Buying a boat? 5 things you should do

Summer is the perfect time to head to the lake or beach for a summer getaway. What better way to spend a day relaxing than out on the family boat? Whether you’re looking for something small for you or a boat to please the whole family, Better Business Bureau has some advice.

First, consider your budget and the different boat options, as well as where and how you will be using the boat. Boats have different uses and what you buy should fit how you plan to spend your time on it. Bowriders, pontoons, sailboats, speedboats and fishing boats are all common options and you should thoroughly consider their specialties and uses before deciding. Consider the amount of time and money you will also have to put into enjoying it. Keep in mind additional expenses, such as a trailer, storage fees, safety equipment, skis, maintenance, etc.

Second, decide if you want to purchase a new or used boat. Buying a used boat minimizes your economic risk if you end up choosing the wrong boat. New boats can be purchased from dealers and come with warranties. Used boats may be sold by boat brokers who are like real estate agents. Some boats can be found on eBay and Craigslist, but remember these offers can be risky. Always ask to see ownership papers and get everything in writing whether it’s a new or used purchase.

Third, once you decide on what kind of boat to buy, the best place to start looking is online. Visit trusted websites to compare models, prices and highlights. You can also do some research with your BBB. For instance, it can provide lists of BBB Accredited boat dealers and manufacturers. Business Profiles on ones you’re considering are also available. Visit or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301. Steer clear of boats that include a lot of extra features you know you will not use or will need a lot of updating. Tour boat shows to see what the boat looks like. Remember, online photos can be deceiving.

Fourth, after deciding on the right boat for you, inspect your choice thoroughly. Start with a walkaround and inspect the inside and outside of the boat. Then, conduct a sea trial to see if you enjoy being on the boat. Also, consider hiring a surveyor to inspect the boat, especially if it’s over 30 feet (it may be required for insurance and financing).

Lastly, get a written sales contract and consider insuring your boat. Dealerships and brokers have their own contracts, but read them carefully. Make sure the sale terms are clear and the contract states the boat is free of liens and encumbrances. The state of Ohio requires your boat to have a title and registration, however insurance is optional. Having insurance can save you from problems if you are ever involved in an accident or something happens to your boat. Not every policy is the same, so research carefully when deciding what to buy.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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