Buying a Boat for Beginners.

Buying a Boat for Beginners: All Things to Consider

Written by Diane Byrne
May 10, 2023

Last Updated on September 1, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

If you’ve recently caught the boating bug, congratulations! It’s the best kind of “bug” to have, as thousands of your fellow cruisers will attest. Whether you’ve previously rented boats and now want one all your own, or you’ve decided to dive head first into buying, you likely have questions.

There’s certainly a lot to consider, so take your time. While keeping the hundreds of sizes, styles, we’ve come up with all things for beginners to consider themselves when buying their first boat!

Post summary:

  • What’s the best size of boat for a beginner?
  • What’s a good starter boat?
  • Should I buy a powerboat or a sailboat?
  • Is owning a boat high maintenance?
  • Do I need to know how to drive it or have a license?
  • When is the best time to buy a boat?

Are you ready? Let’s do it.

List. Rent. Earn— Only at Boatsetter

What’s the best size of boat for a beginner?

Like many things in life, the response is, “it depends.” Certainly, it makes sense to start with something relatively small—like how your first bike might have been a tricycle. But, just how small further depends on who you’ll cruise with and how long you’ll typically go boating.

Big crowds require big space, whereas you and your immediate family might need less seating and fewer overall amenities. Note that every boat has a maximum capacity for safety.

Additionally, the size depends on whether you’ll pursue overnight trips or just a few hours during the day. Sleeping onboard necessitates comfortable cabin space for not just you but also your guests.

Things to consider when choosing the best boat size:

  1. How many people will accompany you during your boat trips?
  2. How long will your typical boat trips be?
  3. Will you be making overnight boating trips? (How many people will be with you?)

Boats of All Sizes.

What’s a good starter boat?

This, too, depends on several factors. Firstly, ask yourself what you want to do out on the water. Do you plan to enjoy fishing or watersports like waterskiing, for example? Or, do you simply wish to cruise and enjoy the sights?

The activities you’ll pursue play a big role in dictating the best type of boat for beginners. Pursuing sport fish and towing waterskiers require speed, while leisurely trips may not. Secondly, ensure you pick the right boat for the waters where you’ll dock and cruise. Not every craft is right for super-shallow waters, and not every boat is comfortable in choppy ocean waves.

Lastly, consider your budget. If a brand-new boat is too expensive, a used one could still tick all the boxes at a better price. Several websites offer boat-loan calculators and details on boat loan terms and conditions, so check them out.

Things to consider about ‘starter boats’:

  1. Water activities you’d like to try out
  2. The bodies of water you plan on visiting
  3. Your budget

Boat for Sale.

Should I buy a powerboat or a sailboat?

This might be one of the easiest questions to answer. Do you essentially want to turn the key and go? If so, a powerboat is the right choice. Powerboats additionally are easier to drive. But, if you want to feel more connected to cruising and the surrounding conditions, a sailboat is a good bet. There’s much to be said about harnessing the wind and enjoying the experience.

Things to consider about boat mechanics:

  1. Ease in operation

Motorboat and Sailboat.

Is owning a boat high maintenance?

Boats can be costly, but just like anything else, lack of proper budgeting and upkeep is far more expensive. A good rule of thumb is to set aside about 10 percent of the original purchase price annually for maintenance.

That should cover the typical expenditures for engine work, hull cleaning, and fluid checks and refills, for instance. Keep in mind, though, that this doesn’t include things like insurance, dockage fees, or winter storage.

Ultimately, when you’re buying a boat as a beginner, doing your homework is the best preventive maintenance. This way, the old saying that “boat” stands for “bring out another thousand” doesn’t come true.

Things to consider about boat maintenance:

  1. Budgeting for boat maintenance
  2. Options to offset the cost of boat ownership: List your boat

Boat Maintenance.

Do I need to know how to drive it or have a license?

Check your state’s requirements for licensing. That said, the overwhelming majority of states require completing a safety course and having a card or certificate of completion. You’ll need to keep the card or certificate on your boat and show it to U.S. Coast Guard personnel or others upon request.

Even if you’re in a state without certification requirements, it’s best to take a safety course. This way, you understand the Rules of the Road (proper operational maneuvers and procedures) and are prepared for potential emergencies.

Things to consider when searching for boating education:

  1. Check your state’s boating rules and regulations
  2. Taking a safety course
  3. Sign up for Boatsetter Academy

Pro Tip: Boatsetter Academy provides beginners with free and hands-on boating education. During a Boatsetter boating course, you will take the helm with the guidance of an experienced captain, providing expert instruction on proper boating techniques and how to actually operate the vessel. Find a boating course near you!

Boating class, Boatsetter Academy.

When is the best time to buy a boat?

The best time is when you’ve completed your homework on all of the above. If you’re looking for the best deal, buying at a boat show makes a lot of sense. Boat dealers exhibit at boat shows purposely to sell inventory, so oftentimes, they have special discounts or other offers.

The dealerships themselves are options for other times of the year. Dealers have strong knowledge of the brands they sell, and therefore the boats’ features, making the experience of buying a boat as a beginner much easier.

They typically offer service, particularly for warranty items, and sometimes can help arrange financing. Finally, some have both used and new boats on hand.

Things to consider before buying the boat

  1. Buying at a boat show versus a dealership
  2. Trying out your favorite boat brands and manufacturers: Rent the boat
  3. Ask about additional offerings like service

Check out the hottest boats in the market at Boat Types, and make sure to scroll through Boat Guides to find your next boating destination.

About us

Boatsetter is a unique boat-sharing platform that gives everyone — whether you own a boat or you’re just renting — the chance to experience life on the water. You can list a boat, book a boat, or make money as a captain.

List your boat & start earning an avg. of $20K yearly with Boatsetter

Browse by experience

Explore articles