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Boat-Buying 101

How to keep your wallet above water

The prospect of buying a boat might make the average guy cringe, but a little research can make the purchasing process a lot less scary. We recently spoke with Keith Ammons, "The Boating Guy" for DiscoverBoating.com, to find out the best ways to keep your head above water when it comes to shopping for a new boat.

1. Make a List
Answer some basic questions: What activities take priority for you? Which bodies of water will you cruise? How many people will you be taking out? "Determine which category of boat is right for you," says Ammons. "Then, decide what you're willing to spend."

2. Pick Your Faves
Once you figure out what kind of boat you want, research the hell out of it. "Go to some local marinas and talk to some boat owners," suggests Ammons. "Or check out a boat show and see some models side by side."

3. Hit the Books
Even though it's only required in seven states, take a boater's education course. "It's a smart thing to do." Not only will you feel more confident steering your new purchase, you'll get better insurance rates.

4. Short on Green? Go Long
Not everyone can pay cash for a boat. That's fine, since a lot of dealers will finance the boat for you. "The average boat loan is 10 years," says Ammons. "You get twice as long as the average auto loan because boats hold their value twice as long as cars."

5. Don't Get Overwhelmed
While there's around eight or 10 automobile manufacturers in the U.S., and 15 or 20 different categories of automobiles, there are 400 different boat manufacturers and literally hundreds of boats. "There's a boat for every budget," says Ammons. "Whether you want to spend $200 or $2 million." For example, you can get a fishing boat and only spend $500 on features (if you're cool with just a barebones package). "Or you can get the same boat and spend $10,000 on all the latest electronics and gadgets," says Ammons. "You start with a huge thing and narrow it down."

6. Allot enough dough
While some guys can afford the actual boat of their dreams, it's the hidden costs that tend to put a dent in their wallets. "The third most expensive part of owning a boat is maintenance," says Ammons. "That tends to be 1-3% of the cost of the new boat." So if you're new ride is $20,000, be prepared to drop between $200-$600 to keep it looking fresh. In addition, it's wise to consider how much it'll run you to fuel up your new toy every year. According to Ammons, the average boat owner uses runs their boat 90 hours a year, and run about 1-3 gallons per hour. That means you should expect to plunk down an extra $300-$900 each year on fuel. Make sure you've got room in your budget.

7. Think Regionally
Depending on where you live, you may have extra maintenance costs to deal with. If you live in climate that gets below freezing temperatures in the winter, you'll have to winterize the boat. And your storage costs will fluctuate depending on whether you stay in a big northeast city or a small Midwest town. "Storing a boat in Manhattan can easily be more expensive than the boat itself," says Ammons, "but if you're in Springfield, Missouri, it can be very economical." If you can toe the boat and keep it in a shed or garage, you'll save a ton of money.

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