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Buying a boat the right way – and saving on finance

If your mates or family have taken you fishing on their boat, chances are you got hooked on the experience as much as the snapper or barra that dangled from the end of your lures. Your thoughts turn to hiring a boat occasionally, then you think: what if I bought my own?

If you’re thinking of getting into the hobby (well, let’s be honest, a lifestyle) buying a boat is similar to buying a car: you’ll need a budget, the knowhow, a licence, registration and the most crucial component, you’ll need to obtain boat finance.

Here are some tips to buy a boat the right way and avoid the usual newbie pitfalls.

If you can tow it, you can buy it

Before you even think of setting your heart on a boat, you need to know if your car can tow it to the river or marina. If you can’t, then you’ll have to account for marina fees – which can stack up fast. If you’re looking at fishing or recreation, try to look for something that covers all bases: the Haines Hunter 525 Prowler comes in at 5.3m and your car won’t need massive amounts of horsepower to get it on the water (a sedan or wagon could accommodate it.) The Robalo R160 is also a good choice for Aussie anglers. You’ll also need to account for somewhere to store your boat – unless you want the neighbourhood to take up arms against you.

50 shades of grey imports (and disappointment)

In your research, you may come across the notion of “grey” import or parallel imports. F1sherm@n420 on some forum somewhere said he saved a bundle; but is it too good to be true? Short answer: yes. Parallel importing is buying a boat sight-unseen overseas, bypassing authorised Boating Industry Association dealers or state boating authorities. If you buy a lemon, you’re on your own; and if you decide to sell because it wasn’t everything you wanted or needed, you’re also left high and dry. Don’t risk it.

Financing your boat

The Prowler is a fine vessel indeed – but it also comes with a price tag of $44,750 at the low end. Just like any major purchase, you’ll probably need to finance it. Though dealers will try to sign you up to their finance on the spot, it’s like shopping for groceries at 7/11: sure, it’s convenient, but you’ll pay a lot more for that convenience. Managing Director of Savvy and boat finance expert Bill Tsouvalas says it’s better to hunt around for a better deal or use a broker. “Boat finance packages are very competitive if you shop around; brokers use many different lenders and you can have the pick of the litter in that regard. Dealer finance will usually include fees and other charges, and they’re also after their hefty commission.”

As for knowing what your spending limit is, you should use a boat finance calculator. You’ll need to know the interest rate, amount you intend to borrow, and the loan term. “Remember to look for comparison rates in your research,” Bill says. “Expressed as an interest rate, comparison rates give you a complete picture of the fees you can expect to pay too. That way you can know the real difference between two loans.”

Buying new or used?

Though buying new will cost more, it may cost less to finance in terms of interest rates. “Newer boats are less of a risk and lenders will be more inclined to pass on more competitive rates as a result. Older boats are a liability and lenders may charge massive amounts of interest reflecting that fact.” Buying new is also safer as factory fresh boats have newer safety features and require less maintenance.

Remember to consult a financial adviser before making any major decision.

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