Harbourmaster Help – How Do I Buy a Boat?

mark dryden

Mark Dryden, Harbourmaster

There’s recently been an increased interest in boating.
A few people who have never owned a boat are contemplating it, and some are thinking it may be time to get one again. (i.e. it’s been long enough that they only remember the good times.)

The very first thing to do is visit other people with boats; the one thing you can almost always count on is, that if you ask a question about someone’s boat, they will answer you in great detail. If you ask to go out on the boat, you will almost always be invited.  Particularly if you say you are thinking of buying something similar. (Everyone thinks they have the perfect boat!) Okay- you are now on the boat, what are you looking at? Look at the equipment, electronics, entertainment, lines, life jackets, fire extinguishers, etc. All this stuff can be aboard your new boat and it all costs extra, so decide what you need, what you would like and what you dream about.  Also, look at the equipment the owner of the boat actually uses.

Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself, first question, what do you want to use the boat for?

Fishing, water sports, slowly drifting along while admiring the sunset/rise, do you want get to places or are you more interested in the journey? Do you like loud music, lots of technology or are you more of a Luddite? Do you want lots of company or none? The choices are endless. Think carefully here as this is a very important part of the buying decision and will dictate, size, cruising range, level of sophistication, deck layout, cabin layout, size of engines, level of amenities, “what – you can’t live without an icemaker!”  There are a lot of these types of questions; however once you have answered them, the buying process is a lot less confusing.

So you have the above under control, what’s next? Start looking at boats for sale online, or get a recommendation for a broker or a dealer. (These two areas will give you an idea of the price point for your boat.) If you are buying a previously loved boat, never look online by manufacturer, always look at price point and then at the equipment you want on board. Limit the search as you settle on the types of boats you think will suit your purposes. Then look at the owner forums for your boat. These will give you an idea of what trouble spots to look for when you get aboard, and in the case of a new vessel- what to expect as the boat ages. If possible, try to look at one vessel that is at the top of your price point. This gives you something to compare when searching for your boat.

Next, let’s talk about first impressions. Take note of the boat exterior. If searching online, examine the photos, if the exterior/interior is shabby or untidy in pictures, the rest of the boat will match. (Poor maintenance means more cost to you when you have to put things right.) The rest of this is just like buying a car – except for one thing if buying used; always have a marine surveyor look at the boat you settle on. Why? Because he will see things you will not, I know because it happened to me. The $600-800 expense is well worth it. Next very important rule – if you are buying an older boat, always have it hauled to inspect the hull and underwater gear. It may be pretty on top but he could have hit a rock or some other, below the water line obstacle. This will eliminate surprises; no one likes surprises when it comes to second hand boats.

So now you have the basics of how to buy a boat. If buying a previously loved boat, it also helps to have a good broker working with you. They take care of the paperwork side of things so nothing gets missed. (It is embarrassing when an officer of the bank turns up to seize the boat because it hasn’t been paid off.) They also help to pave the way with the previous owner and act as a buffer during the delicate dance of bargaining the final price.

The above points are really very basic. If you want more information, there are many detailed procedures online that you can make use of. My best advice though is look at the owner forums of boats you may be interested in. They have an abundance of expensive experience you can use free of charge. Finally you can use me as a resource; I can be a good listener.

Have a question for Mark? Email harbourmaster@wexfordplantation.com.

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