“Sea” Your Dream Come True: Top 5 Tips for First-Time Boat Buyers
Ahoy there, and congratulations on making the decision to become a boat owner! With over 200,000 registered boats in the state of Maryland, you’re about to join a diverse and welcoming community full of exciting opportunities to enjoy your love of the water. Make sure it’s all smooth sailing by following these tips when purchasing your first boat.
1. A Great
Sale Sail? Find the Perfect Boat for YOU
Your first step is figuring out what type and size of boat you want. This is a highly individualized choice based on what you’re planning to use your new boat for. A helpful analogy is to compare your boat search to car shopping: you wouldn’t buy a tiny hybrid if you were looking for something to tow your horse trailer would you? The same principle applies to choosing the right boat—consider your purpose. Generally speaking, there are three main boat categories that are briefly outlined below to jumpstart your search:
- CRUISING BOATS: If you’re searching for an ideal balance between entertaining guests and optimal mobility, then cruising style boats might fit the bill. Some are day-only boats, such as bowriders, while others, like express cruisers and motor-yachts, feature cabins, galleys, and other amenities suited for more extended-stay overnight trips. Furthermore, you could opt for a cruising sailboat if you enjoy contemporary sailing without a motor—indeed, many boating enthusiasts are in the market for sailboats that feature guest cabins and other cruising boat amenities in order to relax and enjoy the water on extended trips in a more traditional way.
- FISHING BOATS: Fishing boats are typically designed with open cockpits in the aft portion of the boat to maximize the available deck space required for fishing activities, which means less seating and smaller accommodations than on cruising boats. While you can use sailboats to fish, most boaters choose motorized boats because it is a less-involved sailing and steering process—allowing them to focus their attention on catching fish.
- WATERSPORT BOATS: These boats typically boast high-power engines and sleek profiles for those looking to waterski, wakeboard and parasail. Some of these boats are highly sophisticated and require additional training to operate safely and can be extra-costly to fuel—aspects to keep in mind when considering this class of vessel. Alternatively, sailboat racing is an extremely popular watersport (especially in the Annapolis area) for those looking for engine-free watersport boat options that combines mastery of mast-based sailing, speed and healthy competition all in one.
2. Tried & True or Brand New? Pros & Cons
After choosing the specific type of boat that best suits your needs, the next major decision is whether to go the new or used route. There’s no ‘right’ answer here—the choice will ultimately come down to a multitude of factors including budget, preferred amenities and your future plans. Here are a few pros and cons to weigh as you weigh your options.
- BUYING NEW: Purchasing a new boat is a smart move for soon-to-be owners who know exactly what they want and are planning to invest in a single boat for the foreseeable future. Perhaps you already have years of sailing experience during which you’ve compiled a “wish list” of features and amenities you prefer but just haven’t taken the “plunge” yet of buying your own boat. New vessels typically feature the latest and greatest when it comes to design and technology—making them more economical, reliable and customizable. Another plus are the warranty options to recover repair costs and maintenance fees from experienced professionals. However, these benefits come at a cost: new boats are significantly more expensive. Additionally, as is common with new boaters, you decide you prefer a different type/size of boat after logging some hours on the water, you won’t be able to recoup a large portion of your expenditure—the value of new boats depreciates significantly even after a short period of ownership.
- BUYING USED: According to a 2014 poll conducted by the National Marine Manufactures Association (NMMA), 60% of first-time boat buyers purchase a used boat—they can’t all be wrong can they? Far from it. There are a number of reasons why buying a used boat is a smart choice for the novice deckhand. From a financial perspective, used options are sensible choices if budget is a determining factor. Market data shows that the average buyer saves approximately 50% when buying a 5-year old model compared with the brand-new equivalent—which means more boat for the same money. Especially for new buyers, it might be a good idea to be conservative in your first boat purchase until you learn from experience what options you prefer and plan on upgrading after a few years “learning the ropes” with your first boat. Unfortunately, most dealers offer limited finance terms and warranties when it comes to covering used purchases, leaving you solely responsible for repair costs and maintenance if something goes wrong.
3. “Batten Down the Hatches”: Seal the Deal
Now comes the hard part: actually finding and buying your ideal boat. New boats are generally marketed through dealers—many of which carry a specific line, brand or model. This makes it easier to start your search: begin with finding out what dealers in your location offer the type of boat you want and then start narrowing down your options based on which offers the best price, warranty and financing options. Buying a boat is a significant investment, so do your homework before showing up at the dealership. Consult online consumer review sites and reviews as well as determining the actual value of the boat you’re looking to buy—a great resource is the NADA Guides Boat Price Guide.
The more you know, the better position you’ll be in when it comes to getting a fair deal from a trustworthy dealer. On the other hand, if you’re in the market for a used boat, your options can range from dealers, brokers or private listings. Brokers are individuals who don’t actually own the boats they’re selling and instead operate on a commission-based scheme operating as a middleman between you and the owner. Be sure to ask around your local marina or boatyard to get recommendations from others. If this isn’t an option, look for a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB) that are members of the Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA)—these titles indicate they’ve taken a comprehensive exam and pledged to abide by a code of ethical guidelines. Also, make sure your broker maintains a separate bank account for holding deposits and that your sales contract specifies all stages of the deal and how/when your investment will be returned if the sale doesn’t go through.
4. Avoid the “Rip (Off) Tide”: Hire a Marine Surveyor
If you pursue a used option, you’re taking a greater risk since you don’t know the history of the boat, its previous maintenance, prior accidents or structural damages. Consequently, if you’re planning to invest a few thousand dollars or more on a boat, you’ll want to hire an expert marine surveyor whose job it is to ensure the condition and value of your prospective boat. Although marine surveyors aren’t centrally regulated or licensed, a professional affiliation with the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC), National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) is generally a reliable indicator of their competency. Additionally, marine surveyors tend to specialize—choose a surveyor who commonly assesses the type of boat you’re planning to buy. Find a surveyor that operates independently, meaning they have no affiliations with boat brokers, dealers, and boat-repair shops—especially if that third party is the one selling you the boat!
5. Get Your Sea Legs (And Smarts!)
Before weighing anchor, first make sure you are familiar with all equipment and have proper first aid and emergency supplies. Additionally, Maryland law requires that anyone under the age of 16, operating a motorized vessel 11 feet in length or greater without a valid boating safety certificate, must be under the supervision of an individual 18 years of age or older who possesses a valid boating safety certificate or an individual born before July 1, 1972. Boating safety courses are offered throughout the State with a wide selection of prices, times and formats.
Regardless of what type of boat you purchase, be sure to visit Port Annapolis to enhance your boating experience. Port Annapolis caters to all types of boaters and all types of boats. From the blue water sailor to the weekend motor boater, we offer the marina services you need. Enjoy the beauty of our wooded, waterfront location with easy access to downtown Annapolis and Eastport while taking advantage of the areas best full-service marina.
Visit us at the 2015 Annapolis Boat Show, we’ll be in Tent C, Space 39!
October 8 – 12: United States Sailboat Show
October 15 – 18: United States Powerboat Show