Experts say to consider several factors before buying a boat.
There is no secret formula when it comes to buying a boat. Before falling in love with a boat go through many of the same routines needed in purchasing a new car.
Step 1: Decide what purpose the boat will serve. Do you want it for tournament fishing? Family fun? Waterskiing? Entertainment? Your usage should guide your boat-buying decisions. For example, it will determine whether you choose an inboard engine or an outboard. Decide whether you want a center console boat or a boat with a cabin. Do you need a small or a large boat? The most popular size fishing boat is 20 to 22 feet.
Sea Hunt is the top-selling brand at Ingman Marine.
Step 2: Cost. The asking price is not etched in stone. Determine how much money can you afford to spend on a boat. Buy quality. Your safety depends on it. Do price comparison homework online. Boats sell for less than sticker price more often than not.
Factor in attendant costs such as insurance, life vests, registration fees, fuel, flares, gas, anchor, dock lines and a trailer if you will be traveling with your boat. Water sports may require water skis, wakeboards, tubes, ropes and wet suits.
Factor in boat maintenance and repair costs. Whether you let a marina do the work or you do it yourself this is not an area to skimp. Proper maintenance adds years to your boat's life.
Sales Manager Larry Storm, with Ingman Marine for 16 years, said his company offers nine brands of boats to choose from. Most dealers offer three to six brands, he said.
His top seller is Sea Hunt.
"We sell more Sea Hunt fishing boats than any other brand," Storm said. "Sea Hunt offers boat owners the best bang for their buck."
Ingman Marine has locations in Gasparilla Marina, Port Charlotte and Sarasota. Ingman boat sales are up this year, Storm said. He compared them to the housing market.
"When the housing market is up boat sales tend to be up as well," Storm said.
After Hurricane Charley in 2005, boat sales went up as owners replaced crafts destroyed by the storm. Boat sales slipped as the Great Recession began in 2008 and are just now regaining traction.
Pontoons by Bennington Boats are big sellers, too, handling salt and freshwater, Storm said. Pathfinder Boats hold resale value well.
Randy Vance, director of BoatingLAB.com, author of "Power Boating for Dummies" and former Editor-in-Chief for Boating Life Magazine, said boat sales are up only slightly.
"Boat sales have improved modestly over the past year - up maybe 10 percent from the previous year, but sales are still far, far below their levels of 2007," Vance said. "One interesting trend is the increase in young boaters coming into the market. To react to them, manufacturers are coming out with new designs for family runabouts in the 18- to 21-foot range. Glastron's new GTS 205 and Larson's just-released LSR 2100 are excellent examples of the new boat building trends."
It's a big investment for the family so make sure you understand all aspects of the boat you pick out. Involve everyone's opinion in the family. Everyone will enjoy the boat more knowing they had a part in picking it out. Consider resale value.
Step 3: Picking one out. Shopping for a new boat is challenging. Attend boat shows to see up close the many boats offered in this industry. Ask questions at the shows. Do homework online, too.
Will you store your boat in dry storage or at your own home? Size matters if you are going to trailer a boat.
When you finally make your decision as to what boat company to go with make sure you get all the details on the warranties they offer. This is an important selling point. If anything goes wrong with your boat you want to make sure the company will stand firmly behind its product and work with the boat owner throughout the repair process.
This purchase is not just about the boat. It's about the dealership, too. Learn about your local dealers and their reputation. This alone could make or break your boating experience. A great working relationship with a service department is key to being a happy boat owner. Check their turnaround time when a boat goes in for repair.
Talk to other boat owners about their dealer. Their experiences will shed light on things you might not ever have considered. Boat owners have no reason not to tell you the truth.
Step 4: Test drive. Before hitting the water with your new vessel take a boating safety class. Anyone operating or riding in the boat needs to take this course, which could save your life and the lives of others.
Always test the boat in the water before buying. Test it in a challenging body of water - not a calm lake. Florida boats must navigate saltwater and fresh water. Open bodies of water require larger boats with inboard or outboard engines. Larger boats tend to handle rougher water better than smaller boats.
Step 5: Pull the trigger. It is crucial for you to do your homework before purchasing a new boat. Don't buy more boat than you can afford to maintain and operate.
A boat is a multi-purpose investment that can be used for fishing, riding to restaurants on the water, tubing, skiing, weekend getaways and more. Many boat owners have heard the saying: " The happiest days of a boat owner's life is the day they buy their boat and the day they sell it." A gloomier slogan is: "Boats are holes in the water boat owners throw money into."
It does not have to be.
Boats are a lot of work and a lot of fun. Just like automobiles, boats need regular maintenance and require steady care in order for the water fun to be long lasting.
Boating will change your life. You gain new perspective from the water. Marine life you see up close is a gift non-boaters don't often have the opportunity to experience. Boating allows you to get away from life's everyday stress. Make sure you take the time to choose the perfect boat for you.