For many of us, boating season has wrapped up now that the days are growing short and the water has turned cool. But now is the time to be looking to spring, especially if you’re thinking about getting a boat in 2016. This is true both for the first-time buyer and the boat-owner planning to upgrade to a new, bigger or better model.
I always recommend taking these steps during the off-season to be sure the boat of your dreams is ready when the water warms up and the sun starts luring you outdoors.
The first thing to do is to give some thought to what you want. All boats are not the same, and not all boat owners have the same needs and wishes. What is your objective? How would you want to use the boat? For fishing, water skiing, travel, or just leisure and recreation? What about your family? Ask your spouse, children or other family members to tell you about their wishes for that new boat.
I recommend going through this process before you even start to shop for your ideal boat, because different needs will dictate very different models of watercraft.
Be specific. Fishing is a very broad category, for example. You’d want a very different sort of boat if you like quiet casting in tidal creeks than if you plan to head out to the Gulf Stream for those big gamefish. Do you anticipate using your boat just for your immediate family, or expect to invite friends, neighbors or out-of-town relatives to come along? Are you sleep-aboard people, or certain that you’ll want to be ashore and at home every night?
Once you have a good idea of what you want to do on your boat, it’s time to set a budget. Keep in mind that there’s an ideal boat for every budget, so be realistic, but don’t give up your dreams, either.
Among the financial considerations you should plan for are not just the boat’s cost – typically financed – but also the continuing needs for fuel, maintenance and insurance.
Think about where and how you would store the boat. For the very largest, of course, you’ll need to secure dock space. Unless you’re fortunate enough to own waterfront property, this will probably be at a marina. Medium-sized boats can often be stored out of the water. The cost of so-called “dry storage,” with big fork-lifts retrieving boats from a covered warehouse, is partly offset by savings in maintenance. You don’t have to have the bottom scraped or painted nearly as often, for example, if it isn’t in the water all the time.
Trailering a boat to a launching ramp is the lowest-cost storage option, but it has its drawbacks. Those can include congestion and long waits at public ramps, and the need to find a secure place to park your boat and trailer when they’re not in use. Many neighborhoods don’t allow boat trailers to be stored on single-family home lots. And you may want to be able to jump into the boat on short notice, without the hassle of trailering and launching.
You don’t have to make final decisions on these points just yet. But it’s helpful to have some choices in mind before going to the boat dealer. We can offer advice, with pros and cons on the various options, depending on how you plan to use the boat.
With a budget figure in hand, and your family’s wish list in mind, you’re ready to visit the dealer. That’s not something to delay until February or March. While MarineMax has a great variety of boats in our inventory, getting the precise model you need, or the optional features you want, may require some lead time. So we recommend that you talk with us and take a look around our showroom and marina at least a couple of months before you’d want to take your new boat out for its first cruise.
Thom Cross is the general manager of MarineMaxWrightsville Beach. Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, MarineMax is the nation’s largest recreational boat and yacht retailer. Focused on premium brands, MarineMax sells new and used recreational boats and related marine products and services as well as provides yacht brokerage and charter services. For more information, visit www.marinemax.com, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarineMaxWrightsvilleBeach or call 910-256-8100.
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