Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats

Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats

Delicated for Offshore Boats

by David Pascoe
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What Does Quality Mean?

Quality is not always immediately self evident on a boat. Much of it is invisible, or hidden, especially when a boat is new and sitting on a showroom floor.

Even I can’t tell whether a new boat has good or poor quality get coat, a finish that is going to turn to chalk within a year and become unrestorable.

In most cases there’s no way to determine if the wood used in the stringers is rot-prone pine or costly fir. And nowadays it’s hard to determine even if a hull is cored or not.

When a boat is new, everything looks good, but what will it look like a year later?

For used boats, answering these questions is a lot easier, for we are looking at it years later. These questions can be answered by doing some serious checking, which is what the remainder of this book is all about.

It takes a lot of effort to go through a boat and size up all the materials, hardware and systems used in its construction.

Is the electrical system well engineered, or was it put in as cheaply as possible to keep the price down?

And how about the loads of upholstery in that eye-catcher, is it good quality stuff? Or is it vinyl and foam rubber stapled onto cheap plywood?

These are but a few of the questions you can begin to ask and perhaps they will begin to convince you of the reasons why good quality drives cost up by leaps and bounds.

Good quality first means that more thought went into the design of something to ensure that it works properly and gives long service.

Second, that it is made with better, more durable materials, and with a process and skill that is superior to others. That, too, drives cost up costs.

If you are completely unfamiliar with boat quality, I would suggest a short field trip to go look over one or more of the many high end center console boats such as Jupiter, Regulator, Triton, Contender or Intrepid, as these are some of the highest quality production boats available.

What you’ll see is a certain plainness about them, marked by the highest quality materials and components with superior design and engineering, plus attention to detail. Instead of putting money into low cost eye candy designed to lure the uninitiated, the builder has put it into quality materials.

After you have looked over one of these beauties, you’ll now be in a better position to judge quality.

I’m not suggesting that you should be looking for this level of quality in an entry-level boat, for you surely won’t find it.

But if you think you might step up to a mid level quality boat, you’ll be better prepared to make judgements as to whether it lives up to its billing.

In recent years many of my consulting clients have expressed concern over low resale values upon resale after a few years.

They point out the huge depreciation losses usually involved with a buying a new boat. They are correct, in far too many cases, the first three years depreciation can run up to 50%.

Even at a very, very low initial price, that is more than many people can bear. You can check this out for yourself by first doing an Internet search on asking prices of boats for sale and comparing them to the original, new cost.

It is said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or, quality is in the eye of the beholder. This is true, up to a point.

That point is surpassed when the durability of the product results in poor performance or rapid deterioration of the product to the point where his investment in the product depreciates far beyond what he had expected.

Most newcomers to boating look upon the purchase of a boat as all fun. They are soon to be profoundly disabused of that notion.

Boat ownership is a lot of work, and anyone who approaches it with a “park-it-and-forget-it” attitude will soon find the value of his boat evaporating like summer showers on hot tarmac.

The rule is: the more one puts into maintenance, the greater resale value will be, up to a point.

No matter how good they are, boats require both management and maintenance. In part that’s because boats operate in a hostile environment, and in part because they receive rough treatment.

To give you a general idea, a typical fifty foot sport fisherman usually requires the new owner to hire a full time professional just to manage the outfitting of the new boat, at least for the first several months.

So if it takes a few weeks to straighten out the problems of a twenty or thirty footer, no one should be surprised. The large boat owner, if he’s smart, doesn’t trust the dealer to get everything right; instead he hires someone to oversee it on his behalf.

This process is called “fitting out” and involves a “shakedown” cruise. That means shaking out all the problems that inevitably arise with a new boat, or even a used one.

The small boat buyer will usually want to do this himself, for his boat isn’t so big and complex that it’s all going to take that long.

In the chapter on rigging I’ll discuss how to do that and what to look for.

Small Boat Management

Even small boats are sufficiently complex that they demand of the owner considerable time toward managing them.

This involves everything from the financial end, to insurance, dockage, and, of course, maintenance and repairs. Most boat owners end up with sizable boat files containing all their records.

Yes, your new boat will leave a substantial paper trail which will testify to the amount of time you spend managing your new acquisition.

The amount of time this will demand of you will depend much on the proximity of where you live to where you keep the boat. If that is a considerable distance, it obviously will demand more time of you.

For example, if you keep the boat at a rack-and-stack located twenty five miles from home, this will be a chore just to run over and check on something.

If you keep it on a trailer in your yard or garage, the time demands will be minimal. In the former case, you’re almost forced to pay others to do your maintenance unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

The key to keeping a boat well maintained starts with frequent inspections. It is always better to catch problems early-on before small problems become big ones.

The more you learn about boats, the better you will get at this. Otherwise, you will have to pay others to do this for you. The alternative of waiting until things break down is vastly more expensive.

I would suggest that anyone purchasing their first boat, and who intends to keep it at a location a considerable distance from home, give careful thought to the high demands on your time this will create. It’s likely to be a lot more than you anticipate.

When purchasing a new boat, you should be prepared to experience some problems at the outset. While that may not happen, if it does, at least you’ll be less likely to be disappointed.

The biggest problem is usually a matter of the amount of your time it takes to get problems resolved, combined with your proximity to the dealer from which you bought it.

As I said, buying a boat is not like buying a car wherein you expect to drive it off the dealers lot with no problems thereafter.

There is no such thing as a perfect boat. Finding a boat that meets all your requirements as well as fitting your budget is not an easy thing.

My job is to try to help you do that, and to shorten the amount of time you have to spend searching as well as educating yourself.

If you are a newcomer to boating, and you plan to buy a fairly sizeable boat, you’ll probably reach a point where you think to yourself that the more you educate yourself, the more confused you get.

Relax, that’s normal when there are so many decisions to be made. You already know the way out, which is to sit down with pad and pen, and make a list of your requirements. Once the list is roughed out, then prioritize it, starting with the must-haves and ending with the wishful thinking.

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