Where to Find a Boat

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Photo of a sailboat show

This is the fun part — looking at different boats to find one that fits your needs and your budget. With the advent of the Internet, it's much easier to research and narrow down some possibilities before you actually jump in your car.

New boats, like new cars, are typically bought through a dealer, and often dealers will take trades and assist with financing. Some dealers carry more than one line, widening the selection. Pick a dealer based on reputation. Ask around and take a few minutes to do some online research and look at owner reviews of boats you're considering. Check for Better Business Bureau complaints. BoatUS members can search the Consumer Protection database and see if there are reported problems with a specific model or dealership. Boat shows can be a great place to see a lot of new boats side by side, and dealers often offer attractive pricing. Dealers of new boats also frequently sell used boats as well.

For most people, the biggest advantage of buying a new boat is the warranty that comes with it. Simply put, the warranty is the manufacturer's promise to stand behind its products by providing service and repairs after purchase. Because marine warranties vary widely in their coverage, compare them before you buy. Look for multiyear warranties for hull and engines, as well as coverage for osmotic blistering — a common problem on fiberglass boats that's expensive to fix. Some manufacturers offer "bow-to-stern" warranties that cover everything, usually for no more than a year, in addition to a longer warranty for the hull and engines. Find out whether the warranties transfer to subsequent owners — a crucial determinant of resale value.

Trade-Ins

Dealers are often willing to apply the value of trade-in boats against the cost of a new boat. But be aware that you will probably not get top dollar on the price, since dealers stick close to the maxim "buy low, sell high." In addition, dealers may scrutinize your old boat far more critically than a private buyer will: Part of their profit margin will be based on how easy a trade-in boat will be to sell. With this in mind, have your boat in top condition when you bring it to the dealer. In some states, a benefit of a trade-in arrangement is that you pay sales tax only on the price of the new boat, less the amount of the trade-in. Check with your state's boat registration agency.

Remember:

  • Written warranties must be made available to you before you buy.
  • The limited warranties on most boats and engines mean that you may end up paying for some part of the repair costs. Read the fine print to avoid surprises later on.
  • New boats usually come with separate warranty coverage from the engine and boat manufacturers, as well as the makers of other major components. Buying from a dealer who services boat and engine can save a lot of frustration down the road.
  • Fill out and return warranty cards to be sure you'll get service when you need it.
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