How to Buy Your First Boat

Boat -Buying -Tips

Novice boat buyer? A good dose of commonsense (and a good dealer) will be your greatest ally.

People lacking boating experience often view the purchase of a boat as a rather daunting task. It need not be that way.

Buying a boat requires some homework and plain commonsense. Armed with both, you can avoid the pitfalls that can come with making a relatively major purchase.

In essence, the prospective boat buyer needs to answer some vital questions up front, namely: What do you want from the boat? Where will it be used? Will your existing motor vehicle serve as a suitable tow vehicle?

Let's take the questions one at a time.

What do you want from the boat? If you're a mad keen 'fisho' then it's apparent a specialist water ski boat is not on your 'must have' list. Likewise, if you think the waterways are strictly for skiing and boarding, you won't be lusting after a sport fishing boat.

There is however a sound alternative. For the family, where some enjoy fishing, the kids want to ski and wakeboard, and perhaps others simply prefer to enjoy the waterways, the answer is the style of boat known as ' the all-rounder.' All-rounders can be cabin boats or open runabouts, but if water sports such as skiing and wake boarding are on the schedule you must ensure your intended purchase has adequate horsepower. We'll come to that later.

The next question: where will the boat be used? If you intend to use the boat offshore, as in blue water angling, then avoid ski boats at all costs. They invariably have low freeboards (the distance between the boat’s side and the water surface) and are designed for protected waterways. If you’re an estuary angler with no plans to head wide, there are many choices, including flat-bottomed punt-style craft.

The third and final question (and a very important one!) concerns your motor vehicle. Will it serve as a suitable tow vehicle? For owners of four-wheel drives, there’s no problem. For the family sedan, however, care and consideration must be given to its ability to effectively haul a trailer boat, not only along the highway (the easy part) but allowing for launching and recovery at boat ramps.

We’re now faced with another decision: fibreglass or aluminium? While it’s largely a matter of personal choice, there are distinct differences. Aluminium boats are much lighter than fibreglass boats of the same size. They need less horsepower to perform and consequently are easier to tow and launch.

On the horsepower front, you’ll be confronted with a wide choice. A small boat (3.5 to 4 metres) will find any engine in the 25hp to 60hp range quite effective. Again, if skiing and ’boarding are the go, start with at least 75hp.

Happy hunting

When looking at second-hand boats, remember you have three separate components requiring inspection: the boat, the engine, and the trailer.

A well cared for boat is relatively obvious, even to an untrained eye, though hidden dangers can lurk within. As for the trailer, check its tyres, ensure the boat sits level and that its winch and jockey wheel are in good order. Engines are difficult to assess and it’s best to defer to the opinion of a trained outboard technician.

The safest option for inexperienced boaties is to buy boats – new or secondhand – from an authorised marine dealer who is a member of one of the State Boating Industry Associations (BIA). Check that your warranty covers the whole package (boat, trailer and motor). If there is no warranty and it’s a major purchase, be especially wary and consider getting a pre-purchase survey. Sadly, there is no boating equivalent of the economical motoring association pre-purchase vehicle inspections for boats. Marine surveys are expensive, but not as expensive as discovering your new beauty has osmosis, a crack in the hull or hidden corrosion that lands it in the scrap yard.

Inside knowledge

Having trouble figuring out exactly what you need? Hang around a busy boat ramp on a sunny Sunday morning. Watch boats being launched and don’t hesitate to approach strangers and ask questions about their boat. You’ll find boaters in general only too happy to talk about their pride and joy.

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