Here are some things to keep in mind when you go out looking for a boat.
How much can I afford? This has to be your #1 concern. Don't choose the boat first then pull every string, max out every credit line or borrow from every source just to get it. Sit down and make an honest assessment of how much boat you can afford to buy. You also need to determine how you plan to pay for the boat. It could be financed, paid with cash, paid from a home line of credit, etc. In making this decision, please assess the impact this is going to have on your family. Don't do it if you truly cannot afford it without upsetting the financial situation at home. It would be a terrible thing to lose a house, get into credit trouble or harm a marriage simply becuase "I had to have that boat". I fished as a backseater for years, then bought a small aluminum, now have upgraded to a full size aluminum boat. It may take some time but I may eventually have a 21' glass boat. If not, mine is paid for and will take me wherever I want to go to fish and I will still enjoy it.
Back to the finances.
If you are financing through the dealer, your bank, a credit union, etc., make sure you have all of the information regarding the loan. How much is the required down payment? What is the interest rate? What is the term of the loan? Shop around a little and look at the best option for your situation. Have a few lending institutions do a full case assessment of your loan. Have them show you in black and white the true cost of the boat. This cost includes the loan amount, down payment amount, interest to be paid over the life of the loan and any fees that they may charge.
If financing with a line of credit, do the same homework as above along with another item. Find out if the interest you pay towards this loan is tax deductible. If so, this lowers the overall cost of buying your boat.
If paying cash, that's the easiest to decide. How much you have in the bank decides how much boat you can buy, right? Wrong. Read on.
Once you have done this homework, you will know ahead of time the total cost of buying the boat. You notice I said the cost of buying the boat, not owning it. That is a whole different animal.
Owning a boat is an expense unto itself. There is insurance, registration and tags, operating expenses (gas, oil, batteries, etc.), routine and unexpected maintenance that needs to be taken into account. This maintenance includes the boat, motor and the trailer. How often does a new motor have to be serviced to be kept under warranty? Am I required to use certain mechanics to do this service? Am I required to use certain fluids in my motor to maintain the warranty? You need to get answers to these questions so you can decide if you can afford to own a certain boat. Nothing would be more frustrating than having to make a monthly payment on something so it could take up space in your garage, simply because you cannot afford to have it fixed. All of the expense items need to be considered and factored into your boat purchase decision.
OK. You have done all your homework. You know how much you can spend to buy the boat and you have your budget for maintenance and operating expenses. One last thing to consider is new vs. used. There are arguments to be had on both sides of this question. I, personally, will probably never buy a brand new boat. There are so many nice used models available that I will let someone else absorb the initial depreciation of the boat before I buy it. If you absolutely must have a new boat, either for personal reasons or to get the associated warranties, etc., by all means do so.
Now it is time to go shopping. Where do you go? There are several places you can go to find a good new or used boat. The classifieds on Westernbass.com have numerous used boats for sale, as well as new boats or boat certificates that can be applied to the purchase of a new boat. I will not attempt to delve in to the vast array of certificates that are available, as I have no experience in this area. A certificate can be a cost effective way for you to buy a new boat, if you choose that path. Just make sure and do the homework and ask the questions that will keep you from being stuck with something less than you want.
There are also many reputable retailers that have both new and used boats. If you are new to bass boats, whether new or used, I would recommend finding a dealer/service center in your area. This does not mean that you have to buy a boat from them. You can use this as part of your homework to make sure you have somewhere you can take the boat if it is ever in need of service. You can usually find a good dealer simply by asking fellow fisherman. Get a feel for a place and go in to visit them. Talk to the management and staff. You can usually gauge a good shop simply by talking to them, along with the recommendations of others.
Once you have done all this, time to buy the boat. If you are buying from a dealer, all of the paperwork should be taken care of by the dealer. If you are dealing with a private party, make sure you have all of the necessary paperwork to properly complete the transaction. At a minimum, you need a bill of sale that includes the purchase price, all applicable reference numbers (CF numbers on the boat, trailer tags, Hull Serial Number, and motor serial number), along with the date of the sale, the sellers name and signature and your name and signature. These forms can be found at your local DMV office or you can find them online. I would take a couple of blank forms along that can be filled out when the purchase is made, just in case the seller does not have them. If you are paying in full for the boat, make sure you get a title signed over to you for the boat and the trailer. If you are financing, contact your financial institution for their rules on the title.
Once all the paperwork is done, the money has been paid and the hands have been shaken, you have done it. You are now a boat owner. Time to enjoy the time on the water. Just make sure you do it responsibly and safely.
Here's to your safe and happy boating adventure!!