9 Things to Know Before Buying a Boat

A group of children jumping into a lake from a boat.

Summer is just around the corner, which also marks the arrival of boating season. However, before you rush out to buy a boat, there are important factors to consider. After all, boats are a significant investment – far beyond their sticker prices.  

Whether you want a small boat for fishing trips or a larger boat for tubing excursions, you’ll want to do your research. Here are 9 things you should consider before buying a new or used boat. 

1. Clearly Define Your Preferences 

Before purchasing a boat, take some time to think about how you plan to use it. Are you looking for a boat for fishing excursions, water sports, or leisurely cruising? Understanding your needs and preferences will help you narrow down the type of boat. You’ll want to consider factors such as size, speed, seating capacity, and onboard amenities when assessing your requirements. 

2. Determine Your Budget 

Boats come in various shapes, sizes, and price points. So, it's crucial to establish a realistic budget before starting your search. In addition to the upfront cost of purchasing a boat, don't forget to account for ongoing expenses such as maintenance, insurance, storage, and fuel.  

Remember that the initial purchase price is just one part of the financial commitment involved in boat ownership. Yes, buying and owning a boat typically carries higher costs than a vehicle.  

3. Research Different Types of Boats 

There are numerous types of boats available, each designed for specific activities and water conditions. From motorboats to pontoon boats, it's essential to research the pros and cons of each type to determine which one aligns with your needs. You’ll want to consider factors such as hull design, engine type, and fuel efficiency when evaluating different boat options. 

4. Inspect the Boat Thoroughly 

Before finalizing a boat purchase, conduct a thorough inspection to ensure that the vessel is in good condition. Check for any signs of damage, wear and tear, or mechanical issues that may require repairs.  

If you're unsure about what to look for, consider hiring a marine surveyor to provide a professional assessment of the boat's condition. Inspecting the boat before buying can help you avoid costly surprises down the road. It can also give you peace of mind, safety-wise, which is very important when you are out on the water. 

5. Consider Storage and Maintenance Needs 

Boat ownership involves more than hitting the water and having fun. You'll need to consider where and how you'll store the boat when it's not in use. Depending on the size, you may opt for marina storage, dry dock storage, or trailer storage.  

Also, you’ll want to factor in ongoing maintenance requirements such as cleaning, servicing, and winterization to ensure that your boat remains in its best condition. 

6. Get Proper Training and Licensing 

Operating a boat requires specific skills and knowledge to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the water. Boating regulations and laws vary by location, so it's crucial to educate yourself about local rules and requirements before hitting the water. You should consider enrolling in a boating safety course to familiarize yourself with navigation rules, emergency procedures, and other essential skills for safe boating. 

Familiarize yourself with speed limits, navigation rules, safety equipment requirements, and other regulations that apply to boating in your area. Compliance with boating laws not only ensures your safety but also helps you avoid costly fines or penalties for violations. 

7. Consider Insurance Options 

Boat insurance is a critical aspect of boat ownership that can provide financial protection in case of accidents, damage, or theft. Before purchasing a boat, research different insurance options to find a policy that suits your needs and budget.  

Talk to insurance providers about coverage options for liability, property damage, medical payments, and other potential risks associated with boat ownership. TwinStar can help members find insurance coverage for boats. For more information, visit our Insurances Services page. 

8. Understand and Plan for Ownership Costs 

In addition to the initial purchase price of a boat, it's essential to budget for ongoing ownership costs to maintain and operate the vessel. From fuel and maintenance expenses to registration fees and mooring costs, owning a boat comes with various financial obligations that you should consider before making a purchase.  

You’ll definitely want to create a comprehensive budget that outlines all your expected expenses to help you determine that you can afford to own and enjoy a boat. 

9. Don’t Rush Your Decision 

Perhaps the most important thing to do when buying a boat is to take your time and shop around. Don't rush into a purchase without exploring all your options and comparing different boats, dealers, and financing arrangements.  

Visiting boat shows, attending demo days, and consulting with experienced boaters can help you gather valuable insights and make an informed decision. There’s also a lot of helpful advice online – boat aficionados are very passionate and usually very happy to share thoughts and input.   

The bottom line: Buying a boat is a significant investment, so it's worth taking the time to find the right one that fits your preferences and budget.  

Final Thoughts 

Buying a boat is an exciting endeavor that requires careful planning, research, and consideration of various factors. Understanding what goes into owning a boat – as well as the total cost – can help you make informed decisions during the buying process. You want to make a purchase that aligns with your wants and doesn’t sink you financially. 

Whether you're a first-time buyer or an experienced boat owner, these tips can help you navigate the boat-buying process more successfully. 

Get a Boat Loan with TwinStar 

Are you in the market for a boat? We can help! We finance new and used boats. Take advantage of flexible term limits and the ability to shop for boats at over 100 dealers in Washington and Oregon. Get pre-approved for a TwinStar boat loan today.