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A Guide To Choosing Your First Boat

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A Guide To Choosing Your First Boat – A Boating Guide Buyer’s Guide Report for 2023.

Would you like to buy your first boat? When you buy a boat for the first time, it is easy to make a mistake due to the lack of experience. Therefore, before making any decision, you must evaluate your needs carefully and determine the best fit for you. 

In this guide, you can find essential criteria before making a final decision on your new boat.

A Guide To Choosing Your First Boat? Yup, Right Here!

Buying a boat can be a dream that becomes a reality. Still, it is even better if you make the right choice from the beginning and select one that is perfect for the activities you want to do.

Maybe it is impossible to find a boat that fits all your needs. However, by analyzing the following criteria, you can still get a pretty good idea of your ideal first boat. 


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Here are the main things to look at when purchasing the first boat:

1. Determine which type of activity you want to do

Choosing your first boat is easy if you know what activity you want to use it for.
Are you a cruiser, a wakeboarder, or an angler? There is a lot to do on a watercraft.

Maybe you already have in mind the activities you want to do with your new boat, or perhaps you are not sure yet. 

Manufacturers design boats for specific activities; some even have their own test facilities for buyers. There are spaces set up to make it easy to test the boat for fishing, cruising, living, or many other features, depending on the type of boat. 

Here are the main types of boats you can consider for different activities:

  • Deck boats
  • Bowrider boats
  • Catamaran boats
  • Cuddy cabin boats
  • Center console boats
  • Houseboats
  • Trawler boats
  • Cabin cruiser boats
  • Game boats
  • Motor yacht boats
  • Jet boats

Deck boats

A deck boat has an open area on the deck that makes a great seating area where people can gather and enjoy the cruise. 

Deck boats aren’t usually much longer than 25 ft in length and work best for recreational activities, such as water sports, swimming, gathering with friends and families, etc.

Bowrider boats

This boat offers enough space for several passengers and many seating spaces. In addition, it contains a swim platform for various kinds of recreational activities. 


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It can sail in many different water conditions and is usually a powerful and fast boat (depending on the engine). 

Catamaran boats

A catamaran boat is a particular type of craft with two parallel hulls of the same size and dimensions. They are good boats for fishing, recreation, cruising, etc. 

Cuddy cabin boats

This type of boat is best suited for family trips for different purposes such as sailing, fishing, water sports, recreation, going out with friends, etc. A closed deck over the boat’s bow allows easy navigation and ample storage space. 

Center console boats

It is a simple boat with a hull and no cabin. It has a helm station in the center. It is a boat you can use for various purposes, such as fishing and sport fishing. The ship is built in a way to make fishing easy. 


Houseboats are precisely what the name implies. They can vary in shape and size, but the intent is to provide a ” house on the water.” 

They are often luxury boats and provide space for entertainment, relaxation, and other activities. Those types of ships can be motorized or simply be kept stationary. 

Trawler boats

The trawler boat can be a good option if you like long-range cruises. It is a boat made to be power efficient and move through waters with ease.


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Cabin cruiser boats

Also, the cabin cruiser boats are just what the name implies. The intent behind their design is to make sailing relaxing and easy. In addition, these boats provide enough space for sleeping, cooking, and the possibility of having heating and air conditioning. 

Game boats

This particular type of boat is used only for specialistic activities, such as fish pursuit and other fishing-related activities. These boats also provide cooking facilities, sleeping space, and other gadgets. 

Motor yacht boats

Motor yachts can be considered luxury crafts for leisure and fun activities. This type of boat reaches 12 meters or more and can sail in the ocean or other waters. You can use the ship to sail for an extended period, such as long weekends. 

Jet boats

These boats are easy to maneuver, with ample seating and a swimming platform. You can use them for several purposes. As their name implies, jet boats eject water out the rear like a jet would eject the flame from a jet engine. Well, minus all the heat and burning death, of course. 

2. Establish the budget at your disposal 

Keep your boating budget on track.

What money do you have available for this project? The budget can determine if you can choose a bigger size boat or not. In addition, you have to consider the running costs of owning a boat, insurance, and additional equipment necessary for safe sailing. 

For example, it is necessary to have lifejackets, and sometimes you want to have a communication system on board. Once you have a boat, depending on the size of the ship, you need to keep them somewhere, which involves a cost. 

To these costs, you have to add the routine maintenance or the costs of unforeseen reparation. Setting aside all the money necessary to buy a boat is challenging. Still, fortunately, a financing option is available through reputable and qualified brokers. 


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3. Consider your experience level 

A man navigates raging white water rapids in a small watercraft.
First-time boater? Maybe rapids should wait.

Even if you have a high enough budget to buy an extensive and sophisticated boat, it might not be the right decision for your first boat. If you do not have enough experience to manage a ship or enjoy all the perks, it is better to go for a smaller one. 

Larger and more powerful boats can be too much to handle at first. People with little experience might not know what to do to maintain them or even have difficulty navigating them properly. 

4. Testing When Choosing Your First Boat

Testing the boat you like or considering buying when possible is the best thing to do. This way, you can get the feel of it and figure out if it suits your needs or if you need something different. 

5. Training 

Having a bit of knowledge about the boat, the sea, and navigation, in general, can help to make a decision on which ship to choose. 

First-time buyers that never had the chance to go out in the sea, maybe with parents or friends, can benefit greatly from learning the basics of safety and boating. 

In addition, depending on the type of boat you wish to buy, getting a boat driving license might be necessary. 

You can also take boat safety training because you could be confronted with various situations when you go out on a boat. Some could become life-threatening if you do not know how to deal with them. 


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6. Consider getting a new or used boat

As a first-time boat buyer, you might consider getting a used one. It can be an excellent way to economize money and have the time to gain experience and practice before getting the real deal. 

However, finding a used boat in good condition would be best. Otherwise, it can be too costly in terms of recurring reparations. Before getting a used boat, inspect the following:

  • The integrity of the engine
  • The integrity of the electrical system
  • The presence of any leaks
  • The integrity of the structure

7. Consider shared ownership When Choosing Your First Boat

Another option is to consider the shared ownership of your new boat to lower the costs. In other words, you can split the purchase cost and additional running costs. 

If you have family members or friends that like boats, you can share the costs by letting them join your project. 

What Size Boat For A First-Time Buyer? 

If you’re new to boating, maybe a big yacht isn’t the right choice for your first boat. Or is it?

The boat size depends mainly on the type of boat you need, what you plan to do with it, and how many people will use it. So the size depends primarily on those two factors, even if you are a first-time buyer.

In general, first-time buyers could be more comfortable with a smaller boat if it can serve to accomplish the intended purpose. Small boats usually cost less and are easier to control. But, it might now be always the right thing to do. 

Larger boats can be steadier, safer, and more comfortable than smaller ones and carry more people. In addition, it is common to realize a boat is too small and decide to get a new larger one when choosing your first boat.

But trading the old boat for a new one is more expensive than just getting a larger boat in the first place. 

Here are the size ranges you can expect in the various types of boats:


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  • For offshore fishing – 30 ft or higher
  • For inshore fishing – 15-20 ft 
  • Bay boating – 20-30 ft
  • For cruising or leisure sailing – 20-30 ft
  • For watersports – 17-25 ft

First-Time Boat Buyer Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing Your First Boat

Patience and proper research are essential in buying a boat without making too many mistakes. 

It is easy to follow the moment’s enthusiasm and rush into buying a new ship. However, this can lead to a wrong or uneducated decision, leading to future problems. 

Taking the time to look around and evaluate every option is a better way to go about it. Here are the most common first-time boat buyer mistakes to avoid at all costs.

  1. Too big/small boat

One of the most common mistakes is getting the wrong size, either too small or too big. A first-time buyer might want to economize as much as possible and get the smallest boat to serve their purposes. 

On the one hand, it isn’t uncommon for a first-time buyer to allow the enthusiasm of the moment to drive their decision-making process. The buyer might buy a boat that is too big and require a level of experience and skills above their current ability. 

The way to go about it is to predict future needs and assess a few things:

  1. What will you use the boat for?
  2. Where will you use the boat?
  3. How often will you use the boat

d) Does the boat need a marina slip, or do I use a trailer to move it each time (and do I have a vehicle that can tow it)?

It would be best if you got a big enough boat so you do not need to change it after one or two years, and at the same time, get a boat that is not oversized for your skills or complicated to manage.

  1. Not enough research

Buying a boat is a considerable investment. Despite all the enthusiasm, it is essential to invest time in proper and accurate research. 

Take the time to study the type of different boats, compare the prices and features, pros and cons, and other relevant information. 

You might talk to other people who own a specific model to get their first-hand experience. Once you have all the information, you have more chances to make a better decision. 


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  1. Not considering all the costs.

Often, first-time buyers do not realize all the costs of getting a new boat. Therefore, the budget for a vessel should not include only the purchase price. 

The budget should also include the running costs such as insurance, renting a place to keep the ship if necessary, maintenance, and other fees. 

Not taking all the costs into account can lead to future troubles. 

  1. Not knowing the required regulations. 

Manufacturers must build boats following laws and government standards, which can also vary depending on the country. 

It is essential to know the most critical laws and standards required by a boat, so you can make sure that the product you are about to buy follows them. 

  1. Boat shows as the only solution

While boat shows can be a good place to find a new boat and even excellent deals, they are not the only option when choosing your first boat. 

Boat shows can be good places to search for a new deal. Still, before making a final decision, it is essential to look around other venues and compare products. 

This way, you are sure you are not missing out on anything. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a boat show?

You can compare a boat show to a convention. It is a vast area where manufacturers and resellers showcase their boats and related products and services to people. People generally pay an entrance fee, and inside the show, experts and representatives of different manufacturers will answer all the questions people have. These shows often showcase keynote speakers, and displays can be quite lavish. It’s an excellent opportunity to see all the latest things on the market and get a look at some very cool boats on display. 


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How Much Does a Boat Cost?

The price range of a boat can vary a lot depending on the type and size of the boat. However, you could generally expect to spend between $20.000 and $50.000 for a new ship. At the same time, the price can considerably decrease for a used boat. 

What are the main expenses when owning a boat?

There are running costs when owning a boat, which are additional to the purchase price. The other charges are insurance, storage place, dealer fees, registration fees, boating license, fuel, safety equipment, trailers if needed, and maintenance. 

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