A 5-Step Guide that Streamlines
Your Boat-Buying Experience

Easy boat rentals can expand your operations knowledge

Choosing a new boat at the boat show can make you feel like a four-year-old kid in the grocery store’s cereal aisle. The bright orange and lime green cereal box looks really tempting. Just when you’re ready to grab it, you see another one with your favorite cartoon character dancing across the top. And still a third one, and then a fourth one. You just can’t decide, wandering back and forth while other shoppers navigate around you.

Fortunately, you can achieve a better result at the boat show. By hitting the gate with a concrete strategy, and sticking to your plan, you can easily narrow down your choices. Afterward, get some hands-on experience through boat rentals of similar vessels. Then, you’re in a great position to make that purchase decision.

Step 1: Decide Why You’re Going to the Boat Show

You’ve visited numerous boat shows over the years, and they provide a great diversion on a fall or winter weekend. On two occasions, you came to the show in search of new boat shoes and foul weather gear.

Another year, you came with a friend who wanted a second opinion on their boat purchase. And objectively speaking, nothing beats spending time at a boat show, wandering among the boats and gear and dreaming about the upcoming season.

However, this year is different. You’re ready to take the plunge and choose your ideal boat from among hundreds of vessels lining the docks. You’ve narrowed down the boat’s type and size range, and have a few general attributes in mind. Now, the real fun begins.

Step 2: Do Your Pre-Show Homework

Become a well-educated boat buyer by gathering advance information on all boats under consideration. First, learn everything you can about the vessels’ type, size range, and general handling characteristics. Next, view several manufacturers’ websites for details on vessel construction, along with specific models’ layout and equipment. Decide which features are important to you.

For example, maybe you’re considering a mid-sized sailboat, and two manufacturers have made the short list. If you’ll be using the boat for weekend and short vacation cruises, maybe you won’t need the extra provisions storage space that one company provides while sacrificing a valuable sleeping berth. If you’re eyeing an extended cruise, though, extra storage space might be a high priority.

Step 3: Determine Your Boat-Buying Budget

With the boat show set for this weekend, you’re counting down the hours until you pass through the admission gate. You’re looking forward to having your own boat, and you’re ready to make your boat purchase dream a reality.

Before you spring for the new boat deposit, though, take an objective look at your budget. In other words, decide how much boat you can afford while keeping yourself afloat financially. If you’ll be buying the boat with a significant other, make sure they’re on board with the decision and its financial implications.

Step 4: Plan Your Boat Show Strategy

Because you’re still in research mode, plan two (or more) visits to the show before making your decision. If possible, arrive when the gates open so you can enjoy some quality browsing time before the afternoon crowds arrive. If this show offers a “VIP Day” with higher admission cost, pay the extra cash and buy yourself some extra evaluation time.

Next, equip yourself with several information-gathering tools. Take a camera, notepad and pen, and tote bag for collecting the many brochures you’re likely to receive. If possible, mute your phone so you can focus on the boats without distractions.

Visit #1: Make a first pass at the boats that interest you. Early in the day, sweep the docks and board the boats within your preferred type and size range, especially those on the short list. Make notes on each boat’s deck layout and cabin accommodations, and record your positive and not-so-positive impressions. Save the detailed examination for later.

Also, take plenty of pictures, as the brochures might omit features you consider important. If you see something that completely horrifies you, trust your instinct and get off the boat now. After your initial visit, compare notes with a knowledgeable boating friend over lunch.

Visit #2: Return to the boats that have made the first cut, and make an in-depth examination of each vessel’s construction and equipment. If possible, take your seasoned boating buddy along.

General Construction: A quality-conscious builder will through-bolt all hatches, rails, ports, etc. They’ll also make sure the bolts are effectively backed and sealed to prevent water intrusion.

Quality of Workmanship: Look in the boat’s hidden spaces, such as inside the lockers and bilge. Ideally, you’ll see the same level of finish as a casual observer would see in the cabin.

Engine and Battery: Determine how easily you can access and service these critical pieces of equipment.

Plumbing and Electrical Systems: Note whether you (or a technician) can quickly reach and service these components.

Deck Layout: Determine whether there’s room to use (and store) an appropriately sized anchor and chain/anchor rode. Although you might not plan to anchor much, having this equipment on board can greatly improve your odds in an emergency.

Galley Operation: Decide whether you can easily access the refrigerator and/or freezer. Also, determine if the galley will be usable while you’re underway.

Step 5: Make Your Boat Purchase Dream a Reality

Before making a final purchase decision, get valuable hands-on experience by booking some boat rentals. Take similarly sized vessels out for the day, and learn how each one handles in your area’s weather and sea conditions.
During the fall and winter, visit more regional boat shows, and go over your top candidates with a fine-toothed comb. Then, place your order for your ideal sailboat, powerboat, or fishing boat.

Get more handling experience by booking boat rentals

While preparing to take delivery of your perfect boat, get as much practice as possible with similarly sized boats. Good thing you can execute those boat rentals by contacting Boatsetter, the leading boat-sharing company that makes it easy for boaters and local boat owners to make a connection. If you prefer, hire a licensed Coast Guard captain to help you learn the ropes. These nicely outfitted Boatsetter boats are available right now.

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