Keel protection, electronics, oxygen aerators, upgraded latches, deluxe covers. There are a ton of decisions to make when ordering a new boat; it’s almost enough to take the wind from one’s sails. Ordering a new boat is the best day of your life, as is the day you sell it—or so the sages tell us. We’ve all heard the acronym for boat ownership, B.O.A.T. (Break Out Another Thousand), and it is quite fitting.

We’ve been busy buying our third boat (in over 19 years) this week. This isn’t a sales pitch for a specific brand, but it is a pitch to do the hard work before you make your purchase.

Here are five key things to think about when getting close to pulling the trigger on a new boat:

  • Manage expectations. Attend sport shows and boat shows to compare brands and ballpark pricing based on display models, or stop by multiple dealers. There are so many choices and the price range is incredible. If you’re going to write a check, chances are you have a pretty good idea where you want the price tag; look around and see the different boats that fit. If you’re going to finance, have a solid idea of a down payment and monthly loan payments. Otherwise, it is way too easy to get caught up in dreaming, and dreaming big. That’s when the frustration sets in if you can’t get what you want.
  • Ask veterans. Once you have the right brand figured out for you, talk to others who own that boat brand. Ask specific questions about upgrades that they consider must-haves, as well as nice-to-haves. Family budgets and priorities are different, but you will learn a lot about the features and benefits from the guys and gals that use their boats hard. They often have the inside scoop on details. For example, a couple of friends of mine told me to order the “mist inside flake” for the paint job on our fiberglass boat, a Ranger Reata 2050. They said the paint job that flows through the inside of the boat helps keep it cleaner—no scuff marks get left over, and it’s easier to wipe down. It was a few-hundred-dollar upgrade, but we were happy to get that advice before we made our purchase.
  • Think long-term. Unless you’re a pro who turns their boat every year (and wouldn’t we all love to be in that situation), most of us own our boats for quite a few years. Make choices with the comfort in mind, you will be using this boat for a while. Keep it comfortable with just the right seating choices, and know the right size of boat and motor you’ll need. Thinking long-term is also about staying clean and looking good, like removable carpet. Think ahead about how many road trips you’ll want to take—is it a boat that will be easy to manage on the road?
  • Don’t forget the 80/20 rule. Buy a boat that will be able to fulfill your needs 80 percent of the time, but don’t forget about the “20 percent needs.” That might mean making a “fish and ski” type of choice. Maybe you will use the boat for fishing 80 percent of the time, but the week of the Fourth of July and during the family reunion in August you’ll have lots of nieces and nephews are around. Kids want to go tubing and wakeboarding and Grandma wants a comfortable ride for the fireworks show. You’ll be glad you thought through the options of playing with your boat and not just fishing. Or maybe you will use the boat 80 percent of the time for play and entertainment, but you still want a boat with a livewell, electronics, and trolling motor for the five or six days you get out fishing with your buds. Linear thinking isn’t good with boats, as life has a way of making things interesting.
  • The Mooch Factor. Most beneficially, talk your best friend or family member into buying a new boat. That’s the rule of thumb for my brother-in-law; he uses our boat all the time. Doesn’t pay a penny toward the purchase, winter storage, or maintenance. Such a deal, just a little gas in the tank after use. Brilliant. Now why didn’t I think of that?!

K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at

Image courtesy Kristine Houtman

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