Buying a boat: Practical advice in tough economic times

Published 11:01 pm Monday, October 27, 2008

There is no doubt that America is experiencing some tough economic times. The mortgage mess, coupled with Hurricane Ike and higher gas costs, have placed a difficult burden on the majority of the country.

However, for those who have been prudent with their money, this time period offers some surprising opportunities. One of those opportunities is the chance to purchase a new or used recreational boat. This industry has been hard hit and deals abound. If a buyer takes a careful approach, the opportunity of a lifetime awaits.

However, one must have a very good understanding of the costs, not only before the purchase, but afterwards. Here are a few things to consider.

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Owning and operating a boat, especially a larger powerboat or sailboat, isn’t easy or cheap. If you take it seriously (and I hope you do), owning a boat entails attending classes (such as those offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary) and ensuring detailed preventive maintenance gets done. It is as demanding as home ownership. Boaters need to make sure safety equipment is fully operational and that any visitors are fully briefed on how your boat operates. It is very demanding; however, owning a boat is a ton of fun.

There are a number of ways to prepare to buy a boat and understand the ins and outs of working with a seller either privately or from a dealer/manufacturer. A potential buyer should check out and a section on it called “Buy Smart” which provides all kinds of useful information.

Think about two specific questions before you get on the water.

First, “Why do you want to buy a boat?”

Second, “How do you get the best value?”

They seem to be two basic questions to ask, but you would be surprised how many folks have never stepped back and asked themselves these simple questions.

So first, why do I want to buy a boat? This is one question to get out of the way at the very beginning. Some things to consider, where do I live and where do I intend to boat? The closer the availability the better, no one wants to commute long distances to boat. It makes it a lot more of a chore than a joy. Do want to boat in-shore or off-shore? What will the boat be used for? Fishing or tubing?

More questions will probably arise from this first question. Where do I intend to moor my boat or am I placing it on a trailer? Here in Suffolk we have plenty of places to keep your boat in the water or locations to launch your boat.

Why own a boat versus rent it? Ownership entails significant expense from fuel to safety equipment and insurance.

Do you have the funds to sustain these costs? How big a boat do you need? If you are taking friends fishing or water skiing, then do you need a certain size? Do you want power or sail?

Second, once you’re satisfied with your answers to the first questions, then start looking for the best value. My favorite resource is the NADA Marine Appraisal Guide

(P.O. Box 7800, Costa Mesa, CA 92628. The telephone number is (800) 966-6232 and Web site for vessels from 1993-2008 is:

NADA is the same group that publishes the “Blue Book” for automobiles. In addition to information on boats, the NADA site provides information on not only boats, but also personal watercraft, marine motors and trailers.

The list of topics is virtually unlimited. Bottom line, do your homework regarding a boat purchase and look ahead to costs, time and requirements. The bargains are there if you are patient and deliberate.

Until then, boat safe, boat smart!