A boat can be a gateway to a multitude of hobbies, like sport fishing, sailing, or just cruising the ocean with your closest friends and family members. And thanks to online boat marketplaces, it’s easier than ever for amateurs and experienced boaters alike to purchase a boat that fits their needs.
Unfortunately, too many excited first-time hobbyists end up making critical mistakes when making their initial purchase. Within weeks, they realize the boat they bought wasn’t what they wanted or expected, or they end up spending far more money than they thought they would.
If you’re proactive, you can avoid these mistakes.
Important Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Boat
These are some of the most critical mistakes to avoid when buying a boat for the first time:
- Thinking too much about the short-term. Most people start thinking about buying a boat in response to something happening around them; for example, they might see someone on a sailboat and think “that seems fun.” Accordingly, many new boat owners start thinking about the boat they want right now, or for the next year, rather than the boat that will serve them best for years to come. If you want to make a better boat buying decision, you’ll need to think about the long-term in addition to the short-term.
- Failing to consider the costs of boat ownership. You might be able to afford the core cost of a new boat, but can you really afford the more extensive costs of boat ownership? Too many newcomers to the world of boating neglect to calculate these secondary and tertiary costs. For example, do you know how much you’re going to pay in boat insurance? Have you calculated the average cost of gas? What about ongoing maintenance? And where are you going to store the boat? These costs can quickly spiral out of control if you don’t manage them proactively.
- Not consulting family members. Buying a boat on impulse is possible if you have ample access to cash, but it’s not advisable—especially if you have other family members depending on your ability to manage finances in a mature and reasonable way. Even if you consider yourself the primary financial decision maker, it’s a good idea to talk to your spouse and your other family members before you move forward with a purchase.
- Doing too little research. Few boat owners buy a new boat with zero research; they at least try to find out which types of boats are available, and get some preliminary boat buying tips. But too many newcomers do too little research when making their decision. You can’t take surface-level advice as a substitute for due diligence.
- Buying too big (or too small). The size of your boat matters, and too many new boat buyers don’t know how to factor it into consideration. If you buy too small, you won’t have the room to do what you want. If you buy too big, your maintenance, fuel, and storage costs could skyrocket—all without adding substantial enjoyment.
- Assuming a boat show is the best place to buy. Boat shows can be a great place to buy a boat, but this is far from a guarantee. You may be able to find better deals online, or from individual sellers outside of the boat show. Still, it’s worth attending local boat shows for research purposes, as long as you’re also considering alternative purchasing channels.
- Capitalizing on an amazing deal. When you see a boat going for thousands of dollars less than you expected, you might be tempted to jump on it. But experienced buyers know that in many cases, you get what you pay for—and that lower price may be a way to compensate for a major underlying problem with the boat.
- Not inspecting a used boat. Along similar lines, buying a used boat is a great way to save money—as long as you know what you’re buying. If you’re buying a used boat, especially if you’re buying online, you’ll want to conduct a thorough inspection before you finalize the deal.
Knowing When to Ask for Advice
Most of these mistakes, while common among newcomers, are almost never made by experienced boat owners—either because they’ve made them already (and learned from them) or because they become obvious when you’ve spent enough time around boats. Accordingly, one of the best ways to ensure the quality of your purchase is to ask experienced boaters for advice. Talk to other boat owners in your area, and see if any would be willing to help guide you through your first purchase; chances are, you’ll find a mentor who’s excited to help out.