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Getting a new boat? Think before you buy!

It's getting to be springtime and for many of us that means we're going to invest time and money in a new or used boat. Before you visit a showroom do yourself a favor and consider the following ideas.

1. Decide what the primary use of your boat will be. Fishing boats are very different from luxury cruisers. A freshwater bass boat is not suitable for offshore fishing for kingfish or marlin.

2. Consider who is going to use your boat. If you are married or heavily involved and plan on the boat being a regular family activity think about getting a boat that features a head and lots of shade. I love my little 15' runabout, but it's easier to get my wife and young son to go to the dentist for a root canal then out for a day's fishing because she is modest and he doesn't like sitting out in the sun all day. So, in the past I spent a lot of time fishing alone. This year I purchased a used walk-around and the addition of a cuddy-cab, head, and better ride have quickly made me a family man again.

3. Consider the big picture regarding the cost of the boat . If you aren't paying cash, your going to be getting a monthly reminder in the form of an extra payment year round. Can you really afford it? Find out what financing options are available. Have you considered all of the electronics and little extras like storage, gas, maintenance, insurance, and towing vehicles? These things add up quickly. Don't plan on storing a 25' boat in a 24' garage. It doesn't work.

4. Gas consumption is a real factor in boats. My walk-around has a 92 gallon fuel tank and a 200 hp engine. It tends to be thirsty. Be trueful with yourself regarding whether or not you are willing to foot the bill. Don't get into the rut of thinking that you'll always be able to find somebody who wants to go out on your boat and pay for your gas. Everybody you know will want to go out, but very few will want to pay or even help pay for gas. If you have to think about the gas don't buy the boat.



5. Know what the real towing capacity and towing speed of your vehicle is. I blew out the engine on a 4-cylinder trooper pulling a 1200 lb. boat. The Trooper was rated to pull over 2000 lb. but the engine didn't make it to 60 thousand miles. It was a very expensive lesson.

6. Make your your trailer is suitable for hauling your boat. Boat trailers can make towing easy or hell. The first trailer I had (the one recommended by the dealer) was inadequate for the boat. Subsequently, I had to get rid of it after several expensive and potentially dangerous breakdowns. Even without these major problems it was difficult to get the boat on and off the trailer and it never seemed to ride right behind my car. The replacement I got made all the difference in the world. It pulls easy and loading and unloading are simple.

7. It can be very dangerous pulling a boat behind a improperly equipped vehicle. Just recently on I-95, I saw a little Suzsuki 4X4 pulling a 1500 lb. plus rig. The car was being whipped about by the trailer and the driver didn't have the sense to slow down. I didn't stay around to see whether or not he'd make it to his destination, but that man was a hazard to both himself and all of the other drivers on the road. For serious towing I recommend either a pickup truck or a large utility with a V8 (like a Suburban). All due regards to these cute sport 4X4's with their V6 engines for fuel efficiency, but they don't have the wheel base, weight, or
horsepower to pull around a 2000 lb. plus boat and trailer.

So maybe you've thought about the above. Are you set to go to the showroom. I don't think so. Most of us tend to be rather spontaneous in our decisions to buy. Spend some time contacting boat manufacturers about what they have available in the way of models, construction, and options. Boat shows tend to be good places to see a variety of makes and models, but watch out for the salespeople. Typically, they are not very honest (and in many cases not very knowledgeable). Collect brochures, make notes about what you like and dislike. Ask about pricing. If you get a price write it down and note the name of the salesman. Any price they give you at a show they should be able to repeat after you've had a day or two to think about it. Ask about package deals. Its easier to get all your electronics, biminis, and options financed in one low payment then having to worry about adding on later, but make sure that your getting the quality of equipment that you want.

Now your set to go buy a boat. Contact the dealers that have the brands you want and look them all over then make your best purchase. It might take a little more time to use this approach but in the long run you'll probably end up being a happier boater.