Boat Guide

Boat Buying Guide

Introduction

Written by Remar Sutton
StraightTalk Spokesperson

A boat! If you've ever gunned the engine of any watercraft, whether it's a ten-foot dingy or a thirty-foot cruiser, or raised the sail on the smallest sailboat, you know how exhilarating boating can be. Who can worry on the water?

Well, actually, you have reason to worry a lot on the water if you haven't done your homework before you become the captain of your own vessel.

boats-mooredWhy? Buying a boat smart is probably harder than buying a car smart. First, there are literally thousands of boat manufacturers, including backyard entrepreneurs. Second, even the biggest boat builders produce relatively small numbers of crafts. Evaluating quality and reliability, therefore, is much harder to do.

Third, virtually no mandatory safety and quality guidelines are in place to protect you from buying junk or dangerous boats. Some boat sellers take advantage of this, and unfortunately, the worst boat salespersons make the worst used-car dealers look like saints.

Oh, we forgot to tell you the major reason buying a boat smart is harder than buying a car smart: Boats eat money. The cost of the boat itself and key accessories such as radios are only the beginning of the cash outflow:

  • What about "use" costs? (Gas and oil expenses alone can wreck a budget, even if you have only a small powerboat. A slip at a dock can cost more than your boat payment.)
  • What about insurance? (Usually higher than on a comparatively-priced car.)
  • Maintenance? (Boats generally require much more maintenance than cars—and boat mechanics generally cost more than car mechanics.)
  • Storage? (Some neighborhoods won't let you store your boat in your backyard—and paid storage can be expensive.)

Aside from budget items, the consequences of buying the wrong boat can be pretty heavy. Breaking down on the side of the road in a car can be inconvenient, but sinking can be really inconvenient.

That's why you need tough, unbiased information, both before you buy and after you buy. And that's why you're reading CCU's StraightTalk Boat Guide! Our guide will help you answer key questions as it saves you thousands and thousands of dollars. We also provide great, trustworthy links to teach you even more. Use these tools wisely, and boating will be the great escape you've always dreamed it would be.

So, let's go boating!



Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates. Reviewed and updated July 2016. All rights reserved.

Developing a Boat Budget


variety-boatsThere’s an old saying in the boat world: A boat is a hole in the water to throw money into. That’s fine if you’re a smart planner and determine in advance how much money you’ll need to support your boat’s lifestyle—and if you can afford the sum.

Do it wrong and your boat will probably gather cobwebs from lack of use (it happens to tens of thousands of boats each year), or, worse, you’ll be forced to sell it at a hefty loss. There’s a piece of good news here, too: At times, the best boat buy is a slightly used boat owned by a person who didn’t budget in advance. Your objective is to be the buyer of that boat, not the seller!

Here’s how to develop a realistic budget:

  1. Determine how much money you can afford to spend in total each month on a boat.This amount will cover both your boat payment and all other boat-related expenses.
    1. A tip: You’ll be needing this much money monthly for a number of years. The term for most boat loans, for instance is ten years. Plus, you must pay all the expenses related to the boat during the loan-term and after it’s paid off. Make sure your long-range budget incorporates these expenses.
    2. Write down the actual amount you’re willing to commit to a boat each month.
    3. Let’s say, as an example, that you decide you can afford to spend $600 per month in total for all your boat expenses.
  2. Determine how much money you will pay each month on the boat payment itself. Your boat payment should be lower than the total amount you budgeted for overall boat expenses.
    1. A tip: A conservative boat payment would be 60% of your total monthly boat budget.
    2. Determine the portion of your total monthly expense you want to dedicate to a boat payment. Write that down.
    3. In our example, the actual boat payment you could afford is 60% of $600, or $360 per month.
  3. Determine the amount of cash you have available to buy a boat. We call that “Available Cash.” Available cash is made up of two things:
    1. The cash your boat payment will buy you. A tip: Your credit union may finance 100% of your boat purchase price, and may not require a down payment, either. But because boats depreciate so quickly, we hope you’ll consider making a down payment to protect you from future liability when you decide to sell the boat.
    2. Any money you contribute as a down payment. “Available Cash” also includes any cash from savings or the sale of an old boat you plan to use as a down payment.
    3. Use the calculator on the right to help you determine your Available Cash figure. Just fill in the blanks and click “compute.”
    4. Write down your Available Cash amount. This is all the money you have to spend on a boat, including options and accessories. Let this amount determine how much boat you buy, new or used.

      A tip: If you don’t spend more than your “Available Cash” limit, you’ll be on budget, and be a happier boater!

 


 

Next: Sail or Power?



Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates. Reviewed and updated July 2016. All rights reserved.

Sail or Power?

What type and size boat fits the recreational activities you desire?

sailboatIf you already enjoy boating, you probably already know if you are a “stinkpot” lover or a sailor at heart. But you may not yet know just which type and size boat will meet your recreational goals—or fit your budget. The sites below can help you consider all the options.

A tip if you’re not a boater yet, or can’t decide whether you want to sail or motor.

Becoming part of a local boating club before you buy is a smart thing to do. Become involved with the right group, and you’ll learn about all types of boats, learn how to become a good crewmember, and generally gain your “sea legs.” The links below under “Find a boat club” can help you find one in your area.

What type of boat is right for you?

Find Your Boat, a page from discoverboating.com, provides descriptions of various types of powerboats and sailboats. You can select boats by activities, passengers, boat length, propulsion, and trailerable.

Boat Buyer's Guide. This guide raises questions to consider in choosing the right boat. It’s from Boat U.S., the Boat Owners Association of the United States (boatus.com).

Information about sailboats

SailAmerica.com has lots of information about sailboats and sailing. Types of Boats describes various categories and types of sailboats.

Choosing the Right Sailboat for You provides tips that will help you decide what type of sailboat fits your needs.

Information about power boats

discoverboating.com Sponsored by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, this site offers introductory information and numerous articles about power boating, links to other power boating sites, an international calendar of boat shows, and other information on safety, maintenance, and boat owners education.

Find a boat club

The US Sailing Association provides a search by state or zip code and lists sailing clubs, yacht clubs and other organizations.

United States Power Squadrons is a non-profit organization of boating enthusiasts who emphasize boating education and service to the community. Members belong to many local power and sail squadrons. They provide a search program to help you locate local squadrons.

In addition there are hundreds of boating clubs with a Web presence. A good way to locate other clubs near you is to enter “boating clubs” plus the name of your city and state on the search line of your favorite search engine.

 


 

Next: What Type of Engine?



Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates. Reviewed and updated July 2016. All rights reserved.

Should You Buy New Or Used?


wooden-boatBuying a new boat, rather than a used boat, may assure you of fewer problems and also usually gives you some type of manufacturer’s warranty. But boats generally depreciate much faster than automobiles (which is very fast), and some boat owners tend to give up boating quickly, thus sending some nice, lightly used boats to market at fire-sale prices.

That’s why used boats, bought the StraightTalk way, may be a very smart buy: you’ve let the other person pay for the depreciation.

Unlike new boats, the wholesale and retail values of a used boat are more easily determined. We’ll give you links to help you with that. But we can’t help you find the “dealer cost” of new boats. So far, no one has published a reliable new boat invoice guide.

New or Used? What’s Your Boating Pleasure

Want to take a break and daydream a bit? Here are some sites that will let you look at literally thousands of boats, new and used. You can also search most of these sites for specific boats by model and make, new or used. A little “window shopping” can help you identify boat makes and models that interest you and generally fit your budget. Caution: All these sites sell boats, so remember you are just browsing right now.

Make a note of the makes and models that seem to meet your needs. Note if those in your approximate price range are new or used. Then go to the next step—checking out their record of safety and reliable performance.

  • boattrader.com allows you to search classified ads by boat type, manufacturer and location. You can also browse by boat type.
  • iboats.com has classified ads for new and used boats. Each listing typically provides a photograph, basic description of the boat, and asking price.
  • boats.com allows you to search classified ads for new and used boats by boat type, price range, manufacturer and location.
  • sailboatowners.com features classified ads for sailboats of all sizes and prices.
  • Boat Manufacturers Websites listed by the Recreational Boat Building Industry lets you look at individual new powerboat lines. Sites are grouped by type of boat.

 


 

Next: Is the Boat Safe and Reliable?



Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates. Reviewed and updated July 2016. All rights reserved.

 

What Type of Engine?


inflatable-boatOutboard or inboard? Gas or diesel? Four-stroke or Two-stroke? The choice of engine and engine type dramatically impacts your pocketbook. Because many boat manufacturers are allied with engine manufacturers, these companies are always trying to limit your choice of engines to their partners. How do you know what’s best for you?

Manufacturer’s websites

Don’t expect the seller of any engine to tell you to buy some other manufacturer’s engine. But the engine manufacturers do give you specifications, including fuel consumption. The manufacturers’ sites also give you a chance to see the different types of engines available to you. For instance, what are the advantages of four-stroke over two-stroke? Here are links to key outboard engine companies.

Boating magazines

Many boating magazines provide useful comparisons of various outboard and inboard engines as well as general boat reviews.

Independent resources

Several independent authorities such as marine surveyors and technicians, can help educate you about marine engines (and lots of other topics, too.) Try these for a starter:

  • Marine surveyor David Pascoe offers over 150 articles on boats and boating including a number on marine engines.
  • Mastertech Outboard Motor Repair offers clear explanations of how four-stroke and two-stroke marine engines work and advantages of each.

 


 

Next: Buy New Or Used?



Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates. Reviewed and updated July 2016. All rights reserved.

Is the Boat Safe and Reliable?


family-boatingWhether you buy new or used, the key to smart boat buying is knowing the quality and condition of the specific boat you want to buy. We’ve got lots of good tips and sites here for you.

Check out boat reviews on the models you like.

The following are just a few of the many websites that offer boat reviews. You can also enter the name of the model you like into your search engine followed by “boat review” to search for reviews of that specific model.

  • Boating Magazine — New boat reviews.
  • Yachting Magazine — reviews high-end yachts.
  • Boat Reviews — By marine surveyor Jack Horner, N.A. on the boatus.com website.
  • Boat Reviews — By marine surveyor David Pascoe of Destin, FL. They may be searched by model or date. The introduction sets forth the basis and approach of the reviews; read it before going to specific reviews.
  • Practical Sailor — has reviews on sailboats and marine equipment.

Considering a used boat?

Critical Tip! Don’t buy a used boat without talking to the previous owner!

Ask them:

  • Who did you buy the boat from?
  • Why are you selling the boat?
  • Who was your boat mechanic and how do I call that person?
  • Did you keep maintenance records, and can I see them?
  • Did you ever have any insurance claims on this rig?
  • How long has the boat been for sale? (Boat owners are much more likely to negotiate if their boat has been on the market for a long time. This also goes for boat dealers.)

Critical Tip! Don’t buy any boat without taking it for an extensive “test drive.”

Even if you’re not a boater yet and are very uncomfortable at the helm, you must do this. Boats are like cars in many ways: you’ll feel comfortable in some of them and very uncomfortable in others. If you’re really too uncomfortable to take the helm, why not bring along an experienced boater to help you evaluate the boat in the water? A friend or a member of a boating club would do this just to help you. Or, you can retain a mechanic or marine surveyor to be the captain (not a bad idea, particularly if you are spending a lot of money on a boat. More on these people in a second).

What about buying a used boat and installing a new motor?

Remember that many boats themselves have a much longer useful life than the engines on those boats. You might be able to find a great older boat hull for little money, for instance, then put a new engine on the hull.

Give a used boat an initial check yourself.

If you've found a boat (particularly a used boat) that fits your wish list and budget, use the following checklists yourself to see if the boat has enough potential to have it checked-out thoroughly by a marine surveyor or mechanic. If the boat flunks your examination, you'll save time and money by crossing it off your list.

Critical tip: We can’t say this enough—don’t buy used marine engines or hulls without having them checked out by a marine mechanic or surveyor.

  • What’s a marine surveyor? A lot like a house appraiser, a marine surveyor looks at all elements of a boat, from engine to hull and in between, and determines its condition and value.
  • If you’re buying more than a used rowboat, you would be smart to retain a surveyor. Below are some sites to help you find one. Or, talk with a local boat dealer about the surveyors the dealer regularly uses. A tip: Make sure the surveyor is approved by banks to survey boats for financing institutions.
  • What are the key questions to ask any marine mechanic or surveyor? First, tell the mechanic about your conversation with the previous owner. Then ask the mechanic:
    • How much will it cost me to put this engine in really good running order?
    • How many useful hours does this engine have on it before I need to replace it or have it rebuilt?
    • Structurally, how is this hull, and how many years service will it probably give me?

Another big tip: “Safe and Reliable” applies to both engines and hulls.

Is the engine safe and reliable? Is the hull safe and reliable?

  • New engines are pretty easy to check out. Use the sites recommended on this guide’s page on marine engines.
  • Used engines are literally one-of-a kind. Many engines now have some form of “hour meter” built into the engine. Knowing the total “hours” on an outboard engine, in particular, is important. The length of engine warranties is usually determined by the number of hours on the engine, and the age of the engine. And virtually all engine warranties are transferable.

    But there’s only one way to know about the reliability and lifespan of a used engine: have it inspected by that trusty marine mechanic or surveyor we mentioned a minute ago. Don’t buy a used engine without having it checked out by a mechanic familiar with that type of engine! A fifty-dollar inspection may keep you from buying an engine that needs a thousand-dollar repair. Ask for the mechanic’s opinion in writing.

    A tip: if you’re buying a used engine from a franchised boat dealer, insist that the dealer—not the engine manufacturer—warranty everything they are selling you—the engine, the boat, the trailer. Some dealers will fight this, but the best dealers will generally provide a meaningful warranty, if you insist.

Checking out the hull and general construction

Generally speaking, in boat hulls, you get what you pay for. Some boats are virtually unsinkable because of expensive construction techniques (Boston Whalers, for instance, are regularly sawed in two to prove their unsinkability). Others can look just as seaworthy, but are flimsy in construction and durability.

At times, the least-known brand makes a boat better than the more expensive brand. Remember that at all times, the seller’s job is to tell you their boat is best! Here are some tips to help you gather relatively unbiased information about construction quality and general reputation concerning specific hulls.

  • Always get a written description of hull construction specifications and components for individual boats that interest you. Then compare those components and specifications to those of the top-line manufacturers. For instance, Boston Whalers, Contenders, and Grady White power boats are usually considered high-quality, oceanworthy boats. You can download specifications for these boats from the manufacturers’ websites, and compare them to individual boats you’re looking at.
  • Find some boat owners to talk to: Head to a large marina and look for boats made by the same manufacturer as the one you’re thinking about buying. Boat quality generally runs through a boat’s line-up, so an exact match isn’t key.
  • Also, search for websites or chat rooms hosted by owners of the type of boat you are considering buying. Boat owners are far and away the best source of information when it comes to boat reliability and durability.
    • The Resources section of BoatUS, the Boat Owners Association of the U.S., has Boat Groups, Boat Blogs,and Message Boards where you can find information about various boats from owners and boat experts.

Checking complaints on engine and hulls

BoatUS.com offers a great service which both reviews owners’ problems with specific boats and provides a mediation service when problems develop. You might want to bookmark this site.

The U.S. Coast Guard has a searchable database of safety defects and non-compliance in recreational boats and associated equipment. Other information available in the Recalls and Safety Defects section includes manufacturers identification, consumer safety defect report, product assurance branch, and boating safety circulars.

 


 

Next: Getting the Best Financing



Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates. Reviewed and updated July 2016. All rights reserved.

 

Is the Boat Safe and Reliable?


family-boatingWhether you buy new or used, the key to smart boat buying is knowing the quality and condition of the specific boat you want to buy. We’ve got lots of good tips and sites here for you.

Check out boat reviews on the models you like.

The following are just a few of the many websites that offer boat reviews. You can also enter the name of the model you like into your search engine followed by “boat review” to search for reviews of that specific model.

  • Boating Magazine — New boat reviews.
  • Yachting Magazine — reviews high-end yachts.
  • Boat Reviews — By marine surveyor Jack Horner, N.A. on the boatus.com website.
  • Boat Reviews — By marine surveyor David Pascoe of Destin, FL. They may be searched by model or date. The introduction sets forth the basis and approach of the reviews; read it before going to specific reviews.
  • Practical Sailor — has reviews on sailboats and marine equipment.

Considering a used boat?

Critical Tip! Don’t buy a used boat without talking to the previous owner!

Ask them:

  • Who did you buy the boat from?
  • Why are you selling the boat?
  • Who was your boat mechanic and how do I call that person?
  • Did you keep maintenance records, and can I see them?
  • Did you ever have any insurance claims on this rig?
  • How long has the boat been for sale? (Boat owners are much more likely to negotiate if their boat has been on the market for a long time. This also goes for boat dealers.)

Critical Tip! Don’t buy any boat without taking it for an extensive “test drive.”

Even if you’re not a boater yet and are very uncomfortable at the helm, you must do this. Boats are like cars in many ways: you’ll feel comfortable in some of them and very uncomfortable in others. If you’re really too uncomfortable to take the helm, why not bring along an experienced boater to help you evaluate the boat in the water? A friend or a member of a boating club would do this just to help you. Or, you can retain a mechanic or marine surveyor to be the captain (not a bad idea, particularly if you are spending a lot of money on a boat. More on these people in a second).

What about buying a used boat and installing a new motor?

Remember that many boats themselves have a much longer useful life than the engines on those boats. You might be able to find a great older boat hull for little money, for instance, then put a new engine on the hull.

Give a used boat an initial check yourself.

If you've found a boat (particularly a used boat) that fits your wish list and budget, use the following checklists yourself to see if the boat has enough potential to have it checked-out thoroughly by a marine surveyor or mechanic. If the boat flunks your examination, you'll save time and money by crossing it off your list.

Critical tip: We can’t say this enough—don’t buy used marine engines or hulls without having them checked out by a marine mechanic or surveyor.

  • What’s a marine surveyor? A lot like a house appraiser, a marine surveyor looks at all elements of a boat, from engine to hull and in between, and determines its condition and value.
  • If you’re buying more than a used rowboat, you would be smart to retain a surveyor. Below are some sites to help you find one. Or, talk with a local boat dealer about the surveyors the dealer regularly uses. A tip: Make sure the surveyor is approved by banks to survey boats for financing institutions.
  • What are the key questions to ask any marine mechanic or surveyor? First, tell the mechanic about your conversation with the previous owner. Then ask the mechanic:
    • How much will it cost me to put this engine in really good running order?
    • How many useful hours does this engine have on it before I need to replace it or have it rebuilt?
    • Structurally, how is this hull, and how many years service will it probably give me?

Another big tip: “Safe and Reliable” applies to both engines and hulls.

Is the engine safe and reliable? Is the hull safe and reliable?

  • New engines are pretty easy to check out. Use the sites recommended on this guide’s page on marine engines.
  • Used engines are literally one-of-a kind. Many engines now have some form of “hour meter” built into the engine. Knowing the total “hours” on an outboard engine, in particular, is important. The length of engine warranties is usually determined by the number of hours on the engine, and the age of the engine. And virtually all engine warranties are transferable.

    But there’s only one way to know about the reliability and lifespan of a used engine: have it inspected by that trusty marine mechanic or surveyor we mentioned a minute ago. Don’t buy a used engine without having it checked out by a mechanic familiar with that type of engine! A fifty-dollar inspection may keep you from buying an engine that needs a thousand-dollar repair. Ask for the mechanic’s opinion in writing.

    A tip: if you’re buying a used engine from a franchised boat dealer, insist that the dealer—not the engine manufacturer—warranty everything they are selling you—the engine, the boat, the trailer. Some dealers will fight this, but the best dealers will generally provide a meaningful warranty, if you insist.

Checking out the hull and general construction

Generally speaking, in boat hulls, you get what you pay for. Some boats are virtually unsinkable because of expensive construction techniques (Boston Whalers, for instance, are regularly sawed in two to prove their unsinkability). Others can look just as seaworthy, but are flimsy in construction and durability.

At times, the least-known brand makes a boat better than the more expensive brand. Remember that at all times, the seller’s job is to tell you their boat is best! Here are some tips to help you gather relatively unbiased information about construction quality and general reputation concerning specific hulls.

  • Always get a written description of hull construction specifications and components for individual boats that interest you. Then compare those components and specifications to those of the top-line manufacturers. For instance, Boston Whalers, Contenders, and Grady White power boats are usually considered high-quality, oceanworthy boats. You can download specifications for these boats from the manufacturers’ websites, and compare them to individual boats you’re looking at.
  • Find some boat owners to talk to: Head to a large marina and look for boats made by the same manufacturer as the one you’re thinking about buying. Boat quality generally runs through a boat’s line-up, so an exact match isn’t key.
  • Also, search for websites or chat rooms hosted by owners of the type of boat you are considering buying. Boat owners are far and away the best source of information when it comes to boat reliability and durability.
    • The Resources section of BoatUS, the Boat Owners Association of the U.S., has Boat Groups, Boat Blogs,and Message Boards where you can find information about various boats from owners and boat experts.

Checking complaints on engine and hulls

BoatUS.com offers a great service which both reviews owners’ problems with specific boats and provides a mediation service when problems develop. You might want to bookmark this site.

The U.S. Coast Guard has a searchable database of safety defects and non-compliance in recreational boats and associated equipment. Other information available in the Recalls and Safety Defects section includes manufacturers identification, consumer safety defect report, product assurance branch, and boating safety circulars.

 


 

Next: Getting the Best Financing



Prepared for Corning Credit Union by Remar Sutton & Associates. Reviewed and updated July 2016. All rights reserved.

 

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