TEST YOUR RIDE — GET IT WET
You wouldn’t buy a car off the lot without first taking it for a spin, and you wouldn’t buy new shoes before walking around in them. So when it comes to your new ski boat, don’t settle for just stalking around the sales floor and admiring the pretty colors. Get it wet. Insist on test-driving the boat in the closest body of water available to you.
Once you’re on the water, there are a number of things to consider. Make sure the boat accelerates well with minimal bow rise, both weighted and unweighted. Does it turn as it should and not “roll up” in a turn? Maneuver the boat at both high speeds and slow speeds, and check visibility. How does it ride in rough water? Does it rattle, flex or creek? The steering should react quickly at any speed and the steering wheel needs to be easy to turn with one finger.
After you test the boat’s handling capacity, it would be advantageous to give the wakes a test ride as well. Is the slalom wake soft and flat at the line lengths you commonly ski at? Is the wakeboard wake steep or does it have a gradual transition? How well does it cater to your riding style?
If you’re looking for a crossover boat, it’s a good idea to make sure the wake can be altered to benefit your sport of choice. Do the ballast and the wake-enhancement plates change the wake to your liking? See if there is true adjustability and wake customization, because if you have both skiers and wakeboarders in your family, you want to keep everyone happy.
Joe and Matt Mueller of Minnesota Inboard, one of Malibu’s top dealers, have a “value checklist” that tells their customers what to look for.
Quality How sturdy is the build? Is the engine a respected name? How solid is the manufacturing? What’s the reputation of the brand?
Features Amazingly, for some people, the more cup holders a boat has, the better it is. This may not be your criteria, but take the time to evaluate the features that are important to you.
Performance While you’re driving, pay attention to acceleration, bow rise, tracking, turnability, responsiveness, rough-water ride and wake performance.
Price For most of us, price is the determining factor in any purchase. But once you’ve settled on your range, take a look at what boats are in that range and what each has to offer. Then drive them all — with a big-ticket purchase like this, there’s no sense in rushing your decision.