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Friday, October 20, 2023

How to Choose the Right Boat for Your Needs

Consider your needs, purpose, experience, budget, and storage options to find the perfect boat for countless adventures on the water.

Before you decide the boat buying journey is right for you, take some time to consider how and why you want a new or used boat.

While the allure of open waters and your family celebrating another successful day of skiing, fishing, or sightseeing is undeniable, you want to balance your needs with what is available on the market.

Finding the right boat doesn’t just mean getting your dreams met. You want to consider your budget, experience, and boasting purpose.

Maybe you would love a deep-sea fishing trip with the boys on the weekend or the serenity of calm lakes on a deck boat with a cold drink and a warm chair. Whatever the reason, our guide is a great place to get started. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying

What amenities must I have?

Are you looking for the luxury of boat ownership, or necessity of offshore fishing boats, or both? Try to pinpoint the specific amenities like swivel chairs, water skiing storage, outboard/inboard engines, audio equipment, and more.

Maybe you want more living space for day cruising or plenty of deck space for a fishing boat adventure. Amenities go a long way to choosing the right boat. 

What is the purpose of my boat? 

Identifying the purpose, whether it's inshore fishing, water sports, or leisure cruising, fine-tune your options, aligning you with an aptly suited vessel and not an extravagant oversized boat. A boat purchase is an investment, and you want the best boat for your money aligned with your everyday use.

Who will use my boat the most?

This is a big question. Do you have teens? Are you constantly hosting extended family? Will you be lending your boat to a company up-and-comer? Think about who will be using your boat the most, from family gatherings on pontoon boats to a dedicated fishing boat teaming with neighborly anglers. Choosing the right boat has just as much to do with the captain as the vessel. 

Where will I be boating? 

Are you planning on visiting calm lakes, deep sea fishing, or long-distance journeys down the coast and channels? Each one of these matters in choosing the right boat for your next adventure.

If you’re not sure where to start, visit boat shows. They will have good displays of different types of boats for various purposes. 

How much experience do I have? 

It may be a little humbling, but you need to be honest with yourself. Align your seafaring skills with your choice, ensuring the boat doesn’t overcomplicate your experience or undercut your expertise. You wouldn’t want sailing yachts when all you really desire is leisurely trips around the marina for catching bass fish.

What is my boat budget?

This is probably the most crucial question for separating the types of boats you’ll be looking for. From initial purchase, boat insurance, and maintenance, defining a budget safeguards against unforeseen financial issues down the road.

Owning a boat can be hard on your pocketbook if you are not adequately prepared. Take your time to find a great deal that works for your needs and your wallet.

The price of a boat will range dramatically based on its size, use, and amenities.

On average, you can expect to spend $250,000 for a used boat and $400,000 for a new model. However, don’t forget that you’ll need to budget for annual fees, insurance, and maintenance that can run anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000.

If you’re going to finance your new boat, try to shoot for 10-20% down to get the best interest rates.

What size of motor and boat?

You want to size boat motors and vessels to your intended use. Try to avoid over-committing to larger, perhaps unnecessary power someone is trying to sell you.

While a little extra oomph goes a long way to painting your guest's faces with surprised smiles, you don’t want to overdo it and purchase a water jet propulsion vessel for your local small river.  

Where will I store my boat?

Consider storage, be it marinas or on-property, and how that integrates (or complicates) your boat ownership experience. This will also help with sizing your boat. For example, if you have a marina or dry dock storage facility in mind, you may seek out a smaller boat that fits into those spaces.

Where should I purchase my boat?

This is a tricky question to answer. Start with boat shows to get an idea of pricing, size, model, and shape. Then, visit local brokers, dealerships, and search for online private sales to determine where the best deals and most reliable boats reside.

A private sale will be less expensive, but a dealer or broker can connect you with services and paperwork efficiency for peace of mind.

What types of boats are available?

There are boats for every type of captain. While it would probably take a book to write out each model and type, a good starting point would be:

Fishing Boats: A vessel dedicated to maximizing your angling adventures.

Bass Boats: Specialized in bass fishing, compact yet fully equipped for freshwater outings.

Flats Boats: Ideal for fishing in shallow waters with sleek designs.

Bowriders: Perfect for leisurely day trips and have an open bow area for extra seating.

Cabin Cruisers: Blend comfort with performance, providing cozy living spaces.

Center Console Boats: A versatile choice with a helm in the boat center, great for fishing.

Cuddy Cabins: Compact, with a small cabin allowing short duration stays.

Deck Boats: Spacious seating optimized for entertaining and family outings.

Dinghies: Small boats that are often used to shuttle between larger boats and the shore or for brief recreational outings.

High-Performance Boats: Built for speed and adrenaline-pumping experiences on the water.

Jet Boats: They utilize water jet propulsion for navigation and are known for their impressive maneuverability.

Motor Yachts/Power Cruisers: Luxurious boats designed for longer voyages with ample living space.

Multi-Hull Powerboats: Boats with more than one hull, providing a stable ride, even in choppier waters.

Pontoon Boats: Characterized by pontoons attached for flotation, offering a sturdy and spacious deck.

Ski Boats/Wake Boats: Designed specifically for water skiing, often engineered to create flat wakes.

Sportfishing Yachts: Large, luxurious yachts equipped for serious offshore fishing expeditions.

Trawlers: Distinguished by a displacement hull and designed for slow, steady, long-distance cruising.

Walkarounds: Boats with cabin structures, yet allow you to walk completely around the boat without any side obstructions.

How will I transport my boat? 

This is another good question for helping you find the right size boat for transporting to and from the water. How you haul your boat trailer has just as much to do with buying a boat as making sure you know how to navigate choppy waters. 

What insurance, services, and maintenance will I need? 

Look at your local regulations. There may be licensing and insurance issues you’ll need to consider before deciding between a fuel-efficient deck boat or the diesel engines on a bigger boat for offshore fishing.

If you’re working with a dealer or broker, be sure to ask about insurance providers in your area and the costs associated with regular maintenance so you can budget accordingly. 


Choosing the right boat opens the world of waterways to countless adventures. Whether it's a dedicated fishing boat for those angling expeditions or a pontoon boat to host memories that'll span generations, understanding your needs, desires, and practicalities shape a boat buying journey that’s as smooth sailing as a calm sea under a summer sky.

Hopefully, this guide will help you understand why choosing the right boat is crucial for your enjoyment on the water. Take your time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are making a decent investment and should get top value for your boat and experience.

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