So, you want to go boating. Congratulations – you’re going to have a ton of fun. Like any major purchase, you’ve got a lot of research ahead of you to make a smart decision that ensures that you have a good experience.
Power boats are very specialized vehicles. The right one for you will be determined by a number of factors. How do you want to use your boat? Where will you use it? How many passengers do you want to carry? Will you transport your boat from place to place over land, or will you store your boat in the water at a dock or marina? And, finally – what’s your budget for a boat?
The simplest power boats are small skiffs fitted with outboard motors. These boats can be very inexpensive to buy, even new, with models starting well under $1,000. Some may even be compact enough to transport in a pickup truck or on the roof of an SUV. You can get a lot of enjoyment on a lake in a small boat, cruising for pleasure or trolling while fishing.
Things scale up from there quite rapidly. If you’re interested in water skiing, you’ll need to invest in a larger boat with a bigger engine, either inboard or outboard. You’ll probably need a trailer and tow vehicle, or you’ll need to secure a slip or dock. Be sure to factor in fuel, maintenance, insurance and licensing into your calculations. Expect your investment to start at the $5,000 level, and go up from there.
Fishing boats carry a similar level of investment. Lake fishing boats are generally smaller and don’t require big engines, while ocean fishing boats are usually larger and need more power for safe operation.
Pleasure boats and “party barges” are another great option. These shallow-keeled boats are set up with comfortable seating and a canopy for sun protection, and are designed for pleasure cruises on calm water, perhaps on a lake or in a harbor. They’re great to take out on a sunset cruise with a picnic dinner or wine and cheese platter, and just sit out on the water enjoying the scenery. They use small engines or even electric motors for propulsion, and can be great, low-maintenance ways to enjoy the water without a lot of hassle. From small 12-footers all the way to extreme, multi-level houseboats, budget is the key determiner for what you get.
Speed boats are for the thrill seekers among us. Narrow, long and light and equipped with powerful inboard motors, speed boats can deliver an adrenaline rush and rapid transportation. The downside is that they’re noisy, expensive to operate, and can be quite dangerous with the wrong operator at the controls. A good speed boat can start at $10,000 and run as high as your bank account allows.
That’s just the beginning of a journey toward becoming a power-boat owner.
The best maxim I’ve ever heard about owning a boat is a little cynical, but true nonetheless: “The best boat you can have is a friend with a boat.” Without being a leech, there’s a lot of wisdom in this maxim that you can apply to your quest to be a power boat owner. Talk to your friends who own boats, or seek out boat owners at a local marina. Ask them to share their knowledge and experience – you’ll learn important tips about what to look for, what to avoid, and maybe even get opportunities to experience boating opportunities that lead you toward your eventual purchase.