So, you are in love with fishing and you want to buy a bass boat, or you have a smaller bass boat, and you want to upgrade, but it’s been years since you bought your last boat. These are generally the two types of people who are in the market for a new (or used) bass boat but have no idea where to start, or what you should even be looking for in a bass boat. Well, you are in luck because I am here to give you some really great tips when looking for a new boat to take out. I cannot stress enough, the importance of doing your homework when it comes to buying a new boat because if you have never owned a boat before it could be costly in the end.
The worst thing that can happen, especially if you are new to the boating game, is when you show up to the boat store and get snowballed into buying something that is way out of your means because the salesman said you had to have it. The other pitfall can be if you are buying a used boat, you really need to know what to look for, or you could be in for a lot of money in repairs because you generally don’t meet a seller out on the lake. Not to worry though, take a look at the steps below to save yourself time and money in the long run, so you can spend that time on the lake fishing!
1. Stick To A Budget
One of the most important factors in buying a boat, or anything really is a budget! Depending on if you are buying a new or used boat, the prices can start at $1,000 dollars and go up to over $50,000 dollars, so you really need to see what you can afford and really stick to it, so you don’t have to sell it, or get it repo’d before you can take it out. Here are some things to consider:
- Do I want to pay cash: If you can pay cash, that is a great idea, but keep some of your savings handy for any gear or servicing you might need. Don’t throw everything you have into the purchase, or you may not get to take it out until you save up to fix something. Even new boats have problems.
- Is my credit good enough to finance it: If you are going to finance a boat, it’s good to pull a free credit report and see if there might be anything that could hinder you from getting a loan. It can be embarrassing to get to a dealership, find a boat you love, and get denied for it, so go in knowing you can buy!
- What type of monthly payment can I afford: Know your limits, and go in knowing what the highest you are willing to pay for a monthly payment. Keep in mind you may have extra spending with storage if you don’t have a yard or garage to keep it.
- What are all the costs to own a bass boat: Understand that there are servicing, storage, cleaning, fuel, and a lot of other expenses to think about when you want to buy a boat. Jot them down on paper or put them in excel to make sure you get your final figures right.
Getting these questions in your head and at least be thinking about them will help you in your decision, and will narrow it down quite a bit for you. If you are buying a used bass boat, take your time and do a lot of homework, and don’t be afraid to ask tons of questions!
2. Aluminum or Fiberglass
Depending on what type of boat you are looking for, and what your budget is, you will have to decide what you want your boat to be made out of. If you are in the market for an older boat that has seats and an outboard motor, an aluminum boat might be just what you need. Aluminum boats are more forgiving when you hit a rock, and only run the risk of a dent or kink in your hull, so if this is your first boat, you may want to look at this option.
Most all new boats are going to be fiberglass because they are more popular, so it may be harder to finder a newer aluminum boat, but fiberglass boats tend to have more buttons and bells on them if that is what you are after. Here are some differences between the two boats:
- Weight: Fiberglass tends to be heavier than aluminum, so if you are always in shallow water, aluminum might be a better option to go with.
- Noise: Sound travels faster and farther in water, and you are going to get a lot more noise in an aluminum boat. Fiberglass is going to a much more quiet ride.
- Damage: There is no question that aluminum boats will be more forgiving if you hit a rock or a log because it will most likely dent before you get a hole. Fiberglass is going to crack or tear if you hit something hard or sharp.
- Rough Water: If you hit rough water, a fiberglass boat will take a beating and you might not feel it as much, but an aluminum boat is going to be a much harder ride for you.
A lot of people rarely think about weight when buying a boat, but it is extremely important to understand. The standard 18-19 foot bass boat may run around 1200 to 1500 pounds, but that is completely dry and doesn’t take into account any extras.
It is very important to look into the boat weight, motor weight, and all the extras that come along with it. Around 30 gallons of fuel is an extra 240lbs, and depending on tackle, spare prop, batteries, and other stuff you decide to throw in the boat, you could be looking at another 500 – 600 pounds of gear. Trailers are also a huge weight, so do your homework and make sure your car can pull it.
4. How Many People Can It Fit
You definitely want to do your homework on how many people can actually fit, and comfortably in your boat before you invite the whole crew over for a day on the lake, and it doesn’t always depend on how many seats you have. Yes, it is nice to have a place to sit, but I rarely sit when fishing off the boat. It is important that you make sure it is a safe ride for everyone that is going, and you need to have enough life jackets for everyone that will be going with you. Law enforcement is always patrolling the lakes and rivers, so don’t think you will be able to skate out of a ticket if you are caught. Here is a very popular rule when trying to calculate how many people will fit:
BOAT LENGTH (FT) X MAXIMUM WIDTH (FT) / 18 = HOW MANY PASSENGERS FIT
so if you have a 20 foot long boat that is 8 feet wide, you would end up with: 20 * 8 / 18 = (around) 9 people
Typically your boat will have a sticker on it somewhere that will tell you the maximum capacities, but this simple math will also do in a pinch. I always round down when doing this math because I really don’t like to be should to shoulder with someone when trying to cast my line out.
5. It’s Okay To Walk Away
Remember, it is okay to walk away! If you get to a dealership and something just doesn’t feel right about the deal, walk away and think about it. I guarantee there are plenty of boats on their lot, and the one you love isn’t going to go flying off the showroom floor. Take your time and be very solid in your purchase. Make the purchase knowing that you are going to have a good time, and can afford it no problem, or you will spend hours you could be fishing, worrying about how you are going to make your next payment. I do a lot of homework before buying anything and will rarely ever buy something the first time I go look at it.
If you have a great salesperson, they will know that this is a major purchase and will want you to be 100% confident in your choice. They don’t want to see you back at the store extremely upset because you made a bad decision because they pressured you into it. If you find a sales person that is only out for their commission, ask to work with someone else.
6. What About A Warranty
If you are buying a new boat, I highly suggest getting the warranty if they offer one. Even if you have to spend a couple of extra bucks per month to get a warranty, do it. I once heard a term for BOAT which was “Break Out Another Thousand”, which was funny to me at the time, but then I bought my first new boat, and knowing nothing, got hosed. It costs me more in repairs than the boat actually cost me and I learned some very valuable lessons in this purchase.
The first was that a car is NOTHING like a boat, so even if you can work on cars, you may be able to fix some things, but others will take a real boat mechanic. The second is that when it comes to boats, for both used and new, get a warranty. A boat is just like any other mechanical device, so something is going to break, and you want to be able to tow it to your dealer and just drop it off and pay your deductible.
This is going to save you a ton of time and heartache in the long run. I want to stress the importance of doing homework and asking tons of questions when it comes to buying, or getting a warranty, so make sure it covers the engine, and the electrical stuff, and you should be set.
7. Do I Need Insurance?
Yes, you do need insurance! Always, always pay your insurance premiums because you never know when something might happen. I remember the first time I had gone boating with some family friends and had never really been around boats, but everyone told me they were unsinkable! Turns out, that a large stump was just under the water and ripped the whole back of the fiberglass apart when we were on the Delta.
I watched the unsinkable boat go down like the Titanic, and the family cry when the mother said they had not paid on the insurance because it had been winter, and wanted to save money. Accidents happen all the time ranging from what happened to me, to a tire coming off, to something falling on the boat while sitting in your yard, and insurance will save your life when these situations happen. Enjoy your boat and never stress about the what if’s.
8. Accessories, Accessories, Accessories
When it comes boating, there are a TON of extras you can get for it. You can get stuff like fish finders, underwater cameras, and all sorts of navigation, and electronics. All of the added accessories are up to you in personal choice, and will depend on what you have a budget for, but here are some of my must-haves on a boat.
- Anchor: It is always good to have an anchor on board so you can stay in one spot and not have to worry about using your motor(s).
- Oars: Having oars can be a lifesaver if you don’t gauge your fuel right, run out of gas, or have any sort of problem where the motor dies.
- Life Jackets: These are a must-have! In most, if not all states, you are required to have life jackets for every single passenger that you have. They really do save lives in an emergency.
- Spotlight: I recommend getting a flashlight, or one of those big spotlights for extra light in case you fish until dusk. Boat lights are more for safety than they are for driving.
Keep in mind that you can get some of these for relatively little money, or thousands of dollars, so it really is up to you what you want to buy. You can check out my fish finders page for what I recommend, but other than that, the sky is the limit, or budget per say.
9. Switches, Lights and Gauges
When going to buy a boat, make sure that you try all the gauges, lights, and switches on the boat before you buy it. You want to make sure you don’t have a dead fuel gauge, or tachometer before you take it out to the lake. You can check all the switches and make sure the pumps turn on and are working before you buy.
Turn on all the running lights, and radio if it has one and make sure they are all in working order, and don’t stay on with the key off so your battery gets drained. It is important to remember that a boat uses different materials when being built, is graded for marine use, and can get wet.
Car electronics never really see water or weather, so if something does need replacing, you might have to special order it from a boat dealer. Both used boats and new boats should be able to be tested, and there are special devices you can even attach to the motor to enable it to be run out of the water.
10. Cracks and Gouges
Walk your boat and look for any dings, cracks, or gouges in the body before you purchase. One of the worst things you can do is leave a boat out in the hot sun to bake all summer, and then leave it in the rain and snow to be beaten up by the elements.
Dings in an aluminum boat might be okay for it structurally, but cracks or gouges in fiberglass will need to be fixed and can cost you a lot of money. If you are buying a used boat, ask to see the cover that was on it if you don’t see it, ask them where they stored it when not in use. You will be able to tell if it has been in the sun for long periods of time because of faded paint, or small hairline cracks in the hull.
11. What’s That Smell
Yep, that’s right, what the heck is that smell. Newer boats are usually kept in storage, but a used boat might have just been covered out in someone’s yard, so the carpet and seats might have grown mold or mildew. There is still wood flooring on boats, so you want to smell the carpet and make sure you don’t have the musty smell in it because that could mean there may be rot in the wood.
Always take a look at the seats and make sure you don’t see mold spots anywhere on them, and that they have not been waterlogged by sitting out in the rain. The smell is extremely hard to get out if you even can, so put your nose to the test.
12. Where Do I Put This Thing?
Once you finally pick the boat you want and are ready to purchase it, where the heck do you store it? Well, if you are lucky and have a big enough garage, that is the best place to keep your boat. It is always nice to have your boat near you in case you get up one day and just want to head out to the lake.
If you don’t have room in your garage, but have a decent-sized property, you may get away with storing it in your driveway or on your property somewhere, but be cautious, and keep it covered when not in use. A cover is going to save the life of your boat and keep it new for a long time.
If you are like me and don’t have a place, you can always get storage for your boat, which can range from a spot out in a lot, to a full-blown indoor storage unit where you can just unhitch and they take it and put it away for you. Some even have full winterizing facilities for the boat. These storage places can range from $50 dollars per month to $300 dollars per month, so do your homework, and call around to at least five places before you decide where you want your boat to be stored.
13. Servicing and Service Plans
You will normally only see service plans available when you buy a new or used boat from a dealer, and not a private party, and can actually be beneficial if you know what you want. Changing the oil is important every X amount of hours, and if you are not going to be using your boat in the winter, I would highly suggest getting it winterized so the fuel doesn’t go bad and hurt your engine. When it comes to getting service, there are lots of boat repair places out there, so you definitely want to go to a reputable place to have your boat worked on.
I usually ask my friends and family first and then double-check them on a place like Yelp, or something similar. Call them up and ask some questions, and make sure it is not going to be one of those places where you take your boat in for an oil change and they want you to replace the motor. I cannot stress homework enough on this one and don’t just go to the first place you find, even if you are in a hurry.
Buying a boat is a serious commitment, and not to be taken lightly by anyone. Unless you really know what you want, it is a good idea to go look at them, and make sure you get what you want. Stick to your budget, and always plan for added accessories, and gear that you might not have thought about. Always asks lots of questions, and look at any service records if you are buying a used one.
Boats can last a long time if they are maintained properly, but can also cost you a fortune if they are never kept up. Always purchase insurance for your boat, you never know when you will need it. The one last tip we can offer you is to HAVE FUN! Boats are a lot of fun, and are a really great way to take your fishing game to the next level.