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Selecting a Boat for Your Family

By Don Seibert

To determine the boat that is best suited for your family, there are many factors to be considered. Your eventual happiness with your boat will largely depend on your consideration of the following issues before going into the dealership and being overcome by the sweet smells and feelings given off by the new vessels on display.

Type of boat

It is critical that you determine whether a runabout, a cabin cruiser, a fishing boat, a sailboat, pontoon boat or perhaps a watersport tow boat will best fit your needs. Obviously, if your kids are avid skiers or wakeboarders, a fishing boat, cabin cruiser or sailboat probably will not suffice, so be sure to match the various boat types to the interests of your family.

How will the boat be used?

If you plan on spending the night on board your boat, you should be considering a cabin cruiser or at least a cuddy cabin. If you will be making full day voyages away from restroom facilities, a boat with a 'head' (marine toilet) should likely rank high on your list. On the other hand, if you are just cruising around on an inland lake with minimal waves, perhaps a new pontoon boat will be the best fit for your needs

Where the boat will be used?

If you live in or will travel to a coastal area and plan on venturing out into the ocean, Great Lakes, or Gulf of Mexico, you will need a larger and more seaworthy boat, perhaps one with dual engines (one to get you home if the other engine fails) will be best suited for your family. In this case, you should also have a marine radio, GPS navigation, as well as charts of the waters that you plan on cruising. It will be important to have a Coast Guard or Power Squadron boater safety class, in any event.

How many people and how much gear will be on board?

One of the interesting things about boat ownership is that, when you own a boat, you suddenly have more close friends than you ever thought possible! Be certain to specify a large enough boat to accommodate all of the people and gear that you will be taking along on your voyages All boats under 25 feet are required to have a capacity plate that shows the maximum capacity of people and equipment that the boat s designed to accommodate.

How large should the engine be?

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make in boat selection is to under power your boat. If the boat has too little power to plane off under a full load or to run with traveling seas in heavy weather, you will never again be comfortable, feel safe, or be pleased with your boat's performance.

Will you be trailering the boat?

If so, don't forget to consider the weight of the boat and trailer n comparison with the towing capacity of your tow vehicle. Also, if the boat and trailer weigh more than 2,000, be sure to consider electric or surge brakes on your trailer rig.

What's your budget?

Once you have determined the right size and type of boat for your needs, all of that data must then be considered with your budget in mind. To obtain a 'ball park' value of various boats go to www.NADA.com to lookup there prices. Don't forget to add the cost of the trailer and of the engine (if the boat is an outboard). If the cost stretches your budget too much, you might consider a good used boat instead of a new one. Don't forget to consider the cost of fuel, insurance, maintenance, and insurance in your total budget consideration.

Most importantly, never buy a new or used boat before you have ridden in and driven it under power. This may be a big inconvenience to trailer and launch the boat just for a test drive, but the only way to fully check out a boat is to operate it under varying speeds and conditions. Do not allow the dealer or seller to persuade you that such a water test is not necessary!

When you have done your homework well, you will enjoy years and years of wonderful boating fun!

Don Seibert is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and has operated a large marina and boat dealership for the past 10 years. Don has been boating for more than 50 years.

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