Boat Buying Guide

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before starting your search, it’s in your best interest to do some reflecting.

  1. Who will you be taking out on boat days? It’s important not to underestimate your desired capacity.
  2. You may not be having big parties, but will you have friend groups over that want to take the boat out for a ride?
  3. Keep longevity in mind. If you have a couple of small children, they’ll be needing their own seats in a few years rather than sitting on a parent’s lap.
  4. Will there be fishing trips? Think about the conditions of the waters you will be frequenting. Lake Michigan has larger waves, while smaller lakes are more calm and steady.

Consider Upkeep Costs

When working out your budget, don’t neglect to factor in maintenance and storage costs. Depending on size, the seasonal cost can range from $1,000 to $6,000 for dock space, or more for indoor storage. Boat insurance is a smart option for newer boats, with an annual cost of a few hundred dollars. Maintenance costs vary based on the type of boat, but the average cost is around $2,000 per year. A good estimate is that you should expect to set aside 10% of the value of your used boat, or 2% of a new boat’s value for annual maintenance. There is indeed a lot involved in maintaining a boat: transmission fluid changes, oil changes, battery replacement, brake service, engine maintenance, cleaning, and winterizing to name a few. If you can’t budget the upkeep, you should probably wait on purchasing. It’s not a one-time purchase, but an investment that requires constant care.

Choosing a Type of Boat

Based on the type of places you plan on going and activities you envision for your boating days, you might have a number of boat models in mind. You can find a comprehensive list of boat types here. Jet boats, fishing boats, inflatables, wake boats, and cuddy cabins are just a few of the many options to consider. If you’re interested in watersports, a high-speed boat would be more of your caliber. There are logistics to consider; will you need a boat that can be transported by trailer? Do you need a cabin for overnight cruising? Will you want a propellor-powered or jet-efficiency boat? Then, there’s the matter of deciding on a new versus a used boat. So many choices to be made!

Shopping for a Boat

It cannot be understated how important it is to choose a reputable dealership. After narrowing down your boat search to a specific model, find a dealerwith years of experience, or find a dealer you trust who can help you decide on a specified model. Make sure to take ask to take the boat for a test drive! It’s important to make sure it’s running smoothly, just like you would a car. You can also call in a boat inspector, also called a marine surveyor, to examine the boat. After that, it’s time to look into boat financing options. You can acquire a boat loan from your bank, or arrange a payment plan through your dealership. There are also lenders who specialize in boat loans. Much like a car loan or home loan, you’ll need to meet qualifications such as credit and net worth. Aside from the basics, boat financing is pretty simple!

Remember Your Maintenance

A boat lasts for as long as the care that’s put into it. Find a place that does boat servicing that has plenty of experience in the industry, and establish a good relationship with them. If the dealership you bought your boat from offers services too, like Lakeshore Marine, all the better! They’ll be familiar with the model. You’ll need to contact your service company for winterizing or shrink wrapping each fall and schedule regular maintenance appointments for engine fixing, oil changes, battery replacements, and the like. Your servicer should be able to tell you how often your boat needs to be brought in for each. Make sure to have fun with your boat, and to take advantage of those sunny summer days! We don’t get many of those in Michigan.