How to buy your first boat

words by Finlease

Guest post by Rod Smith, the Managing Director of CH Smith Marine and former President of the Boating Industry Association.

Owning a boat was one of the best decisions of my life. It brought my family closer together and turned me into a happier person. I truly believe the person who said “the world is my oyster”, was a new boat owner. Let me aid you in buying your first boat as I outline 3 main tips for better boat buying including picking the right type of boat for you, choosing the correct size of boat for you and which finance companies to pick.

Which boat when and why

The first thing you must do is to pick the right type of boat for what you plan to do. All types of boats, however, fall roughly into three basic usages – cruising, fishing, or watersports.

While you can perform virtually any activity from nearly any boat, it is best to zero-in on your primary use and then select a boat from that category. The three main categories boats generally fall into:

Cruising Boats

These boats are perfect for entertaining guests, designed for travel and comfort afloat. In a small cruise boat you could on the river for the day, or go around the world and live aboard in a large one, enjoying everything in-between. Within this category decide if you will use your boat for day-boating or overnighting. 

Fishing boats

With open cockpits these are designed specifically to make it easy for the angler to move around or fight the fish. Small fishing boats range from 15’ jon boats appropriate for small lake fishing going after bass or walleye too 80’ and larger convertibles designed to fight off impressive 2,000-lb. black marlin in the western Pacific and absolutely everything in-between. 

Watersports boats

Pick your sport then pick your boat. This boating category includes boating vehicles designed for waterskiing, wakeboarding, tow toys, parasailing, scuba diving, racing or if you have an elaborate idea where you need a unique and powerful boat – this category is your best bet.

There truly is something for everyone. Narrow down your search by asking yourself, your friends and family what you’d use your boat for most of all. Fishing and cruising beautiful local waterways? Cruising to another country with family and friends? Waterskiing, wakeboarding and amazing watersports, racing even? Or do you want to buy a boat that covers a little from each category.

Size Matters

Always buy bigger than you had planned. Ask any avid boater and they will tell you of ‘2-foot-itis’, the fact that most of us are always looking for our next boat which is 2’ larger. The nature of the beast is the fact that it is very natural and admirable to want to save money and buy the smallest boat that you think will get the job done. But this will end up causing you trouble in the long run. Larger boats are almost always more comfortable, a lot safer and more fun than smaller ones. Larger boats carry more people, go farther, look better and generate more pride of ownership than do smaller ones. Pride of ownership goes a large way as a first time boat owner and something that carries over into your self worth and happiness.

Typically, a first-time boat buyer towards the end of the season will realize that their boat is too small, and will trade in their first boat for a larger one. It is amazing how often this pattern repeats itself.

By adjusting your mind to the costs and benefits and looking carefully at the next larger boat, you can save money right at the beginning of your boat owning career.

Some finance companies care, most do not

Pick a finance company that understands boating themselves and offers both:

Pre Approval loans

Obtain a pre-approval for your boat loan before you go shopping. Companies like Finlease allow you to put in a boat finance application for a ‘hypothetical boat’ for a given sum of money. This enables you to confidentially go shopping for a boat in the knowledge you’ve got the money at your disposal.

It can give you the confidence to drive a harder bargain on the showroom floor and if you see something you like it means you have the opportunity to trump another buyer and negotiate on a boat knowing that the finance is ready to go.

Along with the massive benefits to this, companies like Finlease offer an obligation free service, so if you eventually decide not to take up the finance, there is absolutely no charge.

Do not use a finance company without this as you are only weakening your own buying power.

Will visit you and helps you select a financing solution

Go against using the big banks and find a finance company that are boat enthusiasts and will take the time if needed to visit you. Find a finance company that wants to take the time to help you understand your situation and assist you in selecting the right financing solution.

Visiting you face-to-face if needed, allows transparency within the financing solution process.

Another key factor is finding boating finance that doesn’t make you secure your new boat against other assets such as real estate. ‘Cross collateralise’ within boating finance is unwanted stress and frankly a move you do not have to make. At finlease, and other trustworthy companies, 99% of instances the boat will stand as its own security of its own finance.

All in all, pick a boat that’s going to work for you. Take time in thinking about what you want to buy a boat for, consider friends and family’s opinions and carefully research which boats right for you. Be smart about it and purchase something that’s within your budget, but always keeping in mind – going small and cheap isn’t always the right decision. Find a finance company that’s going to sit down with you and take the time to consider these decisions with you, together find a financial solution that best suits your situation. Find a company that is willing to empower you by giving you preapproval buying power without needing extra cross collateral so that you can join what I like to call the happiness club, the boating people.

Improve your happiness, find endless fun activities with friends and family and get out on the water today. Happy boating everybody!

Rod Smith

Managing Director of CH Smith Marine and former President of the Boating Industry Association

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