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Front Page Bruno's Bytes Ask the Experts – Buying a Boat Red Sky at Night with JB Cornwell Nautical Humor – Boaters Unique Perspectives Stupid Human Boating Tricks – Mystery
Florida Fishing Article Photo Special Featured Products and Specials

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Ask the Experts | The Big Questions on Boat Ownership

Thinking of buying your first boat? A recent entry in our iboats Boating Forums produced some good feedback on basic considerations for making the right decision. After all, boat ownership is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. Here's a copy of the questions and responses from our Forum members:

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Hello all,

I want to buy a boat. I'm in college, and my school is about 15 miles from a big lake where people fish, ski, tube, hang out. I've always loved going out on boats with friends, and my parents even bought an old boat when I was about 10, but they never knew how to take care of it, and it was old, so it constantly broke down.

I'd like to give it another go, and I've been doing research on everything from how boat motors run, to maintenance, to fixing minor problems, and preventing major ones. Basically all of the stuff that my parents failed to do with our first boat. So here are my questions:

What should I buy? Pontoon or ski–boat? I'm leaning pontoon because I have a lot of friends, and my girlfriend and I really enjoy entertaining guests.

I don't really have a large budget, so I'll probably have to go used. What should I look for?

What are some things to check on before buying a used boat from someone?

What kind of insurance am I looking at?

What are the "hidden costs" of boat ownership?

What other advice do y'all have for me?

What are some other questions that I don't know to ask?

And most importantly, should I really do this?

Thanks in advance.

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Welcome to iboats.

If you get a decent used boat with a good motor that you have checked out and maintain it properly there really aren't too many expenses involved.

Being in college you will probably have to rent a slip which can run a lot or a little depending on your area, some gas and oil and some maintenance money and you are done.

Most of the time when a boat costs you a lot it is when you blow out the lower unit because you didn't change oil, etc. There is a saying – "Boat motors don't die, people kill them."

A pontoon would be a good choice, they are simple boats that hold a lot of people and they are relatively inexpensive to buy used. And the tubes, being aluminum, will put up with a lot of things a glass hull won't.

All there really is on a toon is the deck. If it is bad you can tell just by walking on it unlike a glass boat, it could have all the stringers rotted out and look fine.

It will cost a little but save you a lot, have the motor looked at by a marina, could save you a lot more than the inspection costs and drive the boat for at least an hour yourself.

A word of warning, if you like to get hammered every weekend with your buddies I would say this is a bad idea. Being drunk on a boat is really bad and the penalties are the same or worse as DUI on land. Yes, I am a dad and have a daughter in college.

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Thanks. I'll probably try to find a buddy who knows motors and can teach me a little bit of basic stuff, and who won't mind going with me to look at potential boats.

Also, my friends and I aren't really the "get hammered every weekend" types. We're more like the "sit around and play Trivial Pursuit every weekend" group. And we all enjoy the water and the sun.

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Buying a boat

1st – You need to decide what you want to use it for – fishing, cruising, or water sports?

2nd – How many people (adults and children) do you want on board for the average outing?

3rd – What type of engine – outboard, inboard–outboard, or inboard power plant?

4th – What is your budget, what you want to pay, and what you are willing to pay, when you find exactly what you want?

You can hire a marine surveyor to inspect the boat, or you can do it yourself.

You are mainly looking for cracks and soft spots in the deck and transom, all of which are signs of a rotten under–frame. Walk all over the deck and use a mallet, or the wooden handle of a hammer, to tap all over the deck and transom. A sharp rap indicates a good solid base, a thud indicates a questionable base.

The motor should be clean, with no spots where the paint is discolored or pealing from heat, having run hot. For outboard motors, compression should be at least 100psi, and each cylinder within 10% of each other. Check for strong spark on all cylinders. Make sure it has a good tell tale or pee stream. Check the lower unit for water in the oil.

The overall condition of the boat will tell you a lot as to how it has been maintained.

A 30–year–old boat may be in better condition than a 3–year–old one.

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If you're going to rent a slip, a pontoon sounds like the way to go especially if you're going to be taking out friends a lot. But pontoons are kind of a pain to tow (I'm sure I'll get a lot of disagreements here though) because they sit so high on the trailer. If you are going to be dragging it around a lot I'd look into a deck boat.

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Check with the agent who insures your tow vehicle for information on boat insurance in your area of the country. Tow insurance is another thing to look into, depending on where you do most of your boating.

Get the right manuals and learn how to maintain your boat and your engine. Even if you don't do repair work yourself, knowing how to do routine maintenance will head off a boat load of more expensive repairs. Learn and practice the things you should pay attention to every time you use your boat – before, during and after each outing.

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