January 14, 2020 by Crestliner
It may seem like the same situation, but buying a boat is not like buying a car. It isn’t a need, but a want (although it’s debatable for some), and it’s an experience you should enjoy. You work hard, and now you get to reward yourself. The most important thing to do when shopping for your boat is to be honest with yourself about how you’ll use your boat. If you’re going to spend 90% of your time fishing, get a fishing boat. Are you more likely to be towing water skiers but fish occasionally? You’ll probably want a recreational boat or a fish and ski boat.
Whether you’re a new boat buyer or you’re looking to buy again, you can help yourself make the journey from purchase to the water easier and more fun with a few of these boat buying tips in your back pocket. With some research, a few conversations, and hopefully a showroom visit or two, you can find the right boat for you.
New or Used?
Whenever price tags and budgets enter the conversation, the first decision to be made is whether to buy new or used. There are pros and cons to both.
A new boat typically promises better fuel economy than older boats, as well as warranty protection. It’s turnkey and water-ready; just a quick trip from dealer to dock. Buying your boat new also means you get to customize it how you want and need rather than having to settle for someone else’s perfect boat. Afterall, that’s part of the fun of buying a new boat: making it your boat. Many manufacturers offer interactive boat builders on their websites to show you all the possibilities of each model and provide pricing information, but if you need some guidance on which type of boat to look for and deciding on specific features that offer the customization you want, your dealer can help you navigate the options.
With a used boat, you may get a good deal, but you may also get what you pay for. Do you know how to examine an engine? Or how to check wiring and other repairs? If you are leaning towards buying used, it’s beneficial to be mechanically inclined or have a healthy appetite to learn how to become so. There are always unknowns and hidden costs that could surface, so it’s important to make sure you inspect used boats thoroughly. When in doubt, find a local marine surveyor to inspect it before buying.
Are you making a trek to a different region of the country for a better deal? States that border saltwater often provide better deals, but don’t be tempted by the price tag, especially when looking at used boats. When a boat has been in saltwater or has faced other extreme conditions, there may be some long-term damage that can’t be seen.
It’s always smart to ask the dealer/seller if the boat is still under warranty. Crestliner offers warranty transfers between owners which is great if you decide to buy used (and helps with resale value if you’re selling used!).
Most banks are typically willing to extend terms out longer and at lower rates on new boats as compared to used. Like any other loan, however, interest rates and loan terms are dependent on credit history, down payment and current assets.
Used boats often see shorter term loans at higher rates, so if you’re creating a budget based on monthly payments, you might end up paying more in less time. With new boats, your loan term could be 15 years or more at a much lower monthly cost, and you may not end up on the hook for the whole cost if you decide to trade-in at some point.
Cost of Ownership
Most boat purchase decisions are budget-based, but you should consider the entire cost of ownership rather than just the price of the boat when setting your budget.
Remember, your budget isn’t just for the boat, it’s for everything that comes with boat ownership, too.
Best Time to Buy a Boat
Winter is actually one of the best times to buy a boat. Boat show season kicks off in January and continues through March. Boat shows offer a large variety of models from multiple manufacturers where you get to see, feel, and experience new boats firsthand to help you understand what you really want from a boat. While this is a great time of year for research, there’s something to be said about buying right then and there at a boat show. The advantages of buying during boat show season are not to be ignored. Manufacturer incentives are everywhere, and when you order your boat this time of year, you can avoid the springtime rush. If you get ahead of that, you’ll get on the water a lot faster.
If you’re not quite ready to buy during boat show season, Spring or early season is still a great time to buy because you’ll get the best inventory selection to explore. Most dealers have a full spread of boats and motors in-stock or available to order in time for fishing seasons. Buying your boat in the spring also gives you a better opportunity to customize, and you can usually find some early season promotions and boat show deals.
Not only can you get some late-season rebates if you buy in the fall or end of season, but you have a good chance of getting a sneak peek at the brand new model year products. As more new models arrive, dealers are usually more willing to negotiate in order to move existing inventory. If you’re buying during this season, consider that you will have less opportunity to get custom features.
It’s easy to think that one boat can do-it-all, and some boats are built to accommodate the needs of anglers and water sports enthusiasts simultaneously. Keep in mind that the more “universal” boat you buy, the more multi-purpose features you’ll have. If you fish, you’ll probably lose some rod storage. If you are mostly skiing or tubing, you’ll likely have to give up some towing capacity and ski storage. On the other hand, if you do both activities equally, a more versatile boat is a smart choice.
Remember, in order to find the best boat for you, it’s important to be honest with yourself and to shop for the boat that best suits the situation you’ll find yourself in most of the time.
Your activity and location will also identify the right hull for you, and the most common decision comes down to deep-V or mod-V hulls. The best hull for chasing crappies is not necessarily the same one you’d want when netting a walleye. If you’re hunting the backwaters you’ll want something different than what you’d need for waterskiing at your cabin’s lake.
If you aren’t sure what hull is best for your region, look around for people on the water participating in activities you’ll use your boat. You will notice certain similarities and trends, but at the end of the day, choose the construction that works best for you. Deep-V boats aren’t just found in the North and mod-Vs are not limited to the Southern United States. It really does come down to what you want and how you’ll use it.
Unsurprisingly, the geography of where you will spend the most time on the water will be another consideration in your boat buying process. Keep in mind that choosing a “normal” boat for your neck of the woods increases your chances of good resale value.
Northern United States and most of Canada. Deep-V hulls designed for fish and sport as well as multispecies fishing dominate this region because of the larger bodies of water and less predictable weather conditions.
Southern United States. Mod-V hulls are more common in the South. Time on the water is usually spent on small lakes, reservoirs, and shallow water.
Deep South. Skinny rivers, wooded bayous, and sloughs usually host true flat bottom jon boats. Durability, maneuverability, and overall mobility are important qualities for navigating these conditions.
Coastal. Coastal areas are where you’ll see center console / bay design. While most bay boats have mod-V hulls, you will see deep-V hulls in larger bays. These regions are typically warmer, so there’s less concern about weather protection.
Northeastern and Northwestern United States. Rougher water and foul weather require a tough boat. In these regions, you’ll want a deep-V hull built with heavier gauge materials. These boats are also growing in popularity around the Great Lakes because the resilient features help maximize the boating season.
Again, when in doubt, look around at the boats on the water to see if a certain style is more popular than others. Dealers are good resources too; they can answer why you see more of a certain model or style.
Your boat’s layout and usage will be considerations for your best configuration.
Dual Console and those with Walk-Through Windshields offer the best coverage and protection both the driver and passengers, which is helpful for rough water or unpredictable, foul weather conditions. If you’re looking at boats with higher HP ratings, you’ll probably see these configurations most often.
Side Console boats also provide good coverage for the driver, but if you have other passengers on board, they’ll be more exposed to the elements. Many bass and walleye anglers will choose side console configurations because it opens up the cockpit and gives them more maneuverability around the boat as they fish
Center Console configurations are ideal for bay and coastal boats, and hunting boats. You drive standing and have 360-degree mobility around the boat
Tiller boats offer the most fishability because it really opens up the boat. Trollers can access everything in the boat from one spot and fish at the same time, and tillers give you a little better boat control, especially when back trolling.
Stick Steer boats are similar to tillers in that they offer good visibility. You can simply steer and control the boat from up front while still having instant access to storage and livewells.
When it comes to determining your right-sized boat, don’t get hung up on one or two specs. Length and width are important, but think about other scenarios where size and weight considerations matter.
If your primary activities involve bigger water and towing, you’ll want a longer, wider, deeper deadrise boat that can hold and handle the horsepower you need for those situations. If you’re running in small water areas and you just need to putter up and down river, you’ll want a smaller boat.
Keeping the big picture in mind, off-water considerations can be game-changers.
Storage. Are you planning on storing your boat in your garage? Will it even fit in your garage? Are you able to keep your boat at a dock or do you need to store it in the winter? If you are planning to store your boat indoors, be sure to take note of the overall width and length - not just the boat. Remember to account for the motor and trailer in addition to the boat.
Vehicle towing capacity. What kind of vehicle do you drive? Do you have a tow package? What is the towing capacity? If you’re unsure, consult your auto and marine representatives for the proper information.
In addition to the type of vehicle you drive, what kind of geography do you live in? How far will you be travelling with your boat? If you’re only going short distances, you probably don’t need a bigger vehicle. If you live in mountain country, plan to travel up and down steep hills, your vehicle will take more of a beating than it would in flat areas.
Launching and trailers. Think about the destination at the end of your journey. Are there nice boat ramps with shallow inclines or will you be facing steep, primitive ramps? Do you have a roller trailer or a bunk trailer? Roller trailers allow you to launch in shallow waters and they tend to be more effective in less-steep inclines. If you are dealing with a steeper ramp and have the advantage of lighter boat, bunk trailers are good options. Bunk trailers need to be all the way in the water so the boat can simply float off.
Most companies will publish horsepower ratings with other boat specifications, and you might be tempted to say, “The more power the better” or “Give me the highest rated power I can get,” but the truth of the matter is that the rating isn’t necessarily the end all be all. Usually, the boat that works best for you and its length will dictate how much power you actually need. Your dealer will be a great resource for choosing the right horsepower and can give you insights into what engines are most popularly paired with which boats.
Sometimes boat packages are advertised at a certain price-point but the engine included is actually less than adequate for that boat. Be sure to check motor manufacturers’ websites for performance bulletins that provide specs of tops speeds, fuel economy, and acceleration of a certain boat/engine combination. Mercury has a consistently updated collection of performance bulletins here.
Your dealer is an essential part of this whole experience, and it’s important that you get to know them. Yes, dealers are at dealerships to sell boats; but they also want to help select the boat that is right for you. Even the smallest details and experiences can make a difference, so asking these questions now will give you a more complete understanding of what you can expect from your dealer.
What maintenance will be involved moving forward and how much will it cost? Avoid the fast-track to overspending by learning when and how often your boat and engine need to be serviced.
What does my warranty actually cover and for how long? Don’t let that minor, warranty-covered repair go back to the dealership a week after the warranty expired.
Can your dealer store your boat? A one-stop-shop for all your boating needs can come in handy if you’re pressed for time.
How will your dealer help you get to know your boat? Ask your dealer to help you get to know your boat, whether that means demonstrating how to change the oil, optimizing the storage, or connecting your phone to the bluetooth stereo.
Now comes the fun part. It’s time to find your boat! You’re equipped with the knowledge you need to confidently start your search. This isn’t something you get to do every day, so enjoy it. By staying honest with yourself and keeping these considerations in mind, you’ll find the right boat for you every time.
Ready to get started?