What to Consider When Buying A New Boat

After a long career in Ohio, it’s finally time for me to retire and move to southeast Florida. I’ve been visiting the Sunshine State to fish my entire life, but being a resident is a whole new ball game, and I’m looking to purchase a boat to take full advantage of the local fisheries. I know the boat-buying process isn’t all peaches and cream, so what should I look out for? -Richard Moore

While purchasing a new boat (and when we say “new,” here, I mean brand new or pre-owned), there is a great deal of excitement involved, and rightfully so. A boat is so many things: your gateway to life on the water, your number one source of fun and, most importantly, the platform that keeps you safe away from the dock. However, while excitement is in the air as you search for your new vessel, there are a few things you need to look out for and be wary of.

tips for buying a new boat
Photography by Matt Arnholt

We hate to take any excitement and joy out of this process because buying a boat is a happy occasion after all, but those in the search process are about to spend a lot of money. Boat ownership in general is a massive commitment that should not be taken lightly; but pinpointing a specific platform that’s right for you and your situation can add even more pressure.

First, it’s important to determine whether you’re looking for a pre-owned vessel or a brand-new one, as there are several key differences in the search and buying process. For many aspiring boaters, the cost of a brand-new boat is just too high, so the pre-owned route is the most likely scenario. However, if you have some wiggle room in your budget but you’re still dead set on a used boat, we urge you to still consider the prospect of a new boat. Conversely, if you have your eyes on a brand-new boat but can’t seem to find the perfect craft, don’t discount the idea of a used boat. The goal here is to find the right boat for you, and that means you should consider all options.

If you end up determining that a preowned boat is your best bet, your search criteria should go beyond the look and quality of the boat. Like I said, purchasing a boat is a big commitment and you’re dedicating a lot of hard-earned money to this purchase, so you want to make sure you end up in the right situation. This means you should bring a healthy level of skepticism to the process. We’re not saying you should assume everything on board is about to break and the whole thing is in poor condition, but you can’t believe every claim the seller makes to be true. Additionally, you need to verify for yourself that certain aspects of your prospective new boat are up to the right standard. In most cases, we recommend hiring a professional to inspect the vessel before writing a check to the previous owner. As a prospective buyer, you can find a few red flags here and there with the naked eye, but most sellers will do their best to hide any issues. However, important factors like hull saturation, structural integrity, engine proficiency and more often require the assessment of an industry professional. By the same token, you’ll want to make sure that any warranties advertised are transferrable, and if they aren’t, the asking price should reflect that.

Photography by Matt Arnholt

While brand-new boats come with a completely different set of circumstances, the process is not remotely stress-free. Whether you’re purchasing a platform from a dealer or factory direct, buyers need to be actively involved in the purchasing process to end up with the right boat. These manufacturers and dealers are pumping out boats for countless customers, so the truth is they don’t think you’re that special. It’s on you to get the answers you need and demand transparency.

If you’re buying an existing boat from a dealer, make sure you verify everything the salesperson is telling you to be true. They are salespeople, after all, and their technical boating knowledge is often not enough to guarantee anything they tell you. A quick email or phone call to the manufacturer with a list of questions is never a bad idea.

If you’re buying factory direct, we recommend staying actively involved in the build process of your new boat. While manufacturers will tell you they are making you and your build a priority, and they often do, it’s your responsibility to make sure your boat is getting the attention it needs. That means you shouldn’t be afraid to drop by the shop every now and then to check in and see how things are going. This also allows you to see the boat up close and in person, giving you a visual representation of the platform and allowing you to better determine how the boat should be laid out. If you can’t make it to the manufacturer in person, steady communication is key, and it’s never a bad idea to ask for photos and updates.

As the saying goes, “you get out what you put in,” and that certainly remains true when it comes to buying a boat. So many factors need to be considered, and you’ll find that not everything will come out exactly the way you want it. However, being an educated buyer who is involved in the purchasing process will help you a great deal.