Filed Under (Boats and Boating Gear) by Debbie on 22-09-2007

Fall generally represents the end of boating, whether you powerboat or sailboat.  I’m always sad to see the season draw to an end, although I must admit having a sailboat has extended my season quite a bit.  I’ve probably got two to three more months of this season with the sailboat verses the wakeboard boat…and an earlier start next year.


Is it a car or a boat?

Fall does seem to be however, the beginning of boat buying season!  I know it’s a big subject and there’s just no way to really cover the whole gambit.  I thought I’d offer some words of advice for those who are dreaming of that first boat purchase.  How to buy a boat… yep, entire books have been written about the subject.  I’m going to give you my condensed version.


No one post or article can give you all the insight into that first boat buying moment, but I hope to give you some food for thought.


First of course is…what are you planning on doing with this boat?  Will it be something to learn to wakeboard on or fish from, do you want to sail or is it just to relax on?  Then how many people do you envision spending time with you?  You’ll be surprised how many friends you suddenly have once you acquire said boat…not that I’m saying you have to accommodate them.  Where do you plan on keeping it, in the water or on a trailer?  If it’s on a trailer, where will you keep that?  Do you have a tow rig?  If you do, do you know its towing capabilities (weight wise) and does it have a hitch?  Have I confused you yet?


Lake in Canada

Let’s talk experience; how much do you have?  If you have zero boating experience then hold on tight because I’m going to suggest something that many find offensive.  Find a cheap used old boat.  Something you can pretty much bang up and no one can tell because it’s already banged up.  If you’re going for power find something 14 feet or less with a smallish out-board.  That way if you burn up the engine it won’t cost an arm and leg to replace it.  Also if it’s pretty banged up you shouldn’t have to pay a lot for it and most likely will be able to sell it for about the same price.  Make the sale subject to an acceptable compression check on the outboard engine.


It’s beyond stressful to have a brand new bright shiny boat to try to learn in.  You will hit the dock, the trailer, the ground and everything else too.  We all do, it’s just a matter of time.


If you’re looking for a sailboat, look for something small with decent sails and rigging.  If you’ve never sailed before, a sailing dingy would be ideal because you’ll learn more about sailing in a dingy than a bigger boat.  They are unforgiving little boats!  I learned in one, once you dump it over and have to flip it back upright two or three dozen times, you’ll understand a great deal about the wind in your sails.  If you can find one that’s self bailing it would be nice.


If you can’t bring yourself to purchase a ‘beater’ until you have some water under your keel, then be sure to have a survey done on any used boat.  Our second powerboat seemed very nice when we bought it, without a survey.  It wasn’t until a few months later that we learned there was quite a bit of dry rot on the stern.  That repair cost us a fifth of the sales price.  So…if you can, get a survey.  You should be able to negotiate a better price if the surveyor finds issues if not consider walking away.


If you take my advice and get the beater boat, only plan on keeping it a short time.  This boat is only for learning how to boat.  We had lots of fun with our first 14-foot powerboat and all 35 horses….  We learned to double ski (oh…come on!  That was way before wakeboards!)  Even though we had a beater boat, we still found we had lots of friends wanting to go with us.  That boat was a huge learning experience about engines as well as boating.  We kept that first boat about 8 months and sold it ourselves, for about what we paid for it.


Our first sailboat (we both knew how to sail simple small ones) was a 26-foot trailer sailor.  The jib was pretty shot and we had to replace it and the trailer tires too, but the rest of the boat was in good shape and just needed some elbow grease.  We got her all cleaned up and sailed her for about two years.  When we sold her, we did something we’ve been told means we’re going to ‘boat hell’ for…we made money!  Don’t get excited…we’ve bought and sold quite a few boats and never before or since have we made any money.  The old adage is true!


“A boat is a large hole in the water in which you pour your money.”


It’s also a place where family memories are made, life is rejuvenated, sanity is restored and dreams begin to take shape.


Sailboats on the hook

Ok, so you’ve gotten the bug and you’re looking for a boat.  Winter is a good buying time because most people aren’t looking yet and sellers can be a bit more open to a lower offer.  The flip side is that you really can’t get out on the water yet.


Try to think of this boat as temporary.  I’ve never known anyone who bought their first boat and a year later didn’t wish they’d have know they’d want this or that or wished they’d bought a bigger boat because they can’t fit it comfortably.  We’ve a friend who bought a boat, a brand new boat for his first boat, and by the end of the first season he was unhappy with it.  For his family of three it’s a fine size but bring friends and their coolers and all the water toys and such and it becomes too small.  The depreciation is huge on new, so think twice!


Another issue I have that maybe you’ve not thought about yet in regards to a new boat is; when you buy a new boat, you get a new boat, that’s all.  No gear, no docking or anchor lines, no vests, no anchor, no fenders, no anything.  You have to buy it all.  Almost every used boat we’ve bought or sold has come with the fenders, lines, anchor, some vests, extra gas cans, spare parts and assorted odds and ends.  When you put the word…”marine”…in front of another word it usually means “more expensive”.


There are lots of discussion boards on the Internet for boat owners.  When you zero in on a couple of brands you like (after the beater boat), use the Google search bar on the upper right of this screen to find and join these groups.  I belong to one for my Newport 30.  I’ve never commented but I’ve learned lots about this boat just by what the rest of the group is chatting about.  We boaters are a pretty friendly group generally and usually if you walk up to one of us with a question about our boat, we’re pretty excited to visit…so don’t be afraid to ask people what they like and don’t like about their boat.


Here’s my “questions to ask yourself” about the boat you’re looking for:


Fishing boat

  • Is it a comfortable size for towing and spending the day on?  If you’re going to take a buddy, is there enough room for both of you to cast your lines?  Is there enough room for all the gear and what about a place to keep your catch?

  • Is there a way to get out of the weather?  Sun on the water is intense and rain is no fun.

  • What kind of fishing are you planning?  You’ll need to look at a vastly different kind of boat if you’re planning on going out on the ocean rather than rivers and lakes.

  • How comfortable are the seats?

  • Is there a fish/depth finder?  This is a piece of equipment I feel should be on pretty much every boat.

  • If there’s a trailer is it in good shape?  See the trailer maintenance post.


Wakeboard boat

  • Size matters; is it big enough?  How many friends/family do you plan on going with you?  Bring them all and sit in the boat.  Is there room left for food and a cooler?

  • Is there a professionally make wakeboard tower?  Can you see movement at the connection to the boat when you push real hard on the tower?  Don’t confuse flexing with movement at the connection points.

  • How easy is it to reach the racks, the places you’ll store the wakeboards?  Step up and see if you can hold on with one hand and still comfortably reach them, now think about wake rollers from other boats.  Can you still reach the racks when the boat rolls with the wakes?

  • Sit on the ski platform.  How comfortable is it?  Try climbing up on the boat over it, you know like you’re in the water and getting back on the boat.  Some platforms are better than others.

  • Is there a depth finder?

  • Look at the trailer is it in good shape?  See the trailer maintenance post.



  • How long do you plan on being on the boat?  I mean for a day and home again or longer?

  • If you’re planning on more than a day, is there room to sleep and eat?

  • Are there handholds below?

  • Is there a depth finder?

  • How long is the keel and what’s the water depth where you’ll be sailing?

  • Can you walk comfortably over the deck to the forepeak?

  • Look at the sails; are they worn out, dirty or in need of repairs?

  • Run your hand over the standing rigging; is it smooth?  If not move on to another boat or plan on spending money to re-rig.

  • Look at the running lines are they dirty and worn out, do they need to be replaced?

  • Sit in the cockpit.  How comfortable is it and can you see all the way forward from the helm?

  • Is there a trailer, see the trailer maintenance post.


Try to get the seller to take you out on the water so you can see how the boat handles.  Some will cut through the water and others will beat you to death.  Also you’ll be able to see that the engine fires up easily and works.  Plus you’ll see how to trailer it if there is one.


So there’s my brief list of things to think about.  It is obviously not a complete list of things to think about but it’s a good list for those who’ve never owned a boat before.  If you’re moving up from the beater boat, you already know what you’re looking for.  So again, find a good marine surveyor and pay for their advice, check this article for what to expect from your surveyor ‘here’.  If you don’t buy the boat because of what they find then think of it as money well spent.  Also, don’t forget about insurance!  Get it before you pick up the boat.


Once you’ve bought your boat, congrats!  Before that first trip out, which is called your shake down cruise, check the article on my top 10 things to do to a ‘new to you’ boat.

 Have Fun!  Stay Safe!

3 Comments posted on "Buying Your First Boat"
How to for sale by owner your boat on October 25th, 2007 at 3:49 pm #

[…] All joking aside, it is possible to sell the boat by yourself and while maybe not making a profit, it is my hope you’ll stay even.  The re-sale industry for boats is huge, most first time buyers will buy a pre-owned boat.  Now if you you’re reading this because you’re thinking about buying a boat then click here instead. […]

How to save $50,000 on your next boat on December 3rd, 2007 at 10:51 am #

[…] reading:  What to think about,  buying a used boat, what to expect from a survey    Read More    […]

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