Springtime is the prime boat buying season. Most of us are tired of winter, looking forward to long, warm summer days and want to have a boat under our feet to better enjoy our beautiful New England waters.

So if you’re getting that urge to either buy for the first time or upgrade into something bigger and better, here are some things to think about.

1. Budget

While many of us are wondering if we can snap up a great discount deal on one of those Russian mega yachts that are being confiscated around the world, most of us are more budget limited.

But it is important to think about how much you can spend on a boat before you begin shopping. And the “price” of a boat is more than the cash price, or the monthly payments. That just covers the boat. There are other costs involved with boat ownership: fuel, maintenance, docking and marina fees or the cost of a good trailer, gear and accessories, boat insurance and winter storage.

Be realistic. Jot down the numbers and decide how much you can reasonably afford. Then you can begin shopping for a boat that fits your budget.

2. New or Used? 

We’d all love to buy a brand spanking new boat, shiny and with that new-boat smell. And new boats come with a warranty, which is good if something breaks. On the other hand, you can find better deals on a previously owned boat. Go back to Step 1 and consult the budget. You might be able to buy more boat, with more bells and whistles, if you look for a nice used vessel.

3. What Do You Want To Do?  

There are basically three things you can do with a boat. Cruising, fishing and water sports. What are you buying a boat for? To explore the coastal waters? Visit islands and beaches? Plan boaters’ weekends at marinas tucked beside busy tourist spots? Maybe you and your family and friends are avid fisher persons and you want to go out deeper to find the big pelagics, or explore the tidal flats and tidal washes in search of stripers and other delicious species? Or maybe you just want to haul the kids out on the water, let them idle away hours in the sun on tubes or skis or boards? Or maybe a combination of all three?  These are things to think about before you buy, so you can select a boat that will meet your expectations.

4. Do Your Homework

As for any major purchase (and buying a boat is a major commitment) you need to do your homework.  You can (and should) spend some time online, researching various brands and models, narrowing down your search to the boats that seem to meet your needs.  Then, you can visit a boat show to inspect the different brands side by side to see which boats have the extras you like and seem to speak to you.  Finally, visit a dealer, take one out for a test drive and begin the negotiations to buy.

5. Think About Storage

Yeah, it’s springtime and the days are getting warmer and longer. Guess what? In October, the days will start getting shorter and colder. Happens every year.

Which is to say: You’ve got to plan for what to do with your boat in the off-season. If you’re buying a smaller boat that can be trailered and stored in your backyard, that’s fine. You’ll still need to winterize the engines, and maybe buy a good tarpaulin, if that’s your plan.

Larger boats have other issues to think about. Here in New England, very few boats are left in the water over the winter. Most are stored, either indoors, under roofed racks; or outdoors, wrapped in plastic and stored on a rack or a trailer. 

The time to think about what you’re going to do with your boat over the winter is now, when you buy it. 

6. Inspection 

This is probably the most important step you can take in the boat buying process. You need to go over every inch of your prospect boat looking for signs of trouble: water leakage, frayed wires, mold and algae, everything around the engine. 

A careful examination of the hull is absolutely required. If the boat you’re thinking of is in the water, haul it out for inspection.  Examine the hull, the stem, chines and strakes looking for wear and tear, cracks, scratches and anything else that might be due to damage. 

Remove the engine cowling and look for water seepage (bad main gasket) and see if the shift and throttle linkages are greased, uncorroded and the springs are operable.  Examine the drive belt and serpentine belts to make sure they are not corroded and have a “give” of no more than a quarter inch.

Inspect the upholstery and carpets, especially the underneath sides, to look for algae or mold. 

And take the boat out for a test drive. You can’t anticipate or test for every condition you might encounter with your boat, but you can see how she runs.

7. Gear Up

Find out what gear and equipment comes with your new purchase. At a minimum, you’ll need to make sure there are Coast Guard approved PFDs for every passenger. But you’ll also need everything from a working anchor to lines and fenders. Make a list and check it twice!

8. Insurance 

You’ll need to insure your boat. If your friendly home and car insurance agent doesn’t have marine experience, find an agent who does. Just like cars, you’ll likely need collision, comprehensive, property damage, and bodily injury insurance. 

9. Trailer time 

If you need a trailer with your new boat, spend some time examining and inspecting this piece of equipment, too. Look for wear and tear, weak connections, bad tires, and check the electric wires. You don’t want your trailer to fall apart with your expensive new boat on it!

10. On-Going Expense 

There’s a rule of thumb that a boat will cost you about 10 percent of its purchase price in regular annual maintenance.  That figure may be a little less in a brand new boat, a little more in an older boat. But it is true that you boat will require regular upkeep. Oil changes, fuel filters, electrical switches, fancy new radar and GPS screens … there’s a reason why the wags say B.O.A.T. means “break out another thousand!”

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that painful. Take the time and care to select a new or used boat that fits your family’s profile, work with an experienced and trustworthy retailer (like McShane Yacht Sales) and you will make a purchase decision sure to bring hours of boating pleasure to you and your friends and family for years to come.