Home Boating Courses Boating Tips Safety Links Ship's Store Search


Buying Your Own "Hole In The Water"

The two most widely-used sayings about boats are that they are "holes in the water, into which you throw money" and "the happiest day of a boat owner's life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it." Although many people believe these axioms are true, they don't necessarily have to be if you approach boat ownership with an understanding of what is involved.

Look Before You Leap

Many people are unhappy boat owners because they buy the wrong boat. Before you dive head first into the world of boat ownership, ask yourself a few questions that will help you focus on the kind of boat you will need.

Become An Old Salt

I'm sure there are many books on the subject of buying a boat that you could probably get at your local library or book store. Learn the terminology of boating, hang out at the local marina and talk to people about boats. By talking to boat owners you will find out what problems they have encountered and how different kinds of boats handle. You'll also find what features they like and dislike.

When looking for a boat you will want to consider it in terms of:

New vs. Used

A brand, spankin' new boat can be beautiful to look at but you should be aware that it can also have its own problems. Sure it's under warranty and you don't personally have to spend time on maintenance and repairs. However, you can't use the boat when it is in the shop.

I could tell you a long story here but I'll try to keep it short. I was recently employed by a very nice, and very inexperienced, couple to give private lessons on their brand new 42' sportfishing boat. (I will not give the manufacturer's name or that of the broker, who was to prepare and deliver the boat, in order to protect the guilty.)

This was a one-half million dollar boat and the new owners paid the broker $26,000 for prep and delivery, not to mention the $50,000 commission. Needless to say, the two weeks of training turned out to be less than ideal when the boat was continually torn apart to fix one thing after another.

Just to give you a feel for the disaster, some examples were:

Needless to say, this couple were on the verge of getting out of boating before they got started. The point is, although a new boat is something to be treasured, it may be wise to at least consider a used boat.

Used boats don't come without problems either and to find that perfect one can be a time consuming headache. If you are spending a considerable amount of money on a boat you might want to consider having it surveyed by a qualified marine surveyor. I stress qualified because at this time anyone can call themselves a marine surveyor. Ask at the local marina for a recommendation and make sure that they are a member of either, or both, of the marine surveyor associations. You can call the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors - SAMS and they can recommend a surveyor in your area.

Become A Boat Detective

Whether you employ a surveyor or not, you should know some of the things to look for if you have decided to buy a used boat. A keen eye, a good ear and a checklist will lead you to potential problems. Some of the things to look for are:

This should keep you busy for a while and frustrate the seller, but I've seen too many people burned by what appears to be a good deal. Like anything else, if it appears to be too good to be true it probably is.

This is just a quick list of things to consider when contemplating the purchase of a boat. It's not meant to take the place of employing the services of a qualified marine surveyor. A professional surveyor will check far more areas than we have the space to discuss here.

No matter where you buy your boat, remember that you, as skipper, are responsible for having the required safety equipment which is determined by the class of your boat. Do not assume your boat came from the showroom or factory with proper navigation lights, etc.

To Buy Or Not To Buy - That Is The Question

Many times it just doesn't make sense to own a boat when you can lease, rent or charter one. Several years ago, when I was the proud owner of a large sail boat, my marine insurance policy was up for renewal. Unfortunately, I was also the owner of a career and, as many of us tend to do, was absorbed in my work and rarely had time to use the boat. When my insurance bill came, I thought perhaps I should calculate how much this asset, that I was neglecting, was costing me. During the prior two years the boat cost approximately $6,000 every time I used it. I immediately became a motivated seller, since I knew I could charter the same boat in the Caribbean for about $3,000.

There is much more to the expense of owning a boat than just the 20 percent down payment. You need to consider all the factors to get a complete picture of how big that hole in the water really is. The following worksheet should help put things in focus.



Monthly Payments X 12
Registration Fees
Trailer Registration
Dock Fees
Fuel and Oil
Winter Storage (if needed)



Now that you have estimated the cost of ownership, shop around and price renting, leasing, and chartering. If the use of your boat is limited by season or other factors, it may be the wiser choice.

Now that I have thoroughly frustrated and confused you on the ups and downs of boat ownership, don't be discouraged. Owning and caring for a boat can be a very pleasant experience. It can be a relaxing diversion from an otherwise hectic world. It is a sport in which the whole family can participate.

An important note to end on: when you do become a new or used boat owner, be sure to take a boating safety course. Make sure that everyone who will be riding in or operating the boat takes a boating safety course as well. If you are a family of boaters, take the course together. You might be surprised at what you don't know.

Also see the Basic Boating Safety Course
Home Page


Home Boating Courses Boating Tips Safety Links Ship's Store Search

Copyright 1996/2016 Nautical Know How, Inc. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy
Standard Disclaimer
Contact Us