Buying Your First Boat? What Should You Consider?

If you're joining the more than 13 million Canadians planning to engage in recreational boating this summer, you may be putting some thought into finally purchasing your own boat. However, the variety of boating options available can be overwhelming. You might also be worried about staying within your budget. Read on to learn more about the factors you should consider when making your purchase.

Where will you be using your boat?

The first step in mentally designing your boat is to choose the right hull. Like tires on a car, the hull is one of the most important boat components, as (ideally) it is the only part of the boat that ever touches the water. There are several different hull designs, all intended for use in a specific type of water.

  • If you'll be trawling creeks, ponds, or shallow lakes, you'll likely want a flat hull -- this will allow you to navigate shallow areas without scratching your hull or getting stuck.
  • If you'll be traveling quickly in deeper lakes or the ocean, you may want an angled vee hull. Vee hulls are able to chop through water quickly and are fairly stable in rough water conditions. The sharper the vee shape, the less stable the boat is at high speeds.   
  • If you plan to just sail at low speeds in a lake or the ocean, you may want a round hull. These hulls provide stability and fuel economy but are unable to travel very quickly.

How many people will be using your boat?

Each of the above hulls can be made to fit a boat of nearly any size, but choosing the correct size can be tricky. You want to ensure that you have enough room for yourself and any friends or family members who will regularly be accompanying you -- while not buying too much boat for your budget.

If you've previously rented a boat during a long weekend or family vacation, you may already have an idea of how much room you'll need. Most boats have a capacity rating -- a houseboat may "sleep 6" or a fishing boat may "seat 2." If you plan to bring a lot of gear onto the boat with you, keep this in mind and err on the larger side when possible.

How will you transport your boat, and where will you store it?

The flatter the boat's bottom, the easier it is to put on a boat trailer (or even the top of a truck or SUV). Sailboats have the roundest bottom and are the most difficult to reliably get from place to place on land.

In some cases, particularly with non-motorized flat-bottomed boats, you may be able to get by without purchasing a boat trailer -- but if you're transporting a bass boat or other vee-bottomed boat, a trailer is best to ensure your boat's safety while traveling. If you'll be keeping your boat outside at your home, you'll definitely want to buy an all-season cover to protect it from water, snow, leaves, stray animals, and other outdoor hazards. (These covers aren't a bad idea even if you're keeping your boat inside.)

If your boat will be difficult to transport or you don't have a convenient place to store it, you may wish to dock it at the body of water you'll frequently be using. Many lakes and marinas also have dry docking, to help keep your boat out of a chilly body of water during the winter. Although this docking requires a monthly or annual fee, often this cost is less than the cost of buying a boat trailer or building a garage to house the boat.

Keep this information in mind as you look at boats for sale, and you'll be sure to find the perfect boat for your need.