Be a smart boat buyer

Be a smart boat buyer

A friend of mine called this week seeking advice on buying a new boat. His rig is five years old, and while it’s in great shape, he’s looking to upgrade his equipment or possibly trade it for a new one.

He’s planning to hit the boat shows this winter to research what’s out there and what’s best for him.

This is a great time to shop new boats, whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to improve what you have. Dealers that attend shows are eager to deal, especially those sitting on last year’s models and who have new inventory coming in this spring.

But before you buy, do some research on the Internet and talk to friends. For example, pay attention to the equipment that comes on a packaged boat so you can compare prices and read reviews of what others have to say about the boat, motor and accessories.

If you’re trading, find out what your rig is worth by checking out websites that have used boats and compare prices. Some sites offer retail and wholesale values just like they do for vehicles.

A lot of manufacturers and dealers create packages with adequate trolling motors, electronics and outboard power, but those may not serve your needs in the long run.

Don’t ever settle for something that is “close” to what you want. I used to sell boats in my brother’s D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo, and I can’t tell you how many former buyers came in later to say they wished they upsized the engine at the time of purchase.

Also, some dealers will only charge you the difference in the upgrade. For example, if a packaged boat has a basic graph and you want one that has GPS and mapping, you should only have to pay the difference in cost.

And here’s my advice about trolling motors – don’t settle for bare bones thrust. Remember, you will spend more time running the trolling motor than you will the outboard. It’s better to know you have the power if you need it, and it’s frustrating when fishing wind or current and you don’t.

If you’re buying a smaller aluminum packaged boat, look at the cost to upgrade from 12 volt to 24 volt. And, if you’re buying a big fiberglass boat, you definitely want a 36 volt system.

While most bass boaters prefer the cable steered electric, many are switching to the electronic steer like MotorGuide’s Xi5 that has GPS controlled steering, a course plotter and anchor lock. We have that on my dad’s pontoon for fishing for bluegill, and we never have to drop anchor. If we catch a fish, we put the electric motor in anchor lock, and it holds us there. It’s like having PowerPoles for deep-water fishing.

Consider other add-on accessories, too. For example, TH Marine has numerous affordable items for the bass boater, such as a two-away alarm that secures your rig when it’s sitting alone in a parking lot, adjustable mounts for electronics, a G-force handle for lifting the trolling motor, HydroWave and many other items to make your boating experience better.

When financing, get what you really want and those add-ons might not cost you that much more in the monthly payment.

You also can save money by shopping financing plans. Dealers often offer special financing at boat shows, but perhaps your local bank or credit union can save you thousands of dollars over the length of the loan.

Buying a new boat is exciting if you take time to do it right. Boat shows make the job easier and affordable if you do the research and get what you want.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!