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Buying A Boat Without Sinking Your Wallet 
 
by Fred Bergendorff June 10, 2005

Whether it's for fishing, water skiing, or just plain sailing or cruising, there is a boat for nearly every purpose and lifestyle. So, let's say you're ready to "take the plunge" and buy a boat for yourself. Just what are you getting into and how much can you expect to spend?

The recreational boating industry in the US is huge. According to the National Marine Manufacturing Association, some 69 million Americans are into boating of one kind or another, from small Hobie sail boats and Seadoo personal water craft all the way up to yachts and luxury motor cruisers. In 2004 there were 17.1 million registered boats, and sales of power boats topped 225,000.

Finding A Boat Dealer

Rob Sanford, General Manager of Sundance Marine in San Diego, California, says you need to think about your new boat purchase as first a courtship and then a marriage. “It’s necessary to pick out a reputable boat dealer, preferably one that is located on or near the water. That way you can take a boat for a ‘test drive’ much like you’d do if you were going to buy a car.” He likens the courtship to the purchase and, since boats last a lot longer than cars, more than likely you’ll have an ongoing relationship to the dealer for such things as engine servicing, option upgrades, etc. Sanford also stresses the importance of finding a dealer who represents many boating brands. He explains that, “today there are lots of well built boats to choose from. Except for a few cheap builders you really can’t go wrong. It comes down a preference for features and design. You don’t want a dealer who just tries to sell you on one brand.”

You might also consider attending a boat show. Usually they are held at a convention center but in coastal cities they are often held right on the water. You’ll see lots of boats, although sometimes people can get too much input and become confused. But if you can stay focused, you’ll get a lot of information. Also, many times dealers will offer “show specials” which can save you a lot of money. One more thing about new boats – you might consider buying right before the end of July. That’s when a lot of dealers like to start clearing inventory while they’re waiting for new models.

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