Like any major purchase, there are many factors to consider when purchasing a boat. This holds true regardless of whether it is your first time on the water or you have been boating for years.
Are you in the market for a new boat? If so, a larger initial investment may be required. A used boat, however, has its disadvantages as well. You may find yourself inheriting a lot of problems from the previous owner that could cost you more money in the long run.
The most important part of finding and buying the boat that's right for you is selecting a trustworthy dealer with whom you feel comfortable. There are a wide variety of sources available for locating dealers, but before you set foot onto a lot, you should do some research into a dealer's background.
Is the dealer Marine Industry Certified? This means that the dealer has met or exceeded standards in a variety of areas ranging from its facility to its level of service, and that it will guarantee that service, per the industry's Consumer Bill of Rights, both before and after you have made your purchase. Also, check with local consumer Web sites or speak with others who have done business with that dealer.
Equally important is the research you should put into the boat you are considering. This decision should be made prior to visiting a dealer so that you can make a determination without a dealer's influence.
Manufacturer's Web sites are an excellent source of information. There may also be Internet forums for boat owners. Check in with a few people who own or have owned that vessel, and determine if your ideas of ownership — and its potential pitfalls — are accurate. One great source of information on both boat and dealer is boat shows.
Another question to be answered is where you plan to go boating. Logic dictates that your dealer should be located near the area where your boat will spend the most time in the water. Another factor that goes along with this part of the process is obtaining either a means of transporting your boat or a location where it can be stored.
Once you have selected a dealer, it's time to go to the lot. Even when working with a trustworthy dealer, there are certain things that you want to make sure to do. Do not leave the lot without getting all of your questions answered. If you're not sure you're asking all the right questions, bring a knowledgable friend along to ask questions and look over the boat with you.
Make sure that the boat is NMMA certified, which means it was constructed to the standards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, and will meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements.
It is essential that you take any boat for a test run before you consider buying it. When testing a boat, ensure that the engine is not warmed up prior to your arrival. You should get a feel for the handling of the boat, make sure that there are no potential overheating problems with the engine, and above all, you should feel comfortable with your decision.
All of these points — questions and answers, inspection, and hands-on testing — will also play a part in negotiating a price with the dealer once you have made your decision. You can work with the dealer to find a good price, and possibly include some essential accessories. Also, find out if your registration fees are included in the sale price, or if they will have to be handled at the Department of Motor Vehicles.