Things You Need To Consider When Buying A Boat

“Would you buy this boat?” is the million (or multi-million) dollar question we get asked on a daily basis when someone is buying a boat. Unfortunately, we cannot provide a simple yes or no answer. Just like people, boats are diverse, complicated and sometimes carry a lot of baggage (some literally, too). 

As a boat is a substantial investment, you should consider what your boating desires, budget, and storage options are and what experience you have working with boats of varying conditions. Today we will cover the three most important things you should consider when buying a boat:

  1. What is your intended use of the boat?
  2. What is your budget?
  3. Where will you store your boat?

Intended use 

The first thing to consider when buying a boat, is what you intend on using the boat for. This alone will help you narrow down your choices. For example, you might be a fisherman looking to catch some Tuna. On the contrary, it might be a purchase for the family to explore our wonderful waterways.

I bought a diesel inboard shaft drive, with plenty of open deck space for all of my fishing tools (and hopefully some fish)! Aaron on the other hand has a bowrider for day trips with his wife and friends, and the odd kneeboarding trip. Our point is, there is a vast array of boats that all serve different purposes. Take your time to research what’s available and if you get the chance, even try to hop onboard. Visiting events like the Boat Show, or visiting your local boat club are great places to immerse yourself in the boating culture to figure out what you like.

Budget

So, you’ve narrowed down your intended use. What next? Deciding on how much you want to spend, of course! Our top tip when buying a boat is to buy the newest boat possible that fits your specifications and budget. Occasionally  we have a customer that has fallen in love with a really large, but really old boat. While there are some decent boats out there that fit in that category, it can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack.

When you’re considering your budget, it’s also important to remember the ongoing maintenance costs which will vary between boats. As a general rule of thumb, for any boat that exceeds $50,000 we recommend factortoring in 10% of the purchase price for any running costs. These running costs include things like maintenance, antifouling, mooring and other marina fees. These costs are all variable, and are based on how the boat is used and stored.

Storage

This brings us to our next important question when considering buying a boat: where will you store your boat? We’ll break it down into your 5 options [maybe order in terms of cost low to high?]:

  1. Boat trailer
  2. Swing mooring
  3. Dry storage
  4. Marina berth
  5. Private wharf or pontoon

All of these options have their pros and cons. 

Boat trailers

Boat trailers are a convenient option as you can store them at home or at a store facility. Another bonus is that they are low cost and easy to maintain – but please don’t forget about maintaining it. It’s incredibly important to service your trailer running gear regularly – you don’t want to be that person on the side of the road with only one wheel left on your trailer!

Swing moorings

Swing moorings are the floating buoys that you see in nearly every bay across Australia. They are a good, cheap option but access is harder. Accessing your boat is harder because you’ll need a dingy or tender service to hop onboard. If you’re considering a mooring, we’d suggest checking the availability of your desired bay as some spots in Sydney have a 5+ year waiting list! In addition to this, not all boats are suited to being left on a mooring as they might have systems that require power at all times. The bay’s weather conditions should not be overlooked either, as some are more risky than others.

Dry storage

Dry storage is a great option for boats up to 30ft. When dry stored, your boat will live out of the water on a rack, rather than living in the water. Each time you use your boat, you will need to book in advance as the facility will take it out of the rack and into the water. That means you need to be much more organised with planning your outings! On the plus side, it does give you the advantage of not having to antifoul the boat (saving money)! Also, the drive systems are not constantly emerged in saltwater, which can cause additional maintenance and problems . Dry storage is the happy medium where you’ll save marina berth costs. You will also have easy access to the water without towing a trailer. They are a bit more expensive than a swing mooring, which we’ll cover next.

Marina berths

Marina berths are a great option, and are very easy to use. You can use your boat anytime, and easily have access when you need to hop onboard. Most marinas have additional facilities that come in handy. These are things like shore power connections, waste disposal, parking, onsite maintenance services and sometimes even a club house! However, marina berths can be the most expensive option, and you’ll be sharing the facility with other boat owners using other berths there (which can be a good way to meet other boaties, but some owners can be neglectful or carless). 

Private wharf or pontoons

Private wharf or pontoons are great as you have all the features of a marina berth, without the cost! It’s the perfect place to store a larger boat, although the initial cost is likely to be the most expensive. We recommend checking the legal boat size your local waterway will allow, and a 35amp power source so that you can easily run your systems onboard. 

What next?

Now that we’ve covered all of the essentials for buying a boat, we will talk more about boating knowledge and resources that you can use to help the process.

Whilst it’s an advantage to have some boating knowledge, it’s not necessary. The first step is to get your boating licence (if you don’t already have one)! If you don’t know where to start, check out the team at ABC Boating College

Once you’ve got your boat licence, and found a boat that suits your needs and budget, you need to ensure that it’s in good condition. You can leverage someone else’s knowledge and experience here by hiring a professional marine surveyor and mechanic to complete an inspection. Don’t be fooled, you definitely need someone that can cover the entire boat including the hull and engines, and here at BoatBuy we can do both.

Once you’ve purchased your boat, you might need some extra help behind the wheel. Having some private boat lessons with a provider like Boat Wise might be wise if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.

Regardless of whether you’re an experienced boater, or new to learning the ropes (literally), it’s always advisable to stay up to date with the industry. There are plenty of useful resources available online. Some of these include the BIA’s Discovery Boating website, YouTube (look up Dan’s BoatLife) or simply reaching out to other professionals in the industry like brokers, mechanics, shipwrights, or even just jumping on social media – the Sydney Boating Group and Queensland Boating Group on Facebook where there’s a lot of conversations happening. We also have plenty of helpful content on our website – just have a scroll through our Articles and Videos page. We’re also only a phone call away if you need any advice along your boating journey!

About The Author – Donald Nicholson

Growing up on the Isle of Barra on the West Coast of Scotland (population of around 1100), Don’s family owns and operates a fleet of fishing vessels that mainly fish for prawns and lobsters. At age 17, Don completed a degree in Marine and Mechanical Engineering, and has spent the last decade working in numerous engineering roles across the globe, before settling in Australia in 2017. Don specialised in diesel engines working on a diverse number of vessels and engines across Pittwater. Don has also completed his Diploma in Marine Surveying, and is a valued BoatBuy team member. Liked this article? Feel free to get in contact directly at don@boatbuy.com.au.

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