the vessel will dictate the type of boat you buy.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association has a great online tool at to help identity needs and suitable boat types. It is helpful to determine boat type early in your search because it points you in the right direction.

Test drive

Most important, before you purchase, take your desired boat for a test run. If possible, test the boat under adverse conditions so you get a feel for how it handles. Operate the boat in the mode you are likely to use often — fast speeds if you plan to ski, slow speeds if you fish and often troll.

New or used?

Like automobiles, new boats come with warranties. If something goes wrong (and with boats something often goes wrong) you want a warranty behind you. Old boats have a high frequency of repair and you may need more time to prepare for the season. A higher frequency of repair means more time off the water, which is something I try to avoid at all costs. If you are not a handy person and do not enjoy repairing things an old boat may not be for you.

Used boats cost less, which is a big advantage; however, they may need updates or repairs. So, consider these costs in addition to the purchase price.

Boat surveys

A helpful way to determine repair cost is to commission a boat survey. A boat survey is similar to a home inspection. Surveys are conducted by certified surveyors who closely examine a vessel’s hull, structure, electrical system and engine(s). A survey will not only tell you what is wrong (and right) about the boat, it will give you an estimate of repair costs that can be used in price negotiations.