7 Must Answer Questions When Buying A Boat

Buying a boat takes thought and whether to buy new or used can be a tricky decision. It is not as simple as buying a car, and it is also more expensive than any other mobile. You’ll have many different options but limited knowledge as a first-time buyer. You’ll see many great models with high and low prices. When initially looking at boats, almost everything looks good. Every feature is unique, and every brand can look high-quality.

In many cases, first-time buyers tend to buy brand new boats, thinking they would use the boat’s features, accessories, and overall benefits first hand. However, given that new owners don’t know how boats and boating really work, it can also be wise to buy a pre-owned boat first to learn its mechanics. And in the future, when you get familiar with it, you can swap it and buy a new one.

Buying a boat? 7 questions you must answer.
What to look for when buying a boat

Since boats are mostly expensive, you don’t want to put your money to waste. What you want is something that will not only fit your budget but something that can meet or exceed your expectations. And so, before making an impulsive purchase, you should first research and answer a few questions to ensure that you won’t go the wrong way.

Thus, to help guide you, here are some of the must-answer questions that may come in handy.

Table of Contents

Buying a Boat. New or Used : Which One to Choose?

When shopping for your boat, you have two options – buy a brand new or a used one. As a first-time buyer, you may think that new boats are the best. Who doesn’t want to have it brand new? Aside from the latest features, its performance, and reliability. But even if you can afford to buy a new one, there are a lot of advantages that you can get from purchasing pre-owned boats.

Buying a Used Boat

One of the many factors for choosing a used boat is its price. While there are affordable new boats available out there, the cost of used boats compared to new ones is exceptionally lower. If you are on a tight budget and you want to own a suitable vessel, resorting to used boats can be in line for you. Not only is the price lower, but used boats can also hold their value, which is not bad at all.

Like cars, boats also undergo depreciation. However, many dealers will ensure that although the value has curved downwards, it can still work as well. As much as this is true, you should be wary of what you’ll get. Since you’re looking at used boats, suspect that they have been driven hard and have gone through the rough waters. As a buyer, check everything that needs to be inspected, including the motor, hull, hardware, and other parts that could cost you thousands of dollars to get fixed. If you are keen on details, you can also inspect broken or worn-out interior and exterior features that aren’t that noticeable.

Buying a New Boat

New boats can undoubtedly give you those advantages regarding originality, convenience, and reliability. New boats give you precisely the kind of boat you want to have – clean, spotless, fresh. There’s nothing to think about at all. There are no troubles with the engine, the seats are glossy, the model is trendy, and the overall boat is magnificent. And if you experience issues with any of the mechanisms, there should be a warranty to cover it.

One of the main advantages you get from new boats is that although their price is higher than pre-owned units, you can guarantee quality and reliability. You won’t need to pay for repairs and maintenance because the components are brand new.

Axis A20 wakeboard boat
image credit: Axis Boats

Traps to Avoid When Buying a Used Boat

Used boats can be beneficial in many ways, but they can have hidden drawbacks. The last thing you would want is to encounter issues after buying it. Checking in detail might be time-consuming, especially with paper works but it can save you money, time, and effort in the long run. Thus, to avoid trouble, here are some of the things that you should check before purchasing a used boat.

  • Title
  • Registration
  • Hull trace
  • Taxes
  • Bill of sale
  • Purchase agreement
  • Payment

To make sure that you check the above details correctly, you can get a legal adviser to do the work for you.

What Size Boat Do I Need?

As a part of your purchase, you should also know which boat size to choose for your long-term use. Since most people are not familiar with boats, they misestimate the dimensions. Hence, one of the best ways to measure whether a vessel will fit your family or not is to bring them with you.

On average, a good-sized family boat should measure at least 20 feet in length. The size can be adjusted between 15 feet to 30 feet, depending on the number of your family members. The type of boat, and more importantly, its purpose – fishing, lounging, or water sports- will also govern the size needed.

As a general rule of the experts, you should always consider adding 2 to 3 feet more of the size you would need. For instance, you estimated that an exact length of 15 feet boat would be able to accommodate all your guests, add three more feet so there would be enough space for them to move around. Since boating is supposed to be fun, you might not be able to enjoy it if the area is too small. So, what you want is to have more room to host your guests.

Choosing the size for your boat can be confusing, which is why we gathered various family sizes and their equivalent boat lengths, as indicated in the table below, to assist you.

Family Members

Manageable Boat Length

Recommended Boat Length


10 ft

12 ft and up


13 ft

15 ft and up


16 ft

18 ft and up


18 ft

20 ft and up


21 ft

22 ft and up


22 ft

24 ft and up


24 ft

25 ft and up


25 ft

26 ft and up


27 ft

28 ft and up

Boat on trailer in San Francisco storage yard
Size is important when buying a boat

Do I want to buy a Sailboat or a Powerboat

Choosing which type of boat to own is easy as long as you know how you intend to use it. In terms of the price, sailboats and powerboats are almost the same. But while they are equally excellent and similar in some ways, both provide unique advantages and disadvantages. Thus, to understand your preference better, here is a quick guide that can help you decide which one suits you best.


If you are a person who is after convenience and speed, a powerboat is a good choice for you. Speedboats are easier to operate and maintain since they don’t rely on the wind to move. Whenever you want to go from one destination to another, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. It won’t even take a while, given that powerboats have an exceptional speed. They are so fast that they can travel much quicker than sailboats. On a typical calm day, powerboats can travel at 15 to 20 knots (nautical mile per hour), while sailboats can only sail at 7 knots.

Powerboats are also spacious – you can even bring your whole squad with you. And if you are worrying whether you need skills to operate it, you need not because powerboats don’t require a lot of training, unlike sailboats. As soon as you understand the basics of how it works, the rest will come without difficulty.

Malibu m240 wakeboard boat
image credit: Malibu Boats


On the other hand, sailboats are the opposite of powerboats in terms of speed, operation, space, and training. They have less space and are more challenging to operate, but they also require patience and training. Since sailboats are wind reliant, they can use plenty of time and energy during trips.

If you observe, sailboats are quiet since they don’t rely on a motor to operate. This quietness is an advantage, especially for guests who want to relax. But what’s excellent about them is that they are environment friendly, which is a better option to connect with nature.

Although sailboats have a few drawbacks, costs are much lower since no fuel and upkeep costs are lower. They are also perfect for gentle cruising, giving you a sense of satisfaction that powerboats can’t provide.

Alcatraz Island plus Sailing Cruise on San Francisco Bay
image credit: Adventure Cat Cruises

Where Will I Store My Boat in Winter?

When it comes to boat storage, there are a couple of options that you can choose to keep your boat safe and dry during the coldest months of the year. Dry boat storage and indoor boat storage are two of the best options to secure your boat. Although they can be a little expensive, knowing their facilities are secure, you can relax. But since most boat owners are in the upper-middle class, they can store their boat in a dry backyard or dry storage indoors.

There, you will find other boats that range from small to large sizes.

In dry storage, your boat’s condition will be maintained as long as the area is undercover. What’s more, a shrink-wrap method done by a professional will also store your craft better.

What Are the Costs of Owning a Boat?

Have you noticed which type of people owns boats? Yes, they are mostly rich people. Owning a boat is quite expensive.

So if you are serious about having your boat, check this out first and think many times if you can afford everything listed below:

Purchase price

The purchase price alone is not low. Whether you intend on buying an old model, a new model, a used boat, or a new boat, owning one would cost you a minimum amount of $20,000. This cost is just equivalent to buying a not-that-bad old-fashioned small boat. But if you’re talking about the average price of a brand new family boat, it will typically cost you a hundred thousand dollars and above.


While taxes are not the same for every state, prepare yourself to include them in your list because you’ll never know when it will surprise you. For example, in South Carolina, where the bodies of water are fantastic, boat owners have to pay annual taxes amounting to 10.5% of the boat’s estimated value every time it spends more than 180 days in the state. While in Rhode Island, boat taxes do not exist.


Just like any other vehicle, boats have their fair share of registration fees. Keep in mind that this varies according to state.


If you are fortunate enough to get a spot at a mooring, paying a few hundred to a thousand bucks a year is enough to pay for a large boat. But if you want to skip the mooring, one trick is to find a boatyard where you can keep your boat in between sails for a seasonal cost.


Most vehicles need insurance, including boats. To make an estimate, the insurance rate of a boat is about 1.5% of its value. So if your boat is insured for $30,000, your insurance fee would be $450, which may still vary depending on if your location is a hurricane-prone region.


According to Bloomberg, the average maintenance fee per year is 10% of the overall cost of your boat. This maintenance cost includes servicing, cleaning, repairs, painting, etc.


During the off-season, you’ll need to rent a trailer to tow your boat to your yard. Usually, it would cost you around $300 to $2,000, depending on the size and location of your vessel.

Winter Storage

If you live in a warm area, finding winter storage might not be a problem for you. But in states where winter is heavy all year round, you may need to set aside a budget for it so you can hire someone to handle it for you.


While most boats are powered with gas, sailboats use the wind to run. Gas costs depend on your boat’s size, age, and type.

Safety equipment and accessories

Safety kits are essential anywhere, most especially for boats. You’ll never know when you need them, which is why investing in safety equipment, tools, and accessories like life vests, throwable flotation devices, fire extinguishers, and the like should be a priority.

Other miscellaneous costs

Additional fees not included in this list would go on this bullet point.

*The cost of the listed fees varies for every boat. The list is just an overview of the expenses you will face annually.

Finding Someone to Maintain Your Boat

Summer is the most exciting season for boat owners. It is the best season to ride on a boat and hang out with family and friends, which also means that it is the perfect time for maintenance. For the most part, your boat will stay out in the waters, and to make sure you get the most out of your boating experience, having it checked once in a while is a must.

Like cars, boats have a maintenance checklist that you need to follow. If you neglect it, your boat might end up as a money pit. Thus, to prevent this from happening, you should make a schedule for your boat’s maintenance.

As an owner, you should be responsible enough to check your boat and be familiar with it. This knowledge includes understanding its parts, locating them, and knowing a few things on how to handle minimal troubles. More importantly, aside from yourself, finding someone to trust with your boat is one of the most important things to consider.

Regular Maintenance – Do it yourself or use a professional?

Boating is expensive, and of course, after spending so much time and money with your prized possession, you don’t want to lose everything in just a snap. While you can fix some problems yourself, some may need professional service. Instead of going to cheap marine mechanics you don’t even know, spend your money to pay a credible source. If you are not confident with your skills and knowledge, going to a known and trusted boat services company will surely save you some dollars.

Regular boat maintenance should include a check-up of the engine, hull, electrical wirings, plumbing, upholstery, and many other features that you are not familiar with.

What Is Your Budget?

When purchasing a boat, the number one factor to ask is how much can you afford to pay? Your budget is important because you need to know how much is affordable and how much is too much.

Fortunately, there are loans available if your budget is short and you badly want to make a purchase. Whether you are sourcing from a local distribution or a private seller, securing payment through the help of financing institutions is a big help.

Final Words on Buying a Boat

Owning a boat can be tempting, especially if you have the money on hand. But that is not enough to make a final decision as there are many other expenses to consider on top of the purchase price.

The best tip is to evaluate your finances first and decide when you are ready. Set aside your emotions and ask for advice from experienced individuals to get a better insight into this matter.

Some of the links in this article are "affiliate links", a link with a special tracking code. This means if you click on an affiliate link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. The price of the item is the same whether it is an affiliate link or not. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers. By using the affiliate links, you are helping support our Website, and we genuinely appreciate your support.

Leave a Comment