Welcome to Buying a Boat Guide. I thought about buying a boat for many years before eventually taking the plunge. I was an experienced fisherman but worried about the investment and learning curve of having a boat. As I reflect a few years on I’m really glad that I did. It’s an amazing pastime, and with experience, you learn the ins and outs of boating. Everyone who tries something new will no doubt will make mistakes and I have made plenty along my boating journey. So, here is a detailed guide on what to know before buying a boat which should be very helpful for new and potential boat owners.
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How do you plan to use your boat?
It sounds like an obvious question but have you really considered the basics. Will you use the boat in the bay, rivers, lakes or estuaries? Do you plan to go out on your own, or how many passengers will you take out with you? Do you plan to use the boat frequently? how long are you likely to spend on the water? and what type of fish are you hoping to target? All these basic questions play a key role in deciding a suitable type of boat that you will look to purchase.
The real cost of buying a boat
Buying a Boat Guide. Let’s break up the commercials into 2 key categories. Upfront purchase costs and then your ongoing costs.
Upfront costs of buying a boat
Upfront purchase costs will include buying the boat and depending on your budget this will be either brand new or second hand. If you do plan on buying a second-hand boat then do make sure you have someone experienced with you who can ensure the boat is mechanically sound and structurally safe. Someone who can inspect the hull for any damage and the motor for any signs of mechanic degradation. Also, check that the trailer is in good working order. Inspecting the wheels, wheel bearing and Axl as known weak spots because of saltwater degradation. I had to rely on some close friends when making this decision.
Further upfront costs will also include additional items that you may need to purchase which may include rod holders, sounder, life jackets, flares, ropes, and more. There is also the expense of obtaining your boat license.
On the first inspection, my second-hand trailer looked in top condition. However, after only 2 trips to the boat ramp, it started making screeching sounds and was moving sporadically. I took it to my local boat mechanic who identified 2 completely worn out wheel bearings, a degraded Axl and warped wheels. This was a costly error having to spend an additional $600 just after buying the boat and trailer.
Ongoing costs of owning a boat
Then there are the annual ongoing costs you will pay yearly. Including renewing your boat and trailer registration, renewing your insurance policy to cover your boat and trailer from accident damage or theft, and having your boat serviced by a qualified marine mechanic. As I have found out in recent years boat servicing can be pricey. A standard service without other faults identified may set you back $500. You will also need to renew your boat license every few years.
Then there are your usual expenses when you operate it such as fuel costs, oil for 2 stroke engines, boat ramp launching fees, bait, ice, berley and fishing gear.
Fears of Buying and operating a boat
You may be surprised to read this section so early on however for me this was the biggest hurdle to overcome. I had a history of seasickness and had zero experience backing a trailer. Both of these key areas had me very worried. Let’s look at them a little more closely.
Learning to back your boat trailer
This is something that only gets easier with experience. Let me picture the scenario that many new boaters would fear. It’s your first trip out with your boat. You get to the boat ramp which is quite busy. Then you struggle to reverse the trailer straight in the launching area causing an avalanche of onlookers and your stress and anxiety levels through the roof. This is not an overhype story but actually very true for most first time owners.
A few key tips to help you in this area. Firstly on your first few attempts try and launch at a quiet boat ramp during non-peak times. This will take a lot of the pressure away from you. Secondly, try practising in a quiet street near home before going to the boat ramp. I had a very quiet street with a long straight that I would practice backing up the trailer straight.
I really struggled on my first few occasions. Everyone was telling me to look at the mirrors as I reversed, however, I just couldn’t get my bearings. As soon as I wound down the windows and reversed with my head well out the window looking back, I felt in total control and the rest just came with more time and experience.
Seasickness and your boat
I was very worried about this as I had been out in a boat many times and had a poor strike rate at getting seasick. Surprisingly for me, it was like being a passenger of a car. I get car sick as a passenger but not when I’m driving. Now I know that will be different for everyone, but it was a factor. I have written a detailed article on beating seasickness on your boat and encourage you to read that further if you struggle with seasickness, there are some great tips there to help get you started.
Learning to predict weather conditions for safe boating
One area I was very concerned about was understanding how weather conditions make conditions calm or unsafe. I knew I quickly needed to understand the impact of different wind directions and swell. I quickly stumbled upon some very helpful tools which included Meteye a website from the bureau of meteorology that provides wind and swells predictions. This helped greatly giving you visual indicators of what to expect. White and light blue representing calm, dark blue and green representing quite choppy and yellow and red as unsafe conditions. I then started to learn how wind direction impacts the swell. One simple idea that if the wind direction is coming from the land behind you then you become sheltered and the swell stays down. If the wind direction is coming from the bay towards your closest land point then it’s likely to be choppy.
I also started using tools such as willy weather, Seabreeze, and windy. Free websites that again provide great visual aids on predicted weather conditions. Spending most of my time to focus on wind direction and strength. After some time you begin familiar with this process and can quickly identify safe conditions. You can also predict the difference between flat enjoyable days on the water and days that will be a little bumpy.
Storing your boat
When buying your boat a very key question you need to consider is where you plan to store it when it’s not being used. For most this will be at home in the garage, under a carport, or in the back yard. Therefore when buying your boat understanding its size and storage area ia key.
Here is an example. The only place I could store my boat was in my garage. My garage length is the standard 5.2 meters. This means I was immediately limited to buying a boat no longer than this length including the trailer and motor. I ended up buying a 4.2 meter boat which fit with roughly 60cm to spare. Getting this wrong would have been a disaster.
Final notes from the author
I hope this article Buying a Boat Guide should help you with your decision making process. I spent many years thinking about the ins and outs of boating. However, I’m glad that I carefully thought about many key factors to make boating an enjoyable pass time. I hope you find this article useful and encourage you to share your feedback and experiences by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org