Boat sales have surged over the past few years. In 2019, about 280,000 boats were sold in the U.S. – the second-highest total since 2007. If you’ve long wished to take to the waters in your own vessel and are now ready to commit, take a moment to consider these six tips before sealing the deal.

It’s true that sailing in your own boat can make you happier, more satisfied, and gives you more freedom to plan your own adventures. And, since boats are often worth more than cars, it’s easy to get more money out of them if you need to through boat title loans. However, you should carefully weigh your options before purchasing a watercraft to avoid falling into a financial pitfall. Here are things you need to look into before talking to a dealer.

What Do You Want to Do on Your Boat?

The most basic question you should ask yourself before buying a boat is what you want to do with it. Are you a fishing enthusiast? Do you want to explore different places with options for sleeping and cooking? Do you want a speedboat for water sports? Once you figure out your main reason for investing in a boat, it narrows down the decision about which kind of boat to purchase.

Other things that will impact your decision include the waters you plan to use your boat on, how often you will use your vessel, and how many people you need to accommodate if you plan to cruise with friends or family. Thankfully, you can often find a multi-purpose boat that can be used for various activities. Just make sure it has all of the amenities you feel are most important to you.

Consider All Boating Costs

It’s a wise idea to consider the initial and ongoing costs of boat ownership before taking the plunge. This is true since the cost of ownership goes way beyond the initial purchase. Some of the expenses you need to be aware of include:

Fortunately, these costs shouldn’t discourage you from exploring the world in your own vessel. For instance, you can save money by creating a maintenance schedule, learning to perform some of the maintenance tasks yourself, comparing the insurance rates of different companies, examining your sails frequently, and fixing problems as soon as they emerge. Also, note that the smaller and simpler the boat is, the lower the ongoing costs of ownership.

Decide if You Want New or Used

Should I buy new or used? This is probably one of the toughest decisions a first-time boat buyer has to make. The answer to this question boils down to two things: your budget and your personal taste. The best thing about a pre-owned vessel is that you get more boat for less money. The only problem is you cannot be 100% sure there are no underlying mechanical problems.

The cost might be steeper for new boats, but you are sure you are getting the latest innovation, plus a manufacturer’s warranty to back you up. If you are considering a used boat, research the brand, check its accident and claim history, test its performance, and inspect its physical appearance. Also, look for reviews, visit boating forums, and ask other boat owners about the model.

Learn How to Inspect a Boat

Just because you are buying a brand new boat from the showroom doesn’t mean it will always be ready for cruising. New boats sometimes come with manufacturer defects, and such issues can cause issues later. Before heading to the boat market, learn some basic skills in boat inspection. When you go for the showroom, take these actions:

  • Walk around the hull looking for any defects
  • Check if the engine numbers match those on the contract
  • Make sure the deck hardware is installed securely
  • Look for leaks under the boat

This knowledge will enable you to spot any problems and raise your concerns before signing the papers. It can also help you bring the price down during negotiations. Even after learning how to examine a boat, it’s still advisable to partner with a certified inspector who isn’t associated with the dealer. A professional will perform a more detailed analysis and ensure you make a sensible buy.

How to Protect Your Investment

Just like owning a car, boat ownership also comes with its risks. Your boat could get stolen, vandalized, or damaged by another boat. Before making a purchase, do your homework about where you’ll store your vessel. Is the local marina safe? Are there frequent theft and vandalism incidents? Preferably, choose a marina that offers several layers of security.

Other helpful security precautions include removing any valuable items before docking, installing a digital alarm, and investing in a tracking device. To protect the boat from getting damaged when it hits the dock, use dock bumpers. If you store it at home, cover it, and keep it out of sight. Finally, research different insurance providers and look for one that offers adequate protection.

Get Familiar with Boating Etiquette

Some boating rules are obvious, some are written down in law, and others are unspoken. These unspoken rules, which are part of a code of conduct when you are on and around the water, help improve everyone’s safety and prevent you from inadvertently upsetting other boaters.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Watch the wake you create to avoid putting other boaters at risk
  • Keep your speed low when approaching the marina or other boats
  • Understand how the right-of-way works in the water
  • Learn to dock, launching, and anchoring best practices
  • Inform any guest you have onboard about the boating rules
  • If you are unsure of something, don’t be afraid to ask a dockhand or another boater

Early Education Makes You a Smart Buyer and Better Boater

If you are a water lover and you want to take your aqua adventures to the next level, a boat will help you do just that. You’ll have more freedom to explore and create some memorable moments. However, buying a boat is one of the biggest investments you will ever make, so you must take your time and explore different options before committing. This guide will help you start your search for a recreational vessel on the right foot.