First-Time Boat Owners: How to Get Started
Ready to join the fun on the water? Buying a boat, whether new or pre-owned, is the first step. But there are a few details to consider before you turn the key. For all you first time boat owners out there, follow these simple steps to help ease into ownership.
Insuring Your Boat
You need to insure your boat, both for liability and for damage to the boat, and in that regard boat insurance is similar to a policy that covers your automobile. But there are some types of coverage that are specific to boats. For example, a policy with specific fuel-spill liability protects you from clean-up claims or third-party damage caused by the accidental discharge of oil or fuel, if you boat were to sink in a marina. If you have an accident while towing, your boat policy pays to repair or replace the trailer. If your trailer causes injuries to people or damage to property your auto policy should cover the liability. Check both policies to make sure you are covered.
Trailering Your Boat
Trailering you boat makes it possible to visit new bodies of water, but for many new boat owners towing safely requires another new skill set that is part of boat ownership. The first item to check is that your tow vehicle is rated to tow the boat you will buy. Check the vehicle owner’s manual carefully to find the maximum tow rating, and the Gross Combined Vehicle Rating (GCVR), which is the weight of the tow vehicle and the boat and trailer; and that weight should include the weight of boat fuel, water and gear. Don’t buy a boat only to discover you’ll need a new truck to tow it.
Basic Boat Maintenance
Powerboats and personal watercrafts (PWCs) will require at least annual basic engine maintenance, usually an oil and filter change and a fuel filter change, a change of gearcase lubricant, and perhaps propeller inspection. If you live in a cold/hot climate the boat will need to be “winterized” for off-season storage.
Of course, you’ll need a life jacket (also called a personal flotation device, or PFD) for every person onboard, but what other items are you required to keep on the vessel? Check out our Boat Safety Checklist & Safety Equipment. There are other items that often are not part of a new-boat purchase, including dock lines, and fenders to protect the side of the boat when it’s docked.
Enjoying Your Boat
You’ve got your boat, and all of your gear. You’ve launched and are head away from shore…now what? There are dozens of ways to make the most of your time on the water—fishing, tubing, skiing and boarding, diving, cruising and camping. Or just drop the anchor in a secluded cove and hang out. The trick is to fit boating to your lifestyle, whether you’re a single with friends, a family, or just looking for a little peace and quiet. A boat is a great way to get there.