It’s a seller’s market at the moment – so you need to do your due diligence
Buying a boat isn’t as easy as you may think and can be a daunting purchase when starting out. You’ll probably make some mistakes when upgrading your boat; everyone does. A 1000-page book could be written on the subject and it wouldn’t even scratch the surface of what you need to know. The pandemic and the way it has shifted supply and demand, raised prices and created long waiting times has made buying a boat a more difficult prospect than ever.
However, there are some basics to consider when upgrading or buying. This is a quick guide to get you thinking about the most important aspects of your purchase; you’ll then need to do as much research as possible. The more you know, the better your choice of boat will be and you won’t regret your purchase. Enjoy, and good luck boat shopping.
‘Covid tax’ – you’ll hear this term thrown around quite a bit and it refers to the price increase we’ve seen in boats, trailers, engines and electronics, both on the second-hand market and at the retail level. It’s not just boats, it’s cars, caravans – everything. It’s not anyone doing the wrong thing, but it’s the nature of supply and demand. Everything is a bit or a lot more expensive now and our prediction at Hooked Up is that this isn’t changing any time soon. There are some people on the second-hand market (and good on them if they can get away with it) adding huge increases on products, so you need to do your research and see what’s reasonable in the current market. This will take time and will mean you need to scroll through endless pages on Facebook Marketplace, Boatsales and even Gumtree getting to know what’s a realistic price. The most important aspect of navigating this new market is patience. A year seems like a long time to wait, but if you rush out and buy the boat you don’t want because your first choice had a long waiting time, you’ll have buyer’s regret – and buyer’s regret when it comes to boats is horrible. So be patient and get the boat you really want.
Your set budget will determine the kind of boat you end up with. It’s not just about the initial cost of the vessel, either; the bigger the boat, the more it will cost to run. Bigger boats require more maintenance, bigger trailers, more fuel and possibly multiple engines. More things can go wrong than you imagine. Owning a boat is expensive, so be realistic about what you can afford. Don’t be tempted to stray too far from your budget for the actual craft, because you’ll need some funds in reserve. In saying that, however, buy the newest and best boat you can afford.
What Will You Use It For?
It’s important to be realistic here. Everyone likes to think they are going to chase big fish offshore, take the family out skiing or cruise to far-flung harbours to stay overnight, but if in reality you’ll be inshore most of the time and doing family days only now and then, buy a boat to suit. You’re better off having a boat that does a few things really well and suits most of your fishing than one that does only one thing well. For example, an eight-metre trailer boat won’t be great when travelling and you’ll be limited to certain ramps. It may be too big, too awkward and the running costs too high. Something smaller may be what you’ll get more use out of. It’s important that you take your time and think hard about what kind of fishing you’ll mostly be doing, then use that as a starting point.
Do Your Own Research
Take anything you hear about a boat with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, 99 per cent of boat owners will lie or embellish the truth about their boat’s performance. Some clever boating media use private owners and even the manufacturer to comment on the boat’s performance – it’s always going to be ultra-positive, and not necessarily untrue in every case, but you should always test any boat yourself before buying. You need to do your own research by testing boats on the water. Make sure you’re happy with the interior layout, electronics package and seating. Be sure you’re happy with its handling. Every dealer, or even people selling second-hand, will allow an on-water test. If you’re inexperienced, find a friend who is experienced to go with you. If you want to know if the boat can handle rough water, ask the dealer to show you its performance in these conditions. Ask to see how it performs in a head sea and a following sea. Eventually you may be confident enough to drive in rough conditions or you may be caught out in them. You want to know that the boat can progress with you. So even if you feel that for the first year you’ll just be going out when it’s dead flat, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for a boat that can handle rougher waters.
Second-hand vs New
While you may pick up a good deal, and you can get a larger boat and engine cheaper when buying second hand, there is a lot that can go wrong with a boat and you don’t really know how the previous owner cared for it. Generally (unless it’s old) the hull won’t fail but the engine and electronics may, and this could be expensive and will definitely happen at the worst time possible. If you have friends who are experienced with boats and engines (and I mean friends who are actually experienced, not the kind who pretend to be) you may be OK buying second-hand with their assistance. Otherwise, buying new will give you a warranty, some peace of mind and a dealer whom you can take the boat back to when things go wrong. As you learn more, you can investigate buying your next boat second-hand. The boat market can be a treacherous place when starting out, so be careful.
Hull First And Then Interior
While a good fishing layout is extremely important and you need to choose between things such as centre consoles, cabins and bow riders, you should look at the hull and its performance first then look at interiors. Some boats will have amazing interiors but poor on-water performance. You can always change things in the interior for relatively minimal cost, but there isn’t much you can do about a bad riding hull. Find a good hull that suits your needs then start worrying about things such as rod-holders, livewells and storage. If you’re choosing between two great hulls, pick the one with the best fishing layout.
Visualise Yourself Fishing
While you’re at a dealer, with every boat you hop into, visualise yourself in it. Think about how many people you will usually have with you and whether there is enough room. Where will all your electronics go? Can you stand up and drive? Can you see the sounder from the transom? Use whatever experience you have to try and visualise all aspects of your fishing, or else you won’t be the first person to buy a boat and realise only once on the water that there are some fundamental issues that don’t suit your style of fishing.
Boats aren’t cars. The boat, engine, trailer and electronics are all independent of each other. You can add and remove whatever suits your needs. So have a think about this. A lot of boats will have a low starting price, or there may be varying prices between dealers for the same model. You may find a six-metre boat can be priced quite low with its lowest-possible engine power, a small GPS/sounder and an average trailer. All the extra bits and pieces do add up, so maybe you’re better off with a slightly smaller boat but more engine power, a better trailer and a more impressive electronics package. Again, it may be the opposite. Pay close attention to every aspect of the boat and always ensure you know what it’s coming with before you buy. Make sure you let the dealer know exactly what you do and don’t want.
You should try to buy new if you can afford it as a lot could be wrong with a second-hand engine. There are really only five brands of outboard engine to choose from (Mercury, Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda and Tohatsu) and everyone has an opinion on which is best. Again, you have to do your own research. Spend some time looking into it and soak up as much info as you can before deciding. If you need to drive to the other side of town to get the boat you want with the engine you want, do it.
Owning and buying a boat can be an amazing experience or a terrible one. And when you’re new to it, 98 per cent of the time you’re going to get a lot wrong. I hope this article helps you make the right decisions. Just keep in focus that the right decisions are the ones that suit you and your fishing and boating style. Don’t rush into anything and do a lot of research before making your purchase. Write out a checklist of all the things you want and separate them into categories of boat, engine, trailer and electronics (sounder, GPS, radios, lighting) then go searching for the best deal. When you know exactly what you want, you can make compromises and maybe go without a few things, but if you buy before you’re sure, it’s too late.
Words & Images: Kosta Linardos