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How to Buy a Wakeboard Boat


Super Air Nautique G23The new season is upon us once again and most of you will be headed to your local pro shop, boat dealer or boat show to see all the new wakeboarding goodies that you've been reading about during the off-season. Some of you are simply window shopping and some have been saving those spare dollars to pick up a few new wakeboarding accessories. However, many of you are looking to study, configure, compare and decode the best deal possible on a brand new boat. That's where we come in.

Boat buying shouldn't be a hassle. It shouldn't even be a headache. It should be fun and exciting! You, as the consumer, are in control of the entire process. You don't have to lose sleep at night. As long as you have the right attitude, tools and mindset, you can walk into the boat show or your local dealership, be treated like royalty and walk out with a great deal and a feeling of confidence. With proper preparation, your family, your friends and your wallet will be in high spirits this summer. Hopefully, the following will help you get ready for the dance!

To make it easier for you to navigate, we've provided the following links that will take you to each section.


Are You Ready To Buy A Boat?

Before you leave the house, there are a few questions you need to answer to start the boat buying process. Let's take a look at those.

Are you at a point where you can comfortably afford a boat?

You can get into a brand new boat with considerably small payments each month, but remember that you still have maintenance, insurance, storage and gas to pay for. We will talk more in-depth about expenses later. If you have the credit and meet the requirements, you can get exactly what you need. Just remember, most finance companies will require a good credit score, a credit history of at least five years and a large previous purchase via credit of at least $25,000.

Malibu M235Also keep in mind that your credit score takes a hit each time you get a new inquiry. Anytime someone pulls up your credit report, an inquiry shows up at the end of the report stating who pulled your credit and when it was pulled. Too many inquiries is bad, so be very careful when filling out credit applications. You don't want to fill one out at every dealership you visit.

Is this time of the year a good time to buy?

The boat show season is one of the few times each year that dealers pull out all the stops and go head-to-head with their competition. Many dealers will spend large amounts of money on their boat show space and boat show sales are what justify spending the money to make the space look nice. Dealers usually bring in a factory representative that will help with sales. There is nothing more embarrassing for a rep than if he goes back to work at the factory on Monday and has to tell his boss that he only made a few sales, if any.

Many manufacturers offer factory incentives that are available only at the boat show. Many consumers believe that this is a sales pitch to get you to buy a boat right away. However, for most manufacturers, the incentives are only available to that dealer during that dealer's boat show time. Once the show is over, the incentives are gone!

Many dealers offer extra incentives at the boat show on top of the factory incentives. Dealers want to kick their season off right and the boat show is the place to do it.

Centurion Ri237Keep in mind that the dealer wants to make the sale, the factory rep wants to see the dealer make the sale and the factory rep and the dealer want the competition to look across the aisle and notice that the sale is being made. All of these factors work in your favor.

If you simply cannot make it to a boat show or you do not have a boat show near you, don't worry. You can still make a good purchase and get a great deal at the dealership, even in peak season. Just make sure you pay attention to the section about how to be a good buyer. Remember, if you are cool, up front and friendly, you will always get the better deal. If you are stuck up, uninterested and a jerk, then you just will not click with most dealers.

Dealers are in the business to not only make money, but they want to have fun. Most are water sports enthusiasts that decided to make their passion their career. They like to associate, do business and simply surround themselves with sociable, likeable people. That is who they want to hang out with and who they want driving their boats and representing their dealership. If you fit the description of the type of buyer that the dealership is looking for, then the great deal is pretty much an automatic.

What Type of Boat Should You Buy?

Tige RZRNow you know that you want a boat, you can afford a boat and you have the attitude to make any time a great time to buy a boat. But what in the world are you looking for? This is where the good and the bad of the buying process comes about. The good part is that you get to see, touch, smell and, sometimes, drive some really great boats knowing that you'll soon own one of them. The bad part is that for each one of those boats, there is a salesperson that wants to see that boat in your driveway and, unfortunately, a few of those salespeople will say anything to get you to buy.

If you do not have the luxury of a boat show to see all of the boats side by side, then take a day or two and go to all of the dealerships that carry the boats in which you are interested. Do not exclude any brand that may be a player for you. You must educate yourself before buying. Let's try to figure out what you will be shopping for.

First of all, what do you want the boat to do? If you are looking for a boat just to get you out on the water, then just about any boat will do. However, since this is a wakeboarding website, let's talk about boats that have some wakeboarding ability.

There are four classifications of boats that you will run into when you shop for a boat; jet boats, such as Yamaha, Honda and Sea-Doo; outboard boats, such as Ranger and Skeeter; inboard/outboard boats (I/Os), such as Four Winns, Sea Ray and Crownline; and inboard boats such as Malibu, Tige, Supra and Nautique.

Jet Boats

Yamaha 242XIf you watch television, look on the Internet or open a wakeboard or waterski magazine, you will see the jet boat manufacturers getting more and more into the wakeboarding market. They have introduced several boats over the past few years with towers and wakeboard racks as options. These boats are marketed toward the wakeboard boat buyer, but, due to the jet propulsion, this type of boat cannot produce the characteristics in wake shape and size that most wakeboarders crave. The wake that a jet boat leaves behind is usually very soft and washy. The lack of a rudder makes most jet boats very hard to drive in a straight line when an average-sized wakeboarder is behind the boat carving around.

Outboard Boats

Outboard boats are primarily used for fishing, although there are still a few ski boat manufacturers that build outboard boats for barefoot skiing. An outboard boat typically has a very shallow hull and does not sit in the water very deep. Outboards are usually very fast and responsive, but do not displace very much water to create a good wake for wakeboarding.

Inboard/Outboard Boats

I/O's, also known as runabouts, have been extremely popular over the years. They are typically deep boats with lots of storage and comfort. The engine is located in the back of the boat (inboard), while the propulsion system is an outboard drive unit.

Bryant 233XAlmost every I/O manufacturer has some type of "wakeboard edition" model in their line that includes a tower and a low price tag. This is highly attractive to new boat buyers, especially at boat shows. These boats are usually displayed in high traffic areas and are shown with towers, tower speakers, wakeboard racks and wakeboard oriented graphics. Although the boat may be well built, include the finest amenities and look like a wakeboard boat from the deck up, a wakeboarder must consider what is under the boat when it comes to getting that perfect wakeboarding wake.

I/O's can produce a decent-sized wake. This wake is usually perfect for learning to wakeboard. However, as a wakeboarder gets more comfortable behind the boat, he or she will want a bigger wake. Remember, the bigger the wake, the higher the wakeboarder can jump. The only way to get a bigger wake from a boat is to displace more water, which is usually done by adding weight to the boat. The problem with an I/O is that even though the wake gets larger as you add more weight to the boat, the wake is actually getting softer. This is due to the deep "V" hull design that runs the entire length of the boat to support the outboard drive at the bottom rear portion of the hull.

Many people are not comfortable driving an I/O due to the bow rise. If the boat is heavily loaded, especially in the rear, then the driver has to deal with a short time period when there is so much bow rise during the hole shot (when the boat is put into drive from a stationary position to pull a rider up out of the water), his or her field of vision becomes very limited. This makes it very uncomfortable for the driver and very dangerous for everyone else.

I/O's typically have the reputation of having a hard time keeping speed. A beginner wakeboarder will usually ride somewhere between 16-20 mph depending on the age and size of the rider. On most I/O's, there is a lot of bow rise during the hole shot and the boat usually does not plane out until the 16-20 mph neighborhood. This can make driving an incredible pain, even for an experienced driver.

2430 Vortex VRXThe other negative aspect of an I/O is that an I/O can be dangerous to wakesurf behind. Wakesurfing is done by setting up the boat to create a larger wake on one side than the other while the rider gets on a wakesurf board and rides less than 10 feet off of the rear of the boat without a rope. The rider uses the wave that the boat produces in the same way that a surfer uses the waves in the ocean. Surfing behind an I/O can be dangerous due to the fact that the outboard drive at the rear of an I/O has a spinning prop that extends beyond the stern and when riding directly behind the boat, the wakesurfer is extremely close to that prop. That being said, there are some manufacturers that make I/O boats geared toward wakesurfing by covering the entire read portion of the boat with a swim step to reduce the risk of a rider making contact with the prop.

Let me take a minute to try to explain the reasoning behind some of the above points about I/O's. I see too many people each season with three- and four-month old I/O's that they want to trade in on an inboard wakeboard boat. The most common reasons for the quick turnover are that they bought the boat at the boat show because a salesperson gave them bad information, they didn't realize that they were going to be wakeboarders when they initially bought the boat or they have simply outgrown the boat already.

I am not trying to put down I/O's and I am not trying to talk you out of buying an I/O. I am just trying to educate you about I/O's. They are usually good, solid, well-constructed boats that will get you on the water and will teach you wakeboarding. However, they can only take you so far in your wakeboarding career and when you reach that point, you will be looking for your second boat purchase. For most people, it is far less expensive to purchase one boat instead of two.

Inboard Boats

If you plan on wakeboarding at least 30% of the time you are on the water, then you will want to begin by looking at inboard boats. An inboard boat has the engine inside of the boat like an I/O, but it does not have an outdrive on the rear of the boat. The only thing on the bottom of a traditional inboard boat is a set of tracking fins, a prop shaft, a strut, a prop and a rudder.

Supra SGTraditional inboard boats were small, usually in the 19-21 foot range, with shallow hull designs and flat bottoms, which not only would make the ride incredibly rough in choppy water, but would also make small wakes for competitive slalom skiing. This is something that you hear a lot about from I/O salespeople. They like to use the "that inboard over there will beat you to death" card when selling against inboards.

But times have changed. Remember, the idea of a wakeboard boat is to displace more water to create a bigger wake for wakeboarding. Therefore, manufacturers have redesigned the traditional flat bottom slalom ski hulls by adding much more depth to the front of the hull where the boat enters the water, and getting more creative with angles and strakes toward the back of the boat where it used to be incredibly flat. The deeper hull designs not only give the boats a much smoother ride in choppy water, but also make the wakeboarding wakes much more crisp and clean. In most inboards, the more weight that is added to the boat, the bigger and harder the wake gets. Most inboard wakes will maintain their same relative shape as the wake gets bigger, which makes the wakes much more user friendly.

There are two types of inboard boats; the direct drive and the V-drive. The direct drive is the more traditional of the two. This means that the engine is placed in the center of the boat and the transmission is located at the rear of the engine. The shaft then comes directly out of the transmission through the hull to its fixed position at the bottom of the boat.

Direct Drive Inboard Boat

A V-drive has its engine mounted at the rear of the boat. The engine is actually placed in the boat backwards, meaning that the transmission is pointed toward the front of the boat. The transmission is coupled with a "V-drive" unit, which then has a prop shaft that exits the bottom of the boat in the same position and manner as the direct drive. If you were to turn a direct drive and a V-drive boat of the same hull design upside down and look at their hulls only, you will not be able to tell which one is the direct drive and which one is the V-drive. However, once you look at the interiors, the difference is obvious.

V-Drive Inboard Boat

Almost every inboard boat on the market today comes with a wakeboard package option. The wakeboard package option usually includes a tower, a ballast system (a series of pumps and/or water containers that the driver can use to weight the boat down with the flip of a switch) and wakeboard racks. A cruise control system is also usually available. You'll also find that select models have wakesurf package options as well.

Nautique Flight Control TowerAs far as towers go, most manufacturers have more than one tower model available from the factory for each boat model. Some dealers will even provide you with after-market tower options that they will install instead of the factory tower.

Most towers are now made out of aircraft aluminum or steel. Most are extremely sturdy and are capable of handling the various tower accessories, such as speakers, board racks and lights, that are on the market today. Almost every tower is easily collapsible as well, so most boats can still fit into lower clearance areas when the tower is folded down. The decks of wakeboard boats are reinforced with extra fiberglass to ensure that the tower is mounted to a sturdy surface. Most manufacturers then through-bolt the tower feet to the deck and back it up with a backing plate. 

Many manufacturers offer a variety of tower accessories as well, such as wakeboard racks, tower speakers, tower lights and bimini tops. The bimini top is a canvas top that provides shade for the driver and some of the passengers. If you have long, hot summers, a bimini top is a must have. 

Ballast systems are wonderful and a must have for a wakeboard or wakesurf boat. Remember, we are trying to displace more water to make the wakes/waves larger behind the boat. If the boat already has a built-in ballast system, then all the rider has to do is flip a switch and water will automatically be pumped in from the lake into a series of ballast bags or tanks strategically placed within the boat. This added weight causes the boat to sit deeper in the water.

Malibu Power WedgeWhen the rider is done and the extra ballast is no longer required, then another switch is flipped and the ballast is drained. Typically, a wakeboard boat will have ballast tanks located throughout the boat. This allows the driver to adjust the placement of the weight to the rider's preference and it helps create the optimal wake/wave shape for that specific hull design. Weighting the boat unevenly comes in handy when you're wakesurfing and you want to get more weight on one side.

A few manufacturers have other ideas on how to make a wakeboard wake larger. One has developed a foil, located underneath the swim platform, that comes down from the rear of the boat. When this foil is engaged, it actually helps to pull the back of the boat down when the boat is underway creating the same effect as if you had added weight to the rear of the boat.

Other companies have designed their hulls to be compatible with trim tabs, which are hydraulic-controlled plates that are located at the back of the boat and act as an extension of the hull. These plates are managed from the driver's dash and can be moved at any time. Essentially, the trim tab adjusts the attitude of the boat, which has a direct effect on the wake shape. A trim tab can actually reshape the wake that already exists behind the boat. But remember, the only way to make a wake larger is to push the hull down deeper into the water. 

Malibu Surf Gate and Power WedgeIn recent years, with the increasing popularity of wakesurfing, boat manufacturers have been racing to see who can come up with the best system to create the perfect wakesurfing wave. Although these methods are only tangentially related to ballast, I thought I'd mention them here because they can effect the size and shape of wakesurfing waves. Each manufacturer seems to have their own way to implement it, but the basic idea for increasing wave size is to use a plate or tab on one side of the boat that redirects water to create a bigger wave on the opposite side of the boat. This allows the boat to create a large wakesurfing wave without having to overload one side with ballast, keeping the boat level.

Cruise control has gotten extremely popular over the past few years, and for good reason. A wakeboarder looks for two main things when he or she is riding; a good solid wake and a steady, smooth speed. As a wakeboarder progresses, he or she really starts to pull on the boat. When cutting into the wake, the rider is creating a force against the boat and he or she actually slows the boat down when using that force. When the rider releases that force by jumping off of the wake, the boat actually speeds up.

Tige Touch2Although holding speed on an inboard boat is much easier than any other type of boat, an experienced rider can really put the stress on a driver. That is where the cruise control comes into play. When the cruise control system is calibrated correctly for that particular model of boat, it will hold the speed of the boat quite accurately no matter how experienced the rider is. This can make the driver's day much more enjoyable and the rider can have complete confidence when riding.

Now let's talk about the performance difference between a direct drive and a V-drive. For reference, let's pretend we are looking at one direct drive and one V-drive with the same hull design from a particular manufacturer.

As mentioned, the direct drive's engine is located in the center of the boat. This means that all of that engine's weight is evenly distributed throughout the hull. Therefore, this boat will be very well balanced when floating in the water. This is what makes a direct drive a great ski boat, but just a good wakeboard boat. Since the weight is evenly distributed, when the boat is on plane at slalom speed, the wakes are minimal and the skiing is very good. The great thing about direct drives is that when you slow the boat down and fill the front and rear ballast, you still can achieve a very good intermediate to advanced wakeboard wake.

Ballast bagThat being said, a V-drive of the same model will almost always have a better wakeboarding wake than a direct drive. This is because you not only have the engine weight in the rear of the boat, which is displacing much more water than the direct drive, but you also have large compartments on each side of the engine for ballast tanks. Typically, you will find one ballast tank in the front of a direct drive and one in the rear of a direct drive. In a V-drive, you have one ballast tank in the front and one on each side of the engine in the rear. Plus, you still have room for more in the middle of the boat. So not only do you have all of the engine weight in the back of the boat to help the wakeboarding wake, but you have more ballast capacity to help achieve that monster wake. The V-drive will ride at a steeper angle (the bow a little higher) than the direct drive, which will cause the wake to be more defined for wakeboarding.

As far as seating goes, if you are looking at a direct drive and a V-drive of the same hull design from the same manufacturer, you will notice that more than likely, from the driver's seat forward, the two boats are almost identical. From the driver's seat back is where the big changes are found. A direct drive boat will typically have a driver's seat, an MasterCraft XStar observer's seat, and then a long bench seat that goes across the back of the boat in the rear with the engine cover right in the middle of it all.

The V-drive will have the driver's seat and attached to the observer's seat will be full wrap-around seating that usually flows from the observer's seat down the port side of the boat and across the back of the boat. Some manufacturers continue the wrap around seating back up the starboard side of the boat to the back of the driver's seat. The V-drive will usually have much more storage and seating capability than the direct drive as well.

When it boils down to the wake and rideability of the direct drive and V-drive boat, just remember this rule of thumb; A direct drive boat is a great ski boat and a good wakeboard boat and a V-drive boat is a great wakeboard boat and a good ski boat. The V-drive will be the more appealing wakeboard boat, but the cost is usually considerably more than its direct drive counterpart.

What Type of Inboard Should You Buy?

So by now, hopefully, you have decided on the type of boat that you want to go with. For the purposes of this article, we'll assume that you've narrowed your search down to a V-drive inboard boat. Now we just have to look at a few more specifics.

What size boat do you need?

Moomba MondoHow many people do you plan on taking with you to the lake on a typical day? Don't base your decision on holidays. Usually you will have more friends call you up out of the blue than you ever knew you had on the Fourth of July! Take a look at the size of your family and the number of lake-loving close friends you have. Do you have children? Will they want to bring their friends when you go? Are you a hardcore rider that will only take three people with you every time you go? Or are you more social to the point that you will pick up hitch hikers on the way to the lake just to have more weight in the boat for that ultimate wake? When shopping for a boat, most manufacturers give each model a suggested seating capacity to help in your decision.

When it comes to the size of boats, there are different features and benefits to each size. A smaller boat, such as a 20-footer, will usually serve as a great crossover boat. This means that even if it is a V-drive with 3000 lbs of ballast, it probably is still a great ski boat when it is on plane and not loaded down with people and gear.

The other positive note on these boats is that they are usually very fuel-efficient. They are smaller and do not burn as much gas as the larger boats. They are less expensive since they are smaller (boats are usually priced by size) and engine upgrades are not required. Also, since the boats are so small, they are easier to sink into the water for a great wakeboard wake. In other words, they do not require as much ballast to get a great wake that some of the larger boats do.

MB B52 23Smaller boats have the best performance and handling when compared to mid-sized and larger boats. However, they are also more sensitive to weight shifts, which can cause the wake to wash out on one side of the boat if one of your passengers changes their seat. They are great for private lakes with size limits. In addition, you really don't need a large tow vehicle to pull smaller boats and you can usually get away with a single axle trailer. Due to their size, they are also easy to store.    

On the other hand, smaller boats do not have the in-boat storage and people capacity that larger boats have. Although the latest boats are very well thought out and have a lot of open storage, the boat is not quite as deep as the larger boats causing the storage capability to be considerably less.

A medium-sized boat, such as a 21 or 22-footer, tends to be the most popular. They are large enough to seat 8-12 adults comfortably and they can provide great wakeboard wakes while still providing good recreational ski wakes. They usually have a good amount of storage as well. Depending on your altitude and climate, engine upgrades are usually not required and new boat pricing is still very reasonable.

In open water, medium-sized boats take choppy conditions very well and still handle like a sports car. If you remove the swim platform and fold in the tongue on the trailer, you can usually still store them in an average-sized garage or storage unit. However, with this size of boat you may be on the borderline with your tow vehicle since tandem trailers may be required for these boats. If you're going to be using your boat on a lake with size restrictions, medium-sized boats may not fit the bill.

Axis A24Larger boats have taken the wakeboard market by storm over the past few years. Most manufacturers offer a 23- or 24-foot boat, while a few push the 25-foot and above line. These boats are the most expensive, but they also have the most storage, people capacity and comfort out of them all. They usually have the most ballast capacity and most of the large boats have been redesigned to produce incredibly large wakeboard wakes. The great thing about larger boats is that their wakeboard wakes are usually at an intermediate to advanced stage even before any ballast is added. These boats are great in rough water, but usually are too big for private lakes.

In addition to being more expensive in general, larger boats usually require engine upgrades, which also adds to the overall cost of the boat. This also means that they will be burning more gas. They are also going to require a tandem trailer and a larger tow vehicle to pull them long distances. Obviously, the larger size will make storage a bigger problem as well.

How much engine power do you need?

Indmar Raptor 400When it comes down to the engine, take a look at what most dealers order in their stock boats. Remember, the dealer knows best (most of the time). If a dealer has ten boats in stock of model Z, ask what engine the dealer ordered in those boats. If he ordered all ten models with the same engine, then that's a very good indicator that there is no reason to upgrade to a bigger engine in that model. However, if the dealer says, "Well, I ordered five with the standard engine and five with the upgraded engine," then you need to look at the type of wakeboarder that you are.

If you are going to use the boat for hardcore wakeboarding and will be adding quite a bit of extra weight to the boat, then the upgraded engine may be for you. Just remember, engine options are usually expensive and the upgraded engine option is not always the best option. Smaller boats can be fuel efficient and run on their standard engines. Mid-sized boats may require an engine upgrade to save gas. Larger boats will burn gas, but engine upgrades can ease the pain. It all depends on what you will primarily use the boat for.

You also want to take into account the prop options available when deciding on an engine. Some boats are available with a lower end prop that gets the boat out of the hole quicker, but you may end up sacrificing some speed on the top end. If top end speed isn't important, perhaps a smaller engine coupled with a lower end prop can save you some money.

What options do you need?

Obviously, you are going to need a tower, ballast system and wakeboard racks. After all, this is a wakeboard boat. Now you need to do your homework on the different manufacturers to see what else you may want.

Kicker KMT67 Tower SystemDo you want a stereo system? More than likely you do, but how much stereo? Will the system offered by the boat's manufacturer be enough or will you want to customize it beyond that? Is the cruise control worth your money? More than likely it is, but do a little more homework just to be sure. What about a heater? A cover? A bimini top? A shower? Do you need a tandem-axle trailer or can you get by with a single axle? What about trailer options?

This is where you make your boat yours. Some dealers will load a boat up with every option and then some. And, most likely, that very same dealer will have the same model with very few options to show you the difference and show you how you can customize the boat to fit your needs. Some people want every option and want to have the most blinged out boat on the water, but some don't want to pay for options that they may never use.

Wet Sounds WS-420 BTBefore you go shopping, put a list of options together that you definitely want. Then make a list of options that you would want only if they can fit into your budget. Keep this list in mind because you will need it later.

Now that you have a general idea of what you want, you should do some more in-depth research. Visit the manufacturers' websites and see what appeals to you. Start looking around on the discussion forums and see which manufacturers' names are popping up in positive and negative threads. At the same time, keep in mind that although these discussion forums can be an invaluable source of information, take what you hear with a grain of salt and make sure you have more than one reliable source behind each piece of information. There are always a few people posting on discussion forums that really don't know what they're talking about and you don't want to make a big purchase relying on their faulty information.

Boatmate tandem-axle trailerOn almost every wakeboarding boat discussion forum, someone has started a thread called "Show us your boat pictures of manufacturer X" and 100+ people will post various pictures of their prized possessions. Look at the different color patterns and different options shown and see what turns you on. If you see something that you have a question about, try to contact that particular boat owner. Most boat owners love to talk about their own boats and most will tell you their honest likes and dislikes about their boat. Just don't be "that guy" that starts a thread on a boat forum asking which wakeboard boat is the best. Remember, there is no best boat out there for everybody (although there are a few people that will argue this point all day long), but there is a best boat for you.

Hopefully, by the time you're ready to start your shopping, you will have narrowed down your purchasing decision to a few manufacturers. Make a plan to go to those dealers or the boat show to see the boats up close, compare them side-by-side and then start the wheeling and dealing process. Now is the time to meet the dealers themselves and see what they are made of.

Who Should You Buy From?

Centurion FS22The employees at the dealer are the people that you are going to be working with not just today, but for the life of your boat. You want to make sure that the dealer is well-established, has a good reputation and wants your business. You want to confirm that this dealer wants to not only make the sale, but also wants to establish a relationship with you. If a dealer develops that trusting connection right off the bat, then he knows that he has made a customer for life and other customers will stem from your relationship.

Look at the dealership as a whole. Is it clean? Inviting? Warm? Are the employees enthusiastic about you being there or do you feel like you are wasting their time? Is this dealer going to service your boat after they sell it to you or do you need to take it somewhere else? Are their techs certified to work on your engine? How long will it take to get your boat in when it needs service? Are the employees watersports enthusiasts like you? Do they have a clue how you use your boat? Don't be afraid to find out more about the dealer. After all, you may be spending a lot of money with them.

Keep in mind that the customer-dealer relationship is a two way street. Let me give you some tips on how to make the boat buying process enjoyable for both you and the dealer.

The number one thing that you can do to kick off that relationship is to be nice and courteous to the dealer right from the beginning. There is nothing that a salesperson hates more than someone that walks in, acts like a total jerk and then expects a "special" deal. If you walk into the dealership or boat show booth with a smile on your face, then you start off on the right foot.

MasterCraft XStarNot all buyers and sellers will work well together. When you walk into a dealer's place of business, try to find a salesperson that looks like someone with whom you would like to do business. Look for attitudes and facial expressions. You will most likely want to talk to the salesperson that is smiling and greeting everyone that walks in or the salesperson that is discussing wakeboarding with another potential buyer. If you get a salesperson that is treating you like you are wasting his or her time, tell them you are just looking or try to come back later when you can talk to someone that seems to be a little more outgoing. If you can find someone that you really click with, the process is so much easier and you will find that you will get the better deal almost every time.

One thing to watch out for with salespeople is Mr. Negative. Some salespeople will immediately go into bashing the competition. This is such a buying turn off. You will find that most honest sales personnel will talk about their boats only. They want to show you what they have to offer and how it will benefit you on the water.

Never let a salesperson talk you into anything. You are buying the boat, not them. You should have all your homework done by the time you are talking to the salesperson and you should know almost exactly what options you are looking for. If they are trying to talk you into the glove box popcorn popper and you don't want it, it's ok to say no.

If you can find a salesperson that you are comfortable with, then be up front with him or her. They will appreciate it more and pay you back with the same respect. If all you are looking for is a 21-foot direct drive with a tower, but no ballast, then don't let them waste time by showing you the 23-foot V-drive. Just cut right to the chase, tell them the options you are considering and ask them to show you something that will best suit your needs.

What Other Expenses Should You Expect?

Keep in mind the added expenses involved with owning a boat other than the monthly boat payment.

You need to make sure you keep the boat insured, especially if you are financing the purchase. Although it doesn't hurt to check with the larger insurance companies to get a quote, ask your local dealer who they recommend for a policy. Odds are they know the best guys to use and they might save you some money.

Nautique G25If you are buying a new boat, you will need to bring it back to the dealer for a 10-20 hour inspection, depending on the boat manufacturer's recommendation. Once that inspection is done, you will have routine maintenance that needs to be done every 50-100 hours. Check with your dealer for service costs so you can budget for that.

Remember that not only are you burning gas in your boat, you are also burning gas in your tow vehicle. Hopefully some of your guests will help chip in for gas, but the boat owner is usually the one that has to pay for the majority of the fill up. Also keep in mind that upgraded engine options may burn more gas as well. As gas prices increase, this can turn into one of the biggest expenses of boat ownership.

Some people are fortunate to have large garages or warehouses in which to store their boats. However, most are not and will have to to look into getting a storage unit for added protection. That will result in yet another monthly payment, so you may want to do some extra homework when going down that road.

Here's a list of most of the expenses for which you'll want to budget before you take the plunge...

  • Monthly payment (boat and tow vehicle)
  • Maintenance and service (boat and tow vehicle)
  • Gas (boat and tow vehicle)
  • Boat storage
  • Insurance (boat and tow vehicle)
  • Registration (boat, trailer and tow vehicle)
  • Taxes (boat, trailer and tow vehicle)
  • Launch fees
  • Any other add-ons later down the road

Should You Buy A Used Boat?

If you've decided that you're not ready for a brand new boat just yet, you might want to look at a used boat. Especially during boat show season, most dealers receive a lot of trade-ins and have quite a few used boats they need to sell. Keep an eye on dealer websites for their newly received used inventory. A lot of boats that are traded into dealers are boats that the dealer has been servicing since the boat was new, so be sure to ask for service records when looking at the used boat.

There are also many used boat websites that you'll want to check into. These will allow you to look for boats outside of your local area. You may find a boat that is on the other side of the country, but is a great deal even after you add in the cost of getting it shipped to you.

Try to do a thorough inspection on the boat even if you have no idea what you are looking at. Check out the upholstery and the carpet. Look for signs of heavy wear. The upholstery condition can give you great insight as to the condition of the rest of the boat. Walk the floor and feel for soft spots. Soft spots in the floor can be signs of rot or damage.

Look for stress cracks in corners under upholstery pieces. Stress cracks usually appear if the boat has been driven hard or weighted heavily, but that is not always the case. A boat may stress crack from the trailer hitting a pothole while being pulled down the road or it may crack from hitting a big wave on a windy, rough-water day. Remember that fiberglass flexes, but gel coat does not. Gel coat is what makes the boat look pretty on the outside, but the fiberglass is what gives the boat its strength. Stress cracks are an eyesore, but much more often than not they are just cosmetic damage, not structural damage. And, yes, this applies to those boats with stress cracks around the tower feet. Way more often than not, they are cosmetic cracks, not structural.

Don't forget to check how many hours have been logged on your potential purchase. Hour meters are not always accurate, so if you suspect that it's not right, have a dealer hook up their computer to the engine to see exactly how many hours the engine has logged.

Although the boat buying experience will undoubtedly throw some curve balls in your direction, I hope the suggestions above will help you to go out and make an educated purchase with no regrets. Buying a boat is fun, exciting and should be painless. Don't make it harder than it needs to be!  


Comments (2)

Commented on 1-18-2018 At 11:52 pm

Great article - seems a link to OnlyInboards would make it even better :)
Commented on 2-6-2018 At 04:56 pm

That is a fantastic article. Really informative and well-researched. Great work. Great journalism too.
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