By Robyn A. Friedman
City & Shore Magazine
There’s an old saying you’ve no doubt heard – especially if you live in this boater’s paradise. It goes something like this: The two best days of a boater’s life are the day they buy a boat . . . and the day they sell it.
The purchase of a boat is often accompanied by a sense of excitement, joy and the promise of adventures to come. There’s likely to be less thought given to inspections, insurance, storage and financing, subjects much more mundane than the boat purchase itself. But your attention to those issues is key to the ultimate enjoyment of your new boat, whether it’s a bass boat, center console, cabin cruiser, sailboat or yacht.
Here are five things you need to know before you splurge on a boat.
- You need someplace to put it. If you’re lucky, you own a waterfront home with dockage enough to store your boat in your back yard. But waterfront property is expensive in South Florida, particularly homes with dockage for larger vessels or yachts. You may need to pay a premium for a home with dockage, or, if you decide to dock your boat elsewhere, be prepared to pay for that privilege.
- You might need to finance it. Boats can be expensive, depending on which type you choose. So, many boat owners finance their purchase. The credit criteria vary from lender to lender, but, according to Julio A. Santana, southeast region manager for Trident Funding, the nation’s largest originator of marine loans, “good disposable income, a clean credit history and a strong position of personally held liquidity are the keys to securing the most attractive rate and term programs.” Santana also recommends that buyers get pre-approved before they start shopping for their vessel. That pre-approval may give you a leg up during negotiations because the seller will know you’re both ready and able to move ahead with the purchase.
- You should have it inspected. Santana advises anyone considering the purchase of a vessel to seek out the services of a certified and experienced marine surveyor to perform a thorough pre-purchase condition and valuation survey report – no matter the age, condition or warranties given.
- You may need to learn how to use it. If you’re a novice boater, look for a boat that’s within your abilities for safe operation. “Boating safety education is a must,” says Scott Croft, vice president, public affairs of the Boat Owners Association of the United States. “If you don’t have a lot of behind-helm experience, seek out on-water instruction, sometimes offered at boat shows or dealerships.” Croft added that to operate a motorboat of 10 horsepower or greater, Florida law requires anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course.
- You might be better off not buying it. Did you know there are boat clubs in South Florida where, for an entry fee and monthly dues, you can enjoy the use of a wide variety of boats – without the hassles and expense of ownership? “If you join a club, you have a fleet of boats that you have access to, not just locally but around the world,” says Dan Lund, owner of Freedom Boat Club of Southeast Florida, which has multiple locations, including one at the Lighthouse Point Marina. Want a day on the water? Jump online and reserve one of Lund’s boats, which range from 21 to 26 feet and from pontoons to center consoles. When you arrive at the marina, the boat is ready for you. The only additional cost is gas. Membership prices vary, but you can expect to pay an entry fee of $4,000 to $5,000 and monthly dues of $279 to $339 for unlimited use. “About 60 percent of our members are former boat owners who are tired of cleaning, maintaining, insuring and all the hassles of boating,” Lund says. “It’s total concierge service – we’ll get your gear from your car to your boat and when you return, you just hand us the keys and pay for gas.”