How do I select the right boat?

So, you’ve decided to embrace the water lifestyle; bought waterfront property or a summer home, or just want to get out there and enjoy the tranquility that the water brings. What’s the next step?  Buy a boat.

It’s not easy sifting through all the available choices in the market and it’s easy to overthink the right solution as you are bombarded by the marketing and sales efforts to sway you in a certain direction. Purchasing a boat is a big decision and it is important that you get something that will satisfy your individual requirements as well as taking into account the needs of friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s all to frequent that consumers will make a purchase based upon price or sales tactics only to find that their actual usage and needs are not met and regret the decision.

It may help you narrow down your choices by asking yourself the following questions to get a reality check about your actual needs:

  1. Where am I going to use my boat and will I need a trailer?  
  2. What will I use the boat for? 
  3. How many people will I have on the boat most often? 
  4. What is my budget?

The information below is intended to help you better understand your answers to these questions. 

Boating Location

This is a very important question which will set the tone for your boat selection. Will you be boating in a lake setting or larger bodies of water like the ocean or Great Lakes? Boating in salt water or other large bodies of water is far different than boating on interior lakes and rivers. The size of the boat is important because bigger bodies of water tend to have more chop and you need a deeper, heavier boat to handle the waves. Center Console, Dual Console Larger Runabouts and Express Cruisers are great candidates for this boating style because they ride higher in the water, keeping spray over the bow at a minimum. If you’re boating in larger bodies of water, also keep in mind amenities like toilets and how much storage you’ll need for long days on the water.

Alternatively, interior lakes and rivers can vary in depth and size and may have restrictions on boat length or horsepower. Depending on your water, you may have to take into consideration things like draft. For shallow waters, boats with less draft (the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull) such as aluminum or fiberglass fishing boats, deck boats and pontoon boats work well. Boating location will also help determine how much horsepower you need. If you’re on a bigger lake with strong winds, or the best place to fish is up the chain, then having a boat with a little more horsepower can make a big difference.

An additional question to your boating location is whether or not you’ll need a trailer. If you don’t have a residence on the water or access to a slip, or, you want to experience boating on different bodies of water, getting a boat with a trailer is a must. If this is the case, follow the same rules with respect to the bodies of water you will enjoy. When trailering, the size of the boat is important as in some cases, if the boat is wider, it may require a special permit to move the boat on roadways.

Boating Style

How you will use the boat is very important. There is literally a boat style for every boater. The more you understand how you like to boat and what appeals to you, the easier it will be to find the right boat for you. If you intend to use the boat for a specific purpose like fishing, skiing or wake boarding/surfing, then certainly that will impact the type of boat you buy. If you or your kids want to wake surf, yet you purchase a boat that does not have a ballast system or the capability of producing a wake, then disappointment will prevail. If you love to fish and have toyed with the idea of going offshore, then you’ll want a lot of horsepower and may even consider going with twin or triple rig motors. If you enjoy cocktail cruising, then look for a boat that has comfortable seats and maybe even a bar setup with counter space and a fridge. You may want to do a little of everything; deck boats and pontoons serve multiple purposes allowing you to pleasure cruise, fish and ski.

Boating Capacity

Certainly, buying a boat that has the seating capacity to fit your family and guests is very important. Ask yourself how many people will I need to accommodate on a normal basis. If the answer is 6 or 8, then you should make sure the boat you purchase has enough certified capacity. If you have more passengers on an infrequent basis, it may not be necessary to spend more on a boat just to satisfy a non-normal occurrence. When reviewing capacity, take the time to consider multiple layouts and how your passengers will enjoy the boat. Is the floor plan open or purpose driven? If your passengers are all adults, do they have enough room to spread out and be comfortable? If you have young children, will the boat be adequate as they grow? Another consideration when reviewing capacity is ensuring you have the engine power needed to meet your objectives. As an example, if you buy a pontoon boat and will have 6-8 people on board at any given time and the desire is to pull skiers or tubers, then it is critical to ensure you have enough horse power in your engine to handle your passengers and the people you are towing. Too often, consumers will underpower their boat only to find that it limits their ability to use it as desired and ultimately takes some of the fun out of boating.

Budget

Budget is always at the heart of the discussion with any major purchase. Rather than simply making a pricing decision at the beginning of the process, ask yourself the questions outlined in this article. Make sure that you know what your needs will be before you make your purchase. Once you have settled on the requirements, do some research online and modify your budget expectations accordingly. The last thing anyone wants is to buy a boat regardless of price, only to find the boat does not meet their individual or family needs. It can be an expensive mistake!

Boating is a wonderful experience; it brings families together, creates life-long memories as well as supports a lifestyle on the water that can be enjoyed for generations. It is possible to filter through all of the options available by narrowing the playing field and determining what is right. Slow down, ask yourself the questions and insure your decision to buy a boat is the right one. Educate yourself on types of boats. Look at market share and reviews on brands. Is the dealer educating you and providing the information you need to make a good decision or just trying to push the flavor of the day on you? 

Hopefully this helps get you started on making the right decision. Enjoy your time on the water!

About The Boat House The Boat House is a multi store dealership with 4 Midwest locations and 3 Florida locations. Our mission is to supply our community with a superior boat buying and ownership experience through offering premium brands, professional staff, 1st class service and 360º solutions including: New & Used Boat Sales, On Site and Mobile Service, Storage, Parts, Gear, Pier and Lift Services, Long and Short Term Boat Rentals, In-House Financing, Consignments, On Water Demonstrations and Community Boating Events. We believe boating enhances our lives through meaningful relationships and time well spent. We are lifetime boaters eager to share our passion and experience with you. We are The Boat House and this is boating.

Submitted by Rick Gasaway • COO

Categories: Boat Buying , New Boat Purchase , Used Boat Purchase , Boat Ownership , Inboard , Pontoon , Center Console , Fishing , Dual Console , Cruiser , Bay Boats , Runabouts , Lifestyle on the Water , Family Fun on the Water

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