10 Common Mistakes First Time Boat Buyers Make

The recreational skipper might not know the bow from the stern, but he sure fancies that pretty watercraft with the “for sale” sign. Beware! There are 10 common mistakes associated with buying new boats that will turn the craft into a money pit or worse. What are they?

1. Too little Power

Racing and water sports require ample horsepower. Sailing, on the other hand, is a completely different activity. Just like you wouldn’t buy a Yugo to go racing, you might want to be careful if the boat just putters.

2. Too much Power

Is there such a thing as too much power? In fact, there is. If entertaining or some simple freshwater lake fishing is your recreational ambition, then the excess horse power is not worth the money. Discover Boating offers a boat selecting tool that helps aspiring watercraft owners pinpoint the right models.

3. No NMMA Certification

The National Marine Manufacturers Association certifies marine vessels of all types. Think of it as the Underwriters Laboratories of the boating world. Of all the boat buying mistakes the consumer can make, failing to ensure that the vessel is certified can actually lead to dangerous situations. Certified boats guarantee an adherence to safety standards and federal regulations. Lack of certification might have you paddling about in someone’s bathtub.

4. Failure to shop around

Boats are not impulse buys. It may be difficult to resist the Siren song of the trailer with the low price tag, but it could be possible to find a similar boat — for the same price — at a marina dealership. Better yet, wait until the next boat show, when manufacturers are slashing prices to get new buyers.

5. Failure to budget

Common mistakes buying new boats involve the budget. Nothing gets a boat repossessed quicker than a mistake in this area. Remember: The real cost of boat ownership is the storage and maintenance, not the initial purchase price.

6. Skipping the test ride

Boats have excellent land performance; it is their water performance that can be a bit of an issue. Whether you buy a brand new model or a used vessel, always take the boat for a test ride. While it may be supremely seaworthy, what you really want to look for is ease of handling, proper allocation of amenities and logical setup of gadgetry. This test ride also reveals if you are looking at a boat that has way more costly bells and whistles than you really need or want. Conversely, it highlights if you are sorely missing some must-have amenities.

7. Excusing shoddy Workmanship

This is an especially common mistake if the price tag is really low. It is easy to excuse ripped vinyl, hard seats, peeling laminate and a squeaky ladder. Once you own the boat, you’ll forget the cost; instead, you are left with all the details that now detract from boating enjoyment.

8. Fly-by-night Dealers

Dealerships go out of business, but the need for boat maintenance does not end. A big boat buying mistake is the going-out-of-business sale. Remember: once the dealership is gone, so is the warranty service. Stay with an established dealership that has been in business for a while.

9. Warranty Shenanigans

The selling owner proudly displays the boat’s warranty that still has a couple of years on it. Read the fine print! Some of these warranties are not transferable and only apply to the original buyer. As you tow away the boat, the warranty effectively ends. This also applies to the consignment boat on the dealership lot, even if it is virtually brand-new!

10. Missing or unreadable Title

Would you buy a car without a title? If you’re smart, the answer is “no.” The same applies to buying a boat. Each boat has a title. In order for you to actually own the boat, you must have title to it. A seller who cannot produce a title may have something to hide, such as co-owners of the boat, who are unwilling to sign off on the sale. Avoid this boat buying mistake, no matter how low the cost of the water vessel might be.


Discover Boating: “Boat Selector”

National Marine Manufacturers Association: “Certification”