Get the checkbook: Let the boat buying begin!


The stars are aligned. The bills mostly paid. You’ve been dreaming about it and permission has finally been granted by the keeper of the purse strings.

Yes! A new boat is about to become a reality. So let the shopping process begin.

Boat shopping

Now all the dreaming ends and it’s the real deal. The questions are many and each needs answered, so here goes.

Size does matter. So do weight, hull design and material, power choices, and cost. Size is first, along with weight. One affects the other. Combined, they should be key factors in the buying process.

Dreams are just that. Dreams come in big sizes and so do dreams of boating to distant ports, fishing big water and big waves, taking friends and family along, and well, you get the picture.

The real world

Reality is another thing. Most of us can do all we expect to do with our boat in a more practical, and affordable size.

In the real world, a 20-footer for family fun is a big boat. Bow riders are far and away the most popular design for family boating.

While cuddy cabins sound like overnight fun, try sleeping in one. And for the average inland angler, 16 foot of boat is plenty and 18 is a lot.

Fiberglass versus aluminum is another choice to make. Fiberglass is heavier, deeper, and plusher. Aluminum is lighter, bumpier, easier to maintain, and more popular with fishermen.

Boat hulls

Both hulls, glass or aluminum, can serve multiple rolls so don’t think either one is always spot on. However, each has advantages and disadvantages and a trustworthy and experienced sales person can explain those in detail.


Experienced that is, in boating, not just selling. Weight comes next and it has more to do with transporting the boat than on the water performance.

In short, will your current vehicle handle towing the boat, motor, trailer, and gear?

Every vehicle, capable of towing has a limit, a maximum trailer weight and often a total gross weight of the tow vehicle and trailer load. Keep in mind that beside the weight of the boat, add motor, trailer, fuel, and gear.

The sum often doubles the weight of the boat itself. Smart shoppers keep towing capabilities in mind. And too, if the plan is to store the new boat in a garage or building, know the measurement of the building before signing on the dotted line. Most trailers and motors add about three feet to the length of the boat.

Primary boat purpose

Check the total width and height too. Perhaps the most important issue is deciding the new boat’s primary purpose. Dedicated bass fishermen like flat, platform designs while walleye guys go for deeper, better wave handling models.

And all around anglers (those whose favorite fish are the ones that are biting) nearly always choose deep vee models with bow platforms for casting and storage. Add a windshield and the deeper models can and do serve family needs too.

Motor power

What about power? Outboard motors add months to the fishing season. Why, because they drain themselves of coolant water and don’t need autumn winterization like Inboard-Outboard (IO’s) do. Outboards are lighter too. But most fiberglass runabouts come with IO power and the package seems to please almost all family sport boat buyers.

New boat motors of all types are now subject to strict emission standards so sticker-shocked buyers will find all brands and motor outfits cost more than they did just a few years ago.

Best advice

Best advice for new boat buyers is to buy the best you can afford and buy from a dealership that has a history with the brand you like.

Look for the right features and don’t buy more boat than you need. And don’t forget the add-on’s such as mooring/travel cover, extended warranty, safety equipment, annual storage and maintenance cost, trailer brakes, etc.

The perfect boat

Most importantly, every brand is different so cost will also be. Find the right boat, the right sales person, the right dealer, and make the right deal.

Boat safety

After that, take a safe boating course and require that your new boat be delivered on the water. And like any large purchase, get it in writing.

Now let’s go boating, it’s a great activity.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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