With the winter months bearing down on most in the upper Midwest, one can’t help but look out at the backyard or in the garage and see the old faithful vessel, that has housed many fond memories on the water. At that instant, you start to ponder better times with sun shining, light breezes and the sound of that old outboard ringing in your ears.

For some though, the dismal view spawns the desire for something newer, perhaps with more sparkle and shine. Welcome to the exciting, anxious and sometimes confusing world of the “Boat Purchase!”

The Banknote

The first step in the search of your new fishing vessel is to establish a budget for yourself. Much in the same as buying a vehicle, there will most likely be monthly payments, so you will need to figure that into your current financial situation, and while we all dream of riding in the most current, flashiest rig on the market, with high horsepower hanging off the transom, it may just not be feasible.

Now this doesn’t have to be a dream crushing reality, as there are a good number of boat manufacturers who will offer lower budget options and of course there are many good used rigs hitting the market every day. After you have your head wrapped around your affordability, it’s time to start the search.

The Hunt

Much like the search for a new (or new to you) vehicle, there is no reason to rush. As stated above, there are many good boats that are hitting the used market every single day. Having a need and wish list in place, will make this search much easier to find out what rig will fit you the best.

Perhaps, you like to troll the great lakes, primarily fish rivers or have those little potholes near home. Find a boat that will settle well with what your main fishing focus will be and make it work for those “occasional” trips.

Now relating back to your budget, you may not be able to afford the latest and greatest boat that you get to peel all the plastic protections off of the features. In that case, look for a boat that has been well taken care of, ask the important questions to the seller, even before going to look at it.

Sellers should be able to tell you every little detail of the boat, even if they only fish a few times a year. On newer models (2000’s+), you should be able to get an hour read out from the main engine computer with detailed information of how long it was run at certain RPM’s.

Boats that are only a few years old may also have some warranties left on the engine and hull. So, if you’re not purchasing thru a dealer, be sure to do the research on how those can be transferred.

The Sparkle and Shine Appeal

For some of you, a used boat is simply not an option and the smell of fresh carpet and vinyl is the only thing that gets your pulse rate going. The sparkle and shine appeal can sometimes blind you to the true features (or lack thereof) from a new boat.

The only true way of getting something to fit your needs, is to use your resources and do the research. Unlike making a new vehicle purchase, test drives may not be available. So essentially, you are stuck either with envisioning how the boat will handle or gaining real information from owners of that particular boat manufacturer. However, if this is a brand-new model offering, you may want to find a dealership who is willing to take you on a test ride, wherever there is open water.

The Perfect Fit

Building on the “new boat” concept, you will need to factor in many different variables, just the same as discussed with purchasing a used vessel. The very first factor is to take value and resale into consideration.

There are many big brand names out there that are highly regarded in not only initial selling price, but also in resale. If one of these rigs fit into your financial situation, the next step is to choose a particular size and layout to properly fit your fishing style.

Each manufacturer builds species specific models to ensure that fishermen can get the most out of their investment. If you’re a Great Lakes angler, a boat with low gunnel height is probably not a great choice; nor would a deep V be a best fit for those who chase fish throughout shallow rivers or bays. Without getting into much more detail, your local marine dealership will surely have great suggestions for your needs.

The Offerings

As stated before, there are MANY great boat manufacturers out there now. Most of which have the same parent companies and will share several features from one company to another. Be sure to keep going with the search until you find the exact boat that will be the best fit for you.

In the past, my tournament partner and I have spent countless hours scouring sport and boat shows, climbing in and out of different boats, with only a length and horsepower requirement in mind. One would be surprised at the differences you will find from one company to another.

Some offer onboard moveable storage compartments, some offer gigantic rod lockers or live wells, others had great stereos. The simple fact is that no two boat models are the same. After narrowing down to just a couple of rigs, that is when the true “work” begins.

Put together a list of the dealerships near you who offer the boat models that you have narrowed your search down to and spend some time visiting with them. A boat dealer hires sales personnel, not only to sell boats, but to ensure that their customers leave the shop happy and keeping you as a return customer with any future purchases.

 A key thing to keep in mind when making a purchase, is how far will you have to travel for service or any warranty work that may arise. Much like new vehicles, you will be required to show certified maintenance as part of the warranty program and your dealer, that you purchased your rig from, is the best place to have any work done, as they already have you in their system.

 As far as pricing goes, all dealers have a set cost or “MSRP” that they need to work off (just as in new car dealerships) however, be sure to ask your salesperson if there are any additional upgrades with electronics or other goodies that they are overstocked or closing out on. This may result in a little savings when it comes to adding the accessories.

Boat purchasing is essentially what you make of it and its key to take your time to find the “Right One” for your needs and wants. It is unnecessary to make the process into an anxiety driven chore, rather enjoy the experience! After all, this is something that you will spend your leisure time in.





About The Author

Colby Gallagher

Colby is an Industrial Technology Teacher and a semi professional walleye angler, chasing the AIM Weekend Walleye series circuit throughout Minnesota. Fishing and hunting has always been a big part of my life, learning the tricks of the trade from my father and grandfather. I became a part of HSM to share my love of the outdoors and to help educate others on what techniques are producing fish. Being a multi species and multi season angler, there is really no off time! Always chasing the next big bite!