Help me buy a boat!
November 7, 2010 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Boating n00b here, can anyone give me a rundown on what to look for in a recreational boat?

Hi Metafilter,

I've seen people at the lake with their boats - waterskiing, tubing, etc.

That looks like fun. I want to do that too.

I think I'll get a boat in the spring.

Problem is, I don't have a clue about boats beyond what was stated in "Lethal Weapon" ("there's the front, there's the back, water all around").

If I want a pleasure boat for waterskiing or tubing, uh... where do I begin? I've got no clue what I'm even supposed to be looking for. So I'm fresh prey for a salesman.

Can anyone give me orientation? ways to find an inexpensive boat are useful too.

Also I have a small car (Civic), no trailer, no trailer hitch either.

Please help a n00b

posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, your best bet is to find a friend who already owns a boat and ask them for guidance and advice. If you truly have no boating experience at all, you'll almost certainly want a used, inexpensive boat - nothing fancy. You don't need all the bells & whistles just to do a little tubing. Are there lakes & rivers nearby where people boat? If so, take a walk around the docks - there will likely be boats for sale by owner. You can also search online or check want ads. I'd avoid a dealership.

Also, driving a boat is not easy; you'll want to get plenty of practice before you try to do everything on your own. Can you rent boats at a nearby lake? If so, I'd do that to get the feel of driving a boat. Putting the boat into the water and getting it out again are also difficult; I've seen plenty of people struggle with getting the trailer to back in straight, and that's just the beginning.

You'll probably need to buy or rent a car to tow your boat, depending on the kind of boat you purchase. The Civic ain't gonna cut it - it may be able to tow the boat, but it won't be able to (safely & reliably) put it into or get it out of the water. Without a vehicle that can tow the boat, you'll have to store it in the water, but at some point you'll need to take it out for winter storage & for maintenance.

The best advice I can give, although a little negative, is to remind you what "boat" stands for: Bring On Another Thousand. It's an old joke, but that doesn't make it any less true. Owning a boat is expensive. Lots of things can go wrong, and they aren't always cheap to fix. Knowing that going in can save you a lot of frustration.
posted by pecanpies at 11:16 AM on November 7, 2010

(Also, all of the above is based on my experience boating in KY; I don't know where you are, so not all of the above may apply. E.g., storing the boat in the water year-round, minus periodic maintenance, might be totally possible in, say, Key West. I can't speak to that personally, though.)
posted by pecanpies at 11:19 AM on November 7, 2010

Honestly, most lakes have places where you can rent a boat. Renting a boat is not that expense - $100 - $150 for an afternoon of fun.

There's no reason to buy a boat if you're a boating noob. Why not rent for the spring/summer, see if you like it, and then go buy a boat next year?

There was a study in Millionaire Next Door that showed that most 1st time boat owners don't become 2nd time boat owners - that is, after they sell their boat, they realize that it's not worth owning one - maintenance costs are huge, dock charges are huge (you're not going to be able to pull a boat on a civic), and insurance costs are huge.

I'm also reminded of a crude joke - "if it floats, flies, or fornicates - rent it".
posted by unexpected at 11:22 AM on November 7, 2010

You have to have a place to keep the boat. What are your options there? Not owning a vehicle with the weight & HP to tow your boat seriously limits your options in that regard.

Think used, not new. LOTS of boats are on the market and have been sitting there for some time. Buying a new boat of any kind especially for a newbie is throwing your money away. Look on craigslist too.

Take a boating safety course. Buy magazines targeted to pleasure boaters. You'll get a feel of what the minimum specs are for the type of activity you want to do. You'll also educate yourself on what kinds of boats are considered to be well-made versus those that are not.

Boating is expensive. Expect to set aside somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of what you paid for the boat each year in upkeep, repairs, and fuel. This does not include mooring/storing the boat, unless you have a generous friend or relative who will handle this for you for free.
posted by contessa at 11:25 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into. Rent one a few times, see if you are really that excited about it after a few trips. There is major maintenance and upkeep with a boat, as well as seasonal storage.
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:45 AM on November 7, 2010

Don't forget insurance.
posted by yesster at 12:43 PM on November 7, 2010

In the mid-1990's I was in a similar position as yours. Unfortunately I didn't have the vast resources of Ask Metafilter at my disposal, so I didn't ever consider renting something.

Bad mistake.

Thus began three years of boat ownership. Even my lowly 17' aluminum 25 horsepower boat ate up considerably more of my time in terms of maintainence and just otherwise dealing with it both on the water and in the driveway. And, mine was brand new when I ultimately sold it.

They say the two happiest days in a boat owner's life are the day he buys it and the day he sells it.

That's true. I after all was said and done I figure it cost me about $150 for each hour I was actually on the water.
posted by imjustsaying at 1:01 PM on November 7, 2010

Take the course from US Power Squadron. It'll take about 8 weeks, and is as cheap as can be (about fifty bucks).

It was an excellent course, covering approximately everything you should know before you hit the water.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:31 PM on November 7, 2010

Short of buddying up with some local boaters I suggest renting different boat styles to find your fit. Take a boating course, either the power squadron or the USCG Aux, but please take one. & wear a PFD at all times when underway OR at the dock/ramp. Boating CAN be very rewarding & relaxing ( and fun too!).
posted by patnok at 2:40 PM on November 7, 2010

Make friends with someone who owns a boat. Bring beer and pay for gas. You'll be much happier and money ahead.
posted by Lone_Wolf at 8:10 AM on November 8, 2010

Thanks everyone for the reality check. I'll do more reading and investigation. Maybe I'll get a waverunner/sea-doo as a less dramatic investment. Or just stick to whatever I can rent at the time.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 2:27 AM on November 9, 2010

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