By Robert Boop
Navigation is an important component of boating.
It comes into play long before hitting the water, however. Finding your way through the challenges of buying a boat or Jet Ski also can be intimidating.
Even for first-timers, buying a boat or PWC is not as tricky as it might seem. The steps are almost exactly like those needed when buying a car, something almost every American adult has done.
Step 1: Wants and needs
A boat purchase is often a long-term commitment, so it's important to get started the right way - by figuring out what kind of Jet Ski you're going to buy by balancing your wants and needs.
Think about how you will use the PWC, Jet Ski or Boat.
Will it be primarily for weekend family fun on big lakes? If so, a traditional 3-seater runabout - the family sedan of Jet Ski’s - maybe the best choice. They are versatile, and many models are available at various price points.
If you are looking for something for cruising with a lot of people, a deck boat might be the best option. Deck boats basically combine the sleek hull of a runabout with the large, open deck design of a pontoon boat. They are also pretty nice fishing platforms. Sounds somewhat like a minivan, doesn't it?
If you need lots of room but do not care much for speed, a pontoon boat may be the way to go.
Big cabin cruisers are the RVs of the water, getting you from point A to point B, and giving you a place to stay when you get there.
Looking to go fast or turn heads? Sleek speedboats with massive engines are the Chevy Corvettes of the lake. Unlike a Vette, they might have room for more than two, but not much more room.
If you need speed but do not want size, a 2 seater personal watercraft might be the ticket.
If your want a more thrilling ride that is a little technical you might want to try a stand up Jet Ski.
Step 2: The budget
Once you decide on the type of Jet Ski or boat you want and/or need, it is time to decide how much to spend.
The first consideration is the price of the boat or Ski itself. Like cars, two boats of similar size, shape and even engine power can be separated in cost by thousands - or even tens of thousands - of dollars.
You do not have to spend much to get reasonably reliable on-water transportation, or you can spend a ton to get the ultimate in luxury and performance.
Lenders are willing to finance boats for long terms - up to and even beyond 15 years in some cases - so monthly payments can be relatively low.
However, other costs must be considered. Insurance and registration are annual costs. Storing a boat at a marina is another, sometimes significant, expense. Regular maintenance costs, as well as unexpected repairs, must be considered. Do not forget about accessories, such as electronic equipment, a trolling motor, and even an anchor.
Finally, make sure your vehicle is capable of towing your boat or Jet Ski’s.
Step 3: Research
Today a car buyer can find out anything about any car, thanks in large part to the Internet. The Internet is also a great way to research boats and Jet Ski’s.
All boat, PWC and engine makers have their own Web sites, although some are better than others. Many sites allow shoppers to "build" their own boat, down to color schemes and accessories.
Internet-savvy car shoppers have one advantage over boat shoppers. Boat prices can be harder to find. Although a few manufacturers offer set, no-haggle prices on boat packages, many don't publish prices. To find out what a specific boat is going for, shoppers can skim Internet message boards.
Sealing the deal
Once you find a boat or Jet Ski you want and can afford, it is time to close the deal.
Haggling about the price is usually part of the process. Because haggling is time-consuming, and time is precious during a boat show, many dealers try to avoid the step by offering boats and Personal Watercraft at special "boat show prices" from the start. They might not be willing to cut any more bucks off the bottom line, but it doesn't hurt to ask, "Is that the best you can do?" at least once.
Once the price is set, be prepared to shell out a nominal amount of cash as a deposit.
Obviously, there is no way to take a boat or Jet Ski for a test ride at the Civic Center. Still, be sure your deal is contingent on an on-water test drive at a later date. Dealers are generally more than happy to agree. If you hate the boat, you will be able to choose another from that dealer.
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