Boat Buying Guide - Neighbor Blog

Boat Buying Guide: Tips to Buying a Boat For First Time Boat Buyers

Summer will be here soon enough and that means it’ll be time to head out to your nearest body of water with your boat in tow. Oh, you don’t yet have a boat? No worries, here at Neighbor we have some great tips to help out with your boat buying experience with our boat buying guide. 

What should I look for when buying a boat?

First things first, what are you looking to do with your boat? When buying a boat it’s important to know what the endgame will be because boats, just like automobiles, come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

In general, for recreational purposes, you will have 3 categories of boats:

  • Cruising: Meant for enjoying your time out on the water with enough room for small to large groups of people. Perfect for relaxation and entertainment.
  • Fishing: As the name implies, these boats are designed for fishers. Plenty of open space and room for a few people on these watercraft is key.
  • Water sports: Extreme sports fans rejoice, there are boats for you too. With capable towing systems in place and more powerful engines, these watercraft will deliver the excitement and fun you crave.

Along with the 3 main boat categories you will find many different boat types, of which here are a few:

  • Cruising Yacht: These typically large and long vessels are the perfect way to spend an idyllic day out on the water. They have plenty of space, which is very often used for entertaining.
  • Fishing Boat (bass): Constructed of aluminum or fiberglass, these boats are meant for freshwater fishing, typically in lakes and rivers.
  • Pontoon Boat: Buoyed by twin pontoons, these boats can be used for many things, including leisure cruises, fishing, or even as ferries.
  • Ski Boat: Strong engines, space for the whole family, storage, and great towing capabilities. These boats are the ideal companion for your summer getaways on the lake. Characterized by sleek designs and a large wakeboard tower.
  • Sailboat: Easily recognized by the sail(s) that run along the mast(s) and the keel(s) that are attached to the hull. All sailboats are partially or completely powered by the wind in the sails.

When should you buy a boat? And where?

Once you know what type of boat you want, it’s time to go searching. There are many different ways to go about this, but here are a few tried and tested methods:

  • Boat Show: This is a great way to see lots of different boats from a variety of dealers in one place. If you’ve never been to one then you should check out these great boat show tips.
  • Online Listings: If you know what you want and can find it in your price range then online listings are a great way to look for your new boat. Of course, you’ll still want to go check it out in person and run a personal inspection on it.
  • Boat Dealer: Basically the same as the boat show except now you’re interacting with only one dealer and they’re here permanently instead of just doing a show for a few days. Like car dealerships you can move around between boat dealers to gauge the salesmen, deals, and the competition. Research is key!

The timing of your boat purchase should be carefully planned. You want to make sure you’ve done all the necessary research beforehand and know exactly what you’re looking for, your price range, new vs. used boats, boat insurance, boat licensing, boat trailers, boat registration, etc.

Quick 5-step Boat Inspection Checklist

Once you’ve found a prime candidate it’s time for an inspection. If you don’t feel comfortable doing the inspection yourself or aren’t sure what to look for then it might be wise to bring an experienced friend or hire a professional, as a proper boat inspection checklist can be quite extensive.

Here are some quick steps to follow during a boat inspection:

  1. Do a walk-around. Take a walk around the entire boat, making sure to check the integrity of the hull for cracks or any other damages.
  2. Check for leaks, corrosion, algae. Leaks and/or corrosion can be found in many places, including near the sterndrive, outboard cowling, fuel lines, and tank. Algae can be found among the upholstery. None of these are good signs.
  3. Check the wiring. There should be no bare wire or poorly-sealed terminations. Electrical tape does not count as a proper seal.
  4. Check the fuel and oil. A proper gauging paste can let you know whether there is water in the gas or oil, neither of which is good.
  5. Take her for a spin. If possible, get the boat out on the water and drive it around. You’ll get a real feel for how everything works (if everything is working), just like when you test drive a car. However, again, if you’re not sure what to look for then bring someone with experience.

Boat on the water

Do you need a license for a boat and how do you obtain one?

Boating License requirements for all states can be found via’s Boating License page and then selecting your state.

How do you register a boat?

Much like automobiles, some boats and other watercraft require registration. Here is a quick rundown:

Requires registration:

  1. Any powerboat.
  2. Any sailboat.
  3. Private vessels including jet skis.

Does not require registration:

  1. Boats registered in another state and not being used in Utah for more than 14 days.
  2. Any boat that is propelled only by oars or paddles.
  3. Surfboards or sailboards.

Boats can be registered at your local DMV office.

Is insurance required to buy a boat?

In the State of Utah it is required that your boat or personal watercraft have a minimum amount of liability insurance when operated on Utah waters. This means that you may purchase a boat without yet having insurance, but upon registration there will most likely be a document stating you swear to buy insurance for your boat or personal watercraft.

Average boat prices by boat length

The following table gives a general idea as to how much a boat will cost. It is based off the length of the boat, which is a good rule of thumb to go by when boat buying. You can, of course, find prices listed below the very lowest price here ($19K) as this is only a rough guide.

Boat price table

How much does it cost to own a boat?

Boat ownership comes with many ongoing costs that all potential boat buyers should be aware of.

Here are a few boat costs you may encounter:

  • Fuel: If you want your boat to run then you’ll need to supply a steady stream of fuel, which could potentially add up to a hefty sum. It all depends on how often you’re using your boat.
  • Insurance: As was stated earlier, Utah requires insurance. Rates will vary depending on how much insurance you want.
  • Maintenance: Boats have many moving parts and these parts will need to be refreshed. Set aside some money for oil changes and miscellaneous expenses like replacing safety equipment (life vests/preservers, fire extinguishers, etc.), damaged propeller, cracks in the hull, erosion, and many more.
  • Docking/Marina fees: You’ll end up having to pay a monthly or annual fee if you want to keep your boat at a local dock or marina.
  • Storage: Many boaters will only bring their boat out when it’s “boating season” where they live. This means they’ll have to keep the boat in a safe place the rest of the year. You can search many convenient and fairly-priced storage spaces near you.

Sailboat dock

Best well known boat brands?

There are dozens of quality boat brands out there, but according to, here are 10 of the best:

  1. Sea Ray. Ranging from their smaller SPX series family boats to their huge Sports and L-Class Yachts, these boats are meant for pleasure.
  2. Chaparral. Water sports fans rejoice because you’ll find exactly what you need with a Chaparral.
  3. Boston Whaler. A household name for over 60 years, you’ll find some Skiffs and plenty of Cuddy Cabins and Center Consoles in this fleet.
  4. Grady-White. From the 18′ Fisherman 180 to the 30′ Marlin 300, your fishing needs are covered with a Grady-White.
  5. Pursuit. Boasting a wide range of Center and Dual Console models, Pursuit Boats also offers some great Sports variety, pleasing both fishermen and families.
  6. MasterCraft. Masters of ski and wakeboard boats, their models are bright, stylish, and well-known.
  7. Formula. With a name like that you expect some speed, and that’s exactly what you can find here. Formula boats are sleekly designed and meant to cut and speed through the water.
  8. Yamaha. Known for many things, including their marine machines. The majority of their selections are meant for water sports and cruising over the water, but their center console options will keep the fishermen happy.
  9. Bertram. They build yachts. They’re big and luxurious.
  10. Wellcraft. You wouldn’t feel out of place teaching your kids how to fish on a Wellcraft. A great family boat.

What type of boat trailer should you buy?

You’re going to need to haul your boat around and get it in and out of the water, which means getting a trailer is a necessity.

Here are the two types of trailers out there:

  • Bunk Trailers. Bunk Trailers are generally more simple and more affordable than roller trailers. They typically consist of two long boards covered in a felt-like material that run along the metal frame of the trailer.
  • Roller Trailers. Roller Trailers consist of a metal frame with a series of rollers attached that will guide your boat onto the trailer and into a safe transportable position. There are a lot more parts on a roller trailer compared to a bunk trailer, but these are generally safer for your boat (and also more expensive to buy and maintain).

Top 10 reasons you should buy a boat

If you’re not sure the captain’s life is the one for you then let these 10 reasons convince you it is:

  1. Captaincy. Once you’ve bought your boat and put it on water you may now declare yourself the captain. Who’s going to stop you?
  2. Family Time. Whether it’s your spouse and children, two dogs, or six cats, the boat will bring you closer together.
  3. Friends Time. Not so into the family? Invite your friends. All of them.
  4. Get Outside. Instead of watching Parks and Recreation for the fifth time, get out and actually enjoy your local park with some recreational boat activities.
  5. More Affordable Than You’d Think. It’s true. Unless you’re buying out of your price range then boat ownership isn’t just some hobby of the rich and the famous. Make your budget, do your research, buy your boat.
  6. Stress Relief. Watch your worries melt away as you set sail (literally or metaphorically) onto open water. That is, of course, unless you have a fear of water, or fish, or even boats.
  7. Convenience. Water isn’t as far away as you think. Many people live within an hour of a navigable body of water.
  8. Knowledge. You’re going to learn a few things with your new boat. Some of these things will have to do with the boat itself, but some may have to do with fishing, water sports, or navigation. Knowledge is power.
  9. Ease. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the new knowledge because there are plenty of resources to help you get out on the water, ranging from in-person to online courses and classes.
  10. Fun! Boating is fun and so are the activities associated with it. If you own a boat then you will also be associated with being fun.

Buying a boat is a process that should be taken with care and plenty of research. If you follow the steps and tips we listed for you in this boat buying guide then you’re sure to be a happy boat owner in no time!

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