There are more than 11 million recreational boating vessels, including sailboats, personal watercraft, stern drive boats, inboard boats and outboard boats, registered in the United States. Obviously enjoying time on the water is a beloved American pastime. Buying a boat is a dream for many. Fulfilling that dream involves learning about the many different kinds of boats available. Are you interested in fishing? Water sports? Sailing? Your answer and the features that fit your needs are the starting point as you begin the exciting journey to becoming a boat owner.

Setting a budget

Yes the purchase of a boat is a lifelong dream for many, but before you get too far into the process, you need to sit down and establish a budget. Whether you are a first-time boat buyer, or a long-time owner, the process of setting a budget should start with your decision of what type of craft you want to purchase.

The next step is to decide if you are interested in purchasing a previously owned boat or if you want to buy a new one. The next thing to consider is how you will be storing your boat. If you will need storage, that is another expense to calculate into your budget. Fuel is also an ongoing expense to take into consideration.

Finally, there are costs beyond the purchase of your boat that you need to consider. You will need the appropriate equipment. All boats should have a safety vest for every passenger. If you will be using your boat for fishing, you may need to purchase gear for that, or if you will be engaging in water sports, you may need to buy items as well.

Shopping for a boat

Once you have a good idea of the type of boat you want to buy and your budget, you can truly begin shopping for your boat. There are three main avenues you can pursue—online listings, boat shows and dealerships.

Online listings are ideal if you want the convenience of shopping from your home. Depending on the website you use, you may be able to compare several boats or search based on such criteria as length, boat type, model name or even location.

Attending a boat show is another way to investigate your options. These kinds of events offer a great opportunity to see and explore a variety of boats to verify the style you want to purchase. Boat shows are also a good way to select a dealer. Take this chance to interview dealers until you find the right combination of price, brand and dealer for your needs. Working with an experienced dealer can be helpful, especially for first-time buyers.

Inspecting the boat

Before you commit to a boat purchase, it is imperative that you see the boat in person. Don’t feel rushed to make a decision. If you aren’t truly passionate about your choice, it might be best to walk away and keep looking.

When you have met the boat of your dreams, the next step is to make sure it is in the best possible shape. Inspect the boat, and have a marine survey conducted. Much like a home inspection, the marine survey should be done by a qualified surveyor to honestly assess the condition and seaworthiness of your boat. Also be sure to take the boat on a test drive before buying.

Finalizing your purchase

When you are ready to make your boat purchase, it’s essential to take emotion out of the equation. It is always best if you are purchasing from a trusted distributor who you have developed a relationship with. Not only will they help you find the right boat and explain any needed maintenance services or warranties, but also they will help you sell your boat when it is time to upgrade.

Finally, focus on financing for your purchase and what sort of down payment or deposit you will need to make. If you follow these tips, the fulfillment of your dream to own a boat will be the positive and rewarding experience you always hoped it would be.

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