How to Tell if Boat Ownership is Right For You

boatOnce again, it’s July and you’re parked on the shoreline watching other families have fun in their boats. For the last few years, as you’ve heard the shrieks of delight from the children tubing behind Boston Whalers or watched your neighbors reel in prize-winning bass from their fishing boats, you’ve thought “Next year, we’re buying a boat!” For one reason or another you haven’t, but now you are serious.

There’s a lot to be said for owning your own boat. As a popular saying goes, you never really know how many friends you have until you buy one. But the fact is that not everyone is cut out for boat ownership. It requires, time, money and a commitment to maintenance, along with a number of other important qualities.

So before you run out and purchase a new watercraft, take some time for self-reflection, and make a smart choice.

Where Do You Live?
Clearly, you need water in order to use your boat. Whether a river, a lake or the ocean, it’s best if you live within a short drive of a body of water in order to get the most from your boat. If it takes a great deal of effort for you to get to the marina, you might find that you’re not using the boat as much as you would like. You should also take into consideration the type of water that’s closest to you. Boating on the ocean is very different than boating on a river or lake, and someone with limited experience could find themselves in trouble rather quickly.

How Much Space, Time and Money Do You Have?
Everyone who purchases a boat likes to think that they will use it every weekend. Some people actually do. However, you need to honestly assess your lifestyle and other commitments. Do the kids play sports that require them to be home most weekends? Do you work long hours? Only you can determine what constitutes value in terms of purchasing the boat, but a vessel that will only see the water once or twice a year may not be a good investment, and it won’t be long before you decide to sell. Luckily, if in the future you do become too busy for your boat, you can easily donate your boat to a worthwhile charity.

Keep in mind that boats require an investment of cash — and plenty of space. You might think that you can simply park the boat in your yard or garage during the off season, but that may not be feasible. If purchasing a new boat will require you to invest hundreds of dollars in storage when it’s not in use, you may need to choose something smaller.

Are You Handy?
As with all vehicles, things can go wrong with boats, so they need regular maintenance. While you can always hire professionals to manage the mechanical aspects of your boat, the costs can add up, not to mention there will be times when you need to make emergency or short-term repairs. If you don’t have any mechanical ability whatsoever, you might need to contract out the work to skilled professionals.

Can You Choose the Right Boat?
If you determine that yes, purchasing a boat is a good idea, you still have some homework to do. It’s best to determine your budget — including the costs for insurance, registration, maintenance and storage — and what type of boat will best suit your needs. It’s easy to get caught up looking at photos on online resale sites or exploring the showroom floor, but if you know that you’re looking for a bass boat, you won’t waste time looking at large cabin cruisers.

Purchasing a boat is a major investment of time and money, so to avoid wasting both, it’s important to know yourself and your expectations before buying. Remember, owning a boat will change your lifestyle. Instead of spending your weekends on the beach, or worse, on the couch, having your own boat will increase the likelihood that you’ll actually get out there and do something — and it’s hard to put a price tag on that.

About the Author: A long-time boat owner, Laura Pryor writes about boats and boating for several periodicals.