Thinking About a Boat? Start the Process Now

If you think you might be in the market for a boat next spring, now is actually the time to get your shopping experience started in earnest. Doing a little extra homework in the fall will inevitably save you some money—and help ensure you get exactly the right boat—a few months down the line.

Besides, fall is usually a “buyer’s market” and spring is a “seller’s market” when it comes to boats. Not many people want to buy a vessel now, only to have it stored for the winter. But if you’re flexible with your plans, you might also be able to save more than enough sticker price dollars to account for some storage. Patience and flexibility are always virtues for the boat buyer.

The first step, of course, is deciding on what type of boat you might want. That’s all based on three simple questions: How much am I willing to spend? What am I going to use the boat for? And where am I going to use it?

Your budget is the most important parameter. That may also dictate whether you shop for used boats as well as new ones. Be realistic, and understand that the price of buying a boat is not the same as the price of owning a boat. You need to factor in fuel, maintenance, equipment, docking, trailer, and all of that.

Be honest with yourself about how you plan to use the boat. Is it a purely fishing boat? Or will you sometimes want to pull the kids or grandkids around on a tube behind it? I’ve often found it easier to fish from a family boat, than it is to water ski behind a fishing boat.

Lastly, where you think you will use the boat most is important to help you zero in on the right size and model. For example a fishing boat that will be used to slide into shallow spots on a small bass lake is a lot different than the boat you’d want to troll for walleyes on big lakes, where larger waves make higher sides a must.

The Internet is the greatest resource imaginable for sorting the details of boat ownership, and even looking at some preliminary options. Use a search engine to enter “boat sales” and your local marinas. Or, check out our “The Boat for You” section.

And don’t forget that we’re just now starting to kick off the boat show season. Check your local listings for a boat show coming near you. Boat shows are great places to actually see different models and ask detailed questions.

The boat buying process should be fun for the whole family, and doing your homework now and through the winter is the key to making the right purchase next spring.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.