Fisherman's Tips: Buying A Boat

Tips and consumer guide for buying a fishing boat, including different types, features, and prices.

Just as with cars, fishing boats come in many sizes and colors, and for many different budgets. Boat dealers deal in both used and new boats. When looking for a boat, find the style of boat that fits your type of fishing. You will not need a high-performance bass boat if all you plan on doing is going fishing for blue gill with your kids on Saturday mornings.

An average hobby fisherman could start out with an aluminum boat with a 10HP engine. This is an average size. Boats come in lengths from 10-ft. to 22-ft., and motors can range from 2HP to 300HP. Again, choose a boat that is right for the type of fishing you want to do.

No matter what the dealer tries to talk you into while you are in the showroom, select a boat that you can afford. Whether used or new, fiberglass or aluminum, boats range in price from $5,000 to $45,000. When budgeting for your boat, do not forget about the annual upkeep. Do you have a place to store your boat? If not, you will need to invest in a good tarp to protect the boat's interior. In addition, most lakes have fees that you will have to pay before you can put your boat in the water. You will have to check with the lake's office and pay the fee before unloading. Some lake fees can be paid annually if you go to the same lake every week, or you can pay for the day only.

Gas and annual maintenance costs are other factors to consider when budgeting for your boat. There are also license fees, taxes, and insurance to pay.

Obviously, having a boat is not cheap. In fact, compare it to having another car, except the boat can only be taken out of storage a few months out of the year.

In addition, the more bells and whistles a boat may have, the more expensive it will cost. For example, some boats have global positioning systems, larger livewells (for fish), larger gas tanks, more cubbyholes for storage, and other fancy electronics such as depth finders. A fiberglass boat will cost more than an aluminum boat because of the material involved. However, comfort is also something to think about. A fiberglass boat will give a smoother ride in rougher water and for longer distance. In an aluminum boat, you will be feeling every choppy wave.

If you decide to buy a used boat, look for damage that may have occurred. Make sure all electronics work. Try to talk to the previous owner to see if he or she had any problems with the boat. Ask if the boat is still covered under any warranties. For instance, the engine usually has a separate warranty from the engine manufacturer. Finally, try to take the boat to a nearby lake for a test drive.

As always, caveat emptor. Treat boat-shopping the same as if you were car-shopping. You do not want to end up with a lemon.

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