Getting Underway

Experienced sailors caution newcomers who haven’t yet gotten their sea legs to have one hand for themselves and one hand for the ship.

The advice to protect yourself first before taking any risks at sea is right on the money if you are thinking about buying a boat. Put on the equivalent of a consumer’s life jacket by brushing up on the basics.

• Determine which boats fit your price range and interests. Dollar-for-dollar, you can get more boat if you buy used, but maintenance costs will be greater and you may not have the security of a manufacturer’s warranty.
• Have a clear idea of how much money you can spend not only on the boat, but also on yearly maintenance, storage, repairs and fees.
• Yearly operating, maintenance, storage, repair and equipment replacement averages about 10% of the boat’s value each year. Figure on addition expenses for marina fees, insurance, registration, taxes and fuel.
• It’s a good idea to pre-qualify for a boat loan at a reasonable rate from a bank or lender before going shopping. Loans obtained on an impulse while you’re enamored with your prospective purchase may not be as favorable or give you as much bargaining power as one shopped while you were cool, calm and collected.
• Comparison-shop! Price, performance and warranty coverage vary from boat to boat. Ask to see the written warranty before you buy.

Choosing A Dealer Or Broker

Dealer service is an important part of the new boat experience. Your relationship with the dealer will last for at least as long as your boat is under warranty. The ideal arrangement is to buy from a local company capable of working on both the boat and engine. Don’t buy out-of-town and expect your local dealer to be eager to perform warranty work. Unlike auto dealers, boat dealers are not obligated to provide warranty service for vessels they don’t sell.

When buying a used boat from a dealer or boat broker, be aware that the sales price generally includes a 10% commission. Be aware too that unless you specifically hire someone to serve as a buyer’s agent, dealers and brokers represent the seller’s interests.

• Find out how long the dealer or broker has been in business and how long he’s handled the make of boat you are buying. Longstanding dealers may have more clout with the manufacturer, especially if they’ve earned high marks on the manufacturer’s customer service surveys.
• If you have any doubts, check with the local Better Business Bureau, consumer affairs agency and the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau online consumer complaint database to learn of possible complaints about the company’s service;
• Talk with other customers for first-hand experiences.

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