Buying a new boat during the boat show season can be
an opportunity to get the most for your money,
but not without countless hours of shopping and
endless temptation to spend more than you're
able to comfortably afford.
by randy taylor

If you've made the decision to buy a power boat for weekend use with
friends or family. Here are a few tips to narrow your search and to make
a sound decision.

First, where will you use the boat? Are you land-locked and visit only lakes and rivers, do you live on the coast, or, like many, do you intend to trail your boat to different places with different conditions? The hull design of your new boat will be influenced by where you like to boat. If you spend the majority of your time on lakes and rivers with relatively calm and shallow waters you will most likely want a boat with a shallow draft. A shallow draft is a function of the deadrise of the hull, how steep the undersides of the hull are. A relatively flat bottomed boat will have a deadrise of 10-15 degrees, which will allow the boat to displace the same amount of water, but in less depth, than a hull with a 24 degree deadrise. What's the difference? Primarily, the more deadrise, 24 degrees in this case, the more a boat will cut through rough water in comfort. The downside is that the boat will require more water in which to float. This isn't conducive to beaching for picnics or exploring shallow waters. On the other hand, a flat bottomed boat in rough water will deliver a relatively uncomfortable, unstable ride.

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Next, if a flashy paint job is important to you, consider the options. Some manufacturers include color options "in the gel coat". In other words, the color is inserted as the boat is fiberglassed. This method makes for a nice, unblemished finish, however, fading has been a constant concern. Several after market painters offer high quality jobs that are resistant to fading, however. The best job includes an after market paint such as Imron with a clear coat on top. If you run your fingers over the colors you won’t feel any indentations or ridges as you would without a clear coat.
Choosing multiple power units is usually a choice of redundancy and price. Getting caught 25 miles out to sea with mechanical problems prompts most ocean-goers to consider twin power units. Sometimes people choose triple power over twin. For instance, tripe 225 horsepower Mercury Opti Max engines cost less than twin 300 horsepower Mercs. Not only do you get more horsepower, but also spend less money. Just remember that more units always means more fuel. More fuel means more weight in your boat. So think strategically.

Make sure that your new boat's hull warranty is transferrable and that you purchase an extended warranty on your power, if possible. This will increase the resale value of your vessel should you decide to sell.
How should you power your boat? After deciding where and how you will use your boat, you need to decide on outboard or inboard power and single or multiple power applications. If you want to do a lot of water skiing then the choice is pretty simple: single inboard power. Single, because you don’t want to go poor at the fuel dock, and inboard because the outdrive or prop shaft will be partly or entirely out of the way of the skiier in the water. Putting skiing aside, the pros of outboard power are ease of maintenance, price and weight. Arguably, however, inboard power is becoming increasingly maintenance friendly. An example is Mercury's new 496 cubic inch unit which includes a closed cooling system to avoid corrosion and other troublesome results from standard cooling. Inboard motors also tend to burn fuel more efficiently, horsepower for horsepower. The largest stock outboard unit is 300 horsepower, whereas inboard power is virtually unlimited.

It's always important to visit the factory of your potential new boat. Manufacturers are more than happy to show you around and to brag about their craftmanship. This is your opportunity to ask a lot of questions and to make sure you get complete and satisfactory answers. A basis of comparison from manufacturer to manufacturer will only come with time and several visits to different places. But you will start to see a few differences in how fiberglass boats are made. You will hear about vacuum bagging, vinylester resin and a host of other methods and ingredients that make one boat different from another. Since everyone has a different opinion, the best idea is for you to form your own. Ask around, read the literature, ask salespeople and manufacturers and decide what is the right boat for you.

If this isn't enough keep in mind we've only touched the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more involved in buying a new boat, like financing and writing off your vessel as a second home. We'll leave that to the financial experts. Just remember to make this fun.