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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boats For Sale

Boats for Sale
Boats for sale - deck-boat.  Good luck camping out on this!

Hooray!  You've finally decided to leave your boring, land-based life behind and venture out into the water.  I congratulate you on your nautical awakening!

If only buying that perfect vessel were as easy as shopping for a car.  Sometimes, the biggest roadblock (seablock?) to a prospective boater is finding the boat to buy.  Here is a great interactive boat selector tool from Discover Boating to play around with.

Unlike cars, boats come in very specific shapes and sizes, and each style comes with its own set of costs and trade-offs.  The cost of making the wrong decision here can be very high; for instance, many boaters opt for a deck-boat and discover their fondness for camping out (good luck!).  In addition, boats don't get retired as often as automobiles, meaning there are still plenty of vessels around from the '90s, '80s, and even '70s.  In fact, most of the vessels from earlier years were built stronger than more contemporary vessels, making the decision even more difficult!

The very best way to make a proper boat purchase is to fight the human condition and do LOTS of research.  I feel like I hear more stories out there about impulse boat buys than about impulse shoe purchases.  This often leads to 'I love my boat, but...'  Luckily, there are many tools out there to assist your process.

1. Start learning about vessel integrity and engine integrity.  There is no sense in falling in love with a vessel only to later learn that you completely neglected to look for all of the important structural issues (bonding, engine room space, blistering, cored vs. solid hulls, etc.).  Research online about the model years that use certain hull materials, boat manufacturers that use certain layout techniques to provide maximum maintenance space, and DON'T just rely on common sense.  I repeat: this is not a car, and you can't possibly know what to look for until you learn what to look for.

2. Beware glitz and glamor.  I have often found in my travels and research that the more glamorous a boat, the more problems it may have.  Case in point, I couldn't believe how great the layouts and prices were for a particular manufacturer's '90s product line.  I later found an article with case study after case study of poor hull molds, blistering issues, and fatal flaws in that series of boats.  No wonder why they were so cheap!

3. I do not believe that boating is a 'learn-as-you-go' type of sport.  I can't believe I ever cast off the dock the first few times, not knowing what I know now!  However, there is of course NO WAY to know everything about boating, so the sport is precisely a 'learn-as-you-go' experience.  But take this as a suggested lesson: at least admit to yourself that you probably have no idea what you're buying, so go that extra mile to find out all of the information you can.  Even if you can't know it all, your extra pre-purchase Google search might turn up a tidbit of information that could save your bacon (and your cash).

4. Do a survey.  Do two surveys.  Take a test drive.  Take two test drives.  Open every hatch, twist every lever, push every button and play with every knob.  Use the toilet (politely).  Run every system for a good several minutes at least.  I am shocked by how many nautical authors say something like, 'I knew exactly what to look for as it was my Xth boat, but the survey failed to turn up Y problem...'  Note to self: surveys are by no means comprehensive or usually accurate.  Go through the boat WITH the surveyor.  In fact, hire a good surveyor to begin with!  Ask for references and check up on those references.

5. Use a broker - they can be knowledgeable and can help streamline your process.  However, they are trying to sell you a boat, so take their recommendations (including a surveyor recommendation) with a grain of salt.  Be smart here - thousands of dollars hang in the balance!

6. When you've found your perfect boat, don't buy it.  Give yourself a three-day waiting period in which you spend time online finding another boat.  If you're with me so far, you'll remember that there are lots more choices for boats out there than there are cars.  That means you may very well find a better deal, or learn something new about the boat you're purchasing, or learn something new about how you want to use the boat!

7. During your three-day waiting period, double check your estimates on fuel, insurance, docking fees, maintenance, winterization, etc.  Then add a large (20-30%) margin and you'll be much more accurate.  Ask yourself if you need this much boat, or if there might be a cheaper alternative.  Do you need twin engines even though you never leave sight of land?  On the other hand, are you sure you don't want to sleep on it every so often?

Here is a good resource to get you started on your purchase.  You'll quickly realize from the terminology alone that there are a ridiculous amount of things to learn before buying.  But the good news is that you're already online reading this, so you can start right now!

Finally, no matter what you buy, you're always going to want a bigger and better boat.  So use this purchase as practice for the next one!  Happy hunting!

Some sites to get you started on your search:
http://www.boats.com/
http://www.boattrader.com/
http://www.yachtworld.com/
http://www.iboats.com/ 
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