So Ya' Wanna Buy a Boat
Maybe you’ve been to the boat show and been wowed by the blue-zillion dollars worth of fabulous boats on display. It’s a proven scientific fact that no one is capable of walking out of the boat show without wanting one.
Buying your first boat isn’t as easy as going to a dealer and saying, “I’ll take that one.” Well, actually it is, but if you’re slightly more deliberate, there’s a lot to consider and a lot to learn.
Boats have become very sophisticated and highly specialized. Every boat is designed to do something very well. So the first thing you need to do is give some serious thought to what you want to do with the boat. Skiing? Wakeboarding? Fishing? Sailing? Partying? Or maybe just leisurely cruising around the lake. Boats have purposes, and you should too.
The next consideration is where your new boat will sleep at night. Do you have access to a dock, or will you be towing it to the lake every time you use it? And if so, is your present car capable of towing a lot of weight? If not, are you prepared to trade your current ride for something beefier? Pay particular attention to the braking capacity of whatever tow vehicle you choose.
Boating is not a cheap hobby. Owning a boat costs a lot more than, say, chess, wine-making, photography or bowling. So you want to make sure the boat you select is the one that’s going to give you the most pleasure, now and in the years to come.
Do you know people who own boats? Talk to them before you go shopping. Ask good questions. What do they use their boat for? What do they like best about it, least about it? Any problems with it? If they had it to do over, would they buy it again? Would they recommend it?
When you do go shopping, remember that there are a lot of boats to choose from and a lot of dealers to buy them from. Know the difference between a dealer who is happy to sell you anything you’re willing to buy, and one who will take time with you to help ensure you get the boat that’s right for you.
To give you some insight into some of the things that are important for you to know when buying your first boat, I talked with Dave Greenamyer at Boat Dock Sales in Lexington, North Carolina.
Dave told me he has a lot of first-time buyers and finding the right boat for them can be a challenge, because they often come in knowing what they want, but not what they need. Often, they arrive with a firm idea of what they want based on irrelevant information and conflicting opinions.
The day I talked with him, he told me he’d just finished spending a lot of time with a first-time buyer. The only thing his buyer knew for sure was how much money he had to spend.
What he thought he knew for sure was that he needed a 22-foot boat with a 90-horsepower engine.
So, Dave started asking him questions. What did he want to do with the boat? What were his expectations of it? What lake was he going to put it on? Hearing and reflecting on his answers to Dave’s questions, his buyer decided what he really needed was a 24-foot boat with 115-horsepower.
But that boat wasn’t going to satisfy his buyer’s needs. Based on what his buyer told him, Dave decided the 24-foot boat he’d chosen would need 150-horsepower.
At this point, Dave’s buyer was doing a lot of head scratching. A dealer more concerned with closing the sale, rather than having a happy customer and making a friend, would have sold the man something.
What Dave did was the right thing. He sent his customer home to consider all the things they had discussed. He also referred him to a customer who owned two similar boats and would be willing to share his experiences and give some advice.
As a first-time boat dealer, this is perhaps your most important consideration. Someone willing to take all the time you need, ask the important questions, and guide you to the right boat.
Buying your first boat isn’t anything to fear. You just need to be careful, patient and willing to learn. Understand that there are no right or wrong boats, only boats that are right or wrong for you. With sufficient thought and careful guidance, you’ll end up with the right boat, and hopefully, years of enjoyment.