With the 2009 boat show season right around the corner, there's plenty to think about before taking the plunge and buying that new machine. You've no doubt spent countless hours recently talking to boat owners, reading consumer reviews online and admiring innumerable beauty shots of your shortlist of possible contenders. You may think you're ready to dive into the waters of new boat ownership, but with all the excitement, it's easy to forget some important factors. Before you drive home with your new boat in tow, consider this buying checklist.
Know your budget
Like many new boat buyers, you may have Ferrari-size dreams and a Toyota-capable bank account. It's best to know your target price range before delving too deeply. It's smart to shop around for rates and to get preapproved for financing before you walk into your dealer. That way, you'll have a good idea of how much you'll need for a loan amount and a down payment and what future monthly payments will be.
Prioritize your boat needs
If you're a hard-core buoy head, consider a direct-drive. If you have a family full of mixed water-sports lovers, perhaps a large multisport V-drive would be best. Hone in on what you truly will use the boat for most, and go from there.
Determine the true value of the boat
The appeal of a lower-price craft may be alluring, but it'll do you no good if you're comparing a bare bones model with a fully equipped one. Line up all your selections and figure out exactly what features, options and specs will be included in the final price.
Take it for a drive
We strongly recommend you test-drive any boat under consideration. Though we are aware that some dealers do not offer this service, you still have other options. Ask the dealer to set you up with a current owner, or ask your friends (or friends of friends) to take their crafts for a run around the lake. Not an option? Models don't change too drastically from year to year, so find a slightly older boat and test that one out. Also, you may even want to bring your skis along to get a true feel for the boat's performance.
Examine a boat's predecessor
If you're wary of spending your life's savings on a toy that may or may not be worth the investment, take a look at an older model of a boat you are considering. What is the value today? How has the boat held up over time? All these factors should give you a good idea as to the future lifespan of your potential purchase.
Different providers offer different levels of coverage, for a premium cost, of course. Determine replacement value over monthly payment, and make sure to examine any possible policies carefully — certain companies are not wiling to fully cover a boat that participates in towing-based water sports.