Choosing the right boat for you and your family depends largely on how you will use it. While some types of boats serve a single purpose, many others can handle a wider range of hobbies which we will discuss below.
Let’s look at some of the activities you may wish to do on your boat:
- Day cruising
- Weekend trips/Overnight trips
- Long passages
- Watersports such as skiing and wakeboarding
- Freshwater and saltwater fishing
Now that you are thinking about what type of fun you will have on the water, note how much time you see yourself doing each of the above activities. Give each activity a percentage from 0-100% which equates to the percentage of total on-the-water time spent. For example, maybe you want a fishing boat that you can take some overnight trips on. That’s perfectly fine – there’s a boat out there for you, so go ahead categorize your boating needs.
It is a simple fact that owning and maintaining a boat costs money. Generally, the larger and/or newer the vessel, the more costs associated. Factor in costs such as dock fees (if it will be kept at a marina), insurance, maintenance, winterization, repairs, and fuel. Create a budget that leaves room for more than just the purchase price of the boat!
Another variable to consider is size. Choosing the right size of boat is a difficult task. Many boaters say, “pick the smallest boat that can do what you need it to do.” This statement makes sense when it comes to associated costs. Everything goes up by the foot – slip fees, haul out fees, maintenance costs, you name it.
On the other hand, some boaters say, “pick the biggest boat you can afford.” This has more to do with comfort and the fact that you will be using it often.
The easiest way to determine size is to simply ask yourself how many people will you be taking out on the boat and how often? Every boat has a maximum capacity plate, unless yacht classified, and this can quickly decide how long of a boat you need. For those going offshore, it never hurts to have a few extra feet 😉
Taking another look at the on-the-water activities we initially mentioned, let’s explore them – and their associated boat types deeper to see which boats can work for multiple activities.
Day cruisers make up most of the market today. They are generally designed to take a small family out on the water with limited shelter from the sun. They can also be used for fishing and some waters ports. This includes bow riders, wakeboard boats, and popular brand such as Sea Ray, Monterrey, and Chaparral.
Fishing boats have their own subcategories based on design:
Center consoles are built for fishing. With their helm station in the center and no cabin, they allow for fishermen to walk around the entire boat and usually come set up for fishing with items such as rod holders and fish lockers. Larger center consoles will contain berths, heads, and more in the interior.
Usually larger in design and able to handle rougher seas, these boats are for the more serious angler. Larger fishing boats do have cabins and can easily stay out for a few days. Popular models include Viking, Buddy Davis, and custom builders such as Spencer Yachts.
Bass boats fall into this category with their low freeboard and oversized motors allowing competitors to race to their favorite hole in hopes of winning the purse at the end of the day.
These slow boats are made to go just about anywhere. The journey is just as important as the destination. Trawlers have spacious living conditions below decks and offer comfort on the high seas. They can be used for passage making as well as liveaboards with many owners heading out on the Great Loop.
Big or small, it’s a certain breed of mariner that loves the sound of the water over the engine so much that they leave it at shore. Sailboats come in all sizes and have subcategorizes as well from day sailors to catamarans. Sailboats about 26 feet and longer are usually set up so you can overnight in them.
Although this is not an exhaustive list of factors to consider, this will certainly give you a good idea of the variety of boats that are out there, and the overlapping uses for certain types of boats.
The Main Thing to Remember
What you’re going to do with the boat is the main thing to keep in mind when choosing your boat. There are boats out there to fit just about everyone’s budget and size preferences. Part of the fun is the journey of finding the right boat for you.
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