What Is the Best Boat to Buy for a Beginner?

Many people dream about purchasing a boat for their entire lives, fantasizing about days on the water with loved ones and the freedom that can come with owning a boat. When the time comes to actually make the plunge and purchase a boat, however, many aren’t sure how to choose the best model for them. 

Let’s go over some tips about choosing your first boat, calculating the total costs of owning a boat, and a few models that make excellent first watercraft choices. 

What to look for in a first boat

There is plenty of temptation to spring for a full-size yacht or speed boat for first-time buyers, but this might not always be the best course of action. Unless you have been driving and navigating boats for your entire life, it might be best to start with a small model that is easy to dock and is equipped with technology that is intuitive for those new to boating. It can take some time to get used to navigating, so choosing a simple model to start can help you get the hang of things much more quickly. 

Many first-time buyers also don’t have much experience with maintenance. Boats require as much, or more, care than a car, and many beginners don’t realize the commitment they sign up for when they first purchase one. As a result, it may be helpful for beginner buyers to purchase a smaller model that is easy to clean and maintain.

Once you get the hang of steering, docking, and maintaining a simple boat, you can upgrade to more complex makes and models with all the bells and whistles if you decide that is what you want. 

Calculating total costs

Many first-time boat buyers bite off more than they can chew when purchasing a boat. Inexperienced buyers may not realize the extra costs that can come with purchasing and owning a boat, so it is imperative that you take time to calculate exactly how much you can afford.

Factors like winterizing your boat can cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending upon the size and type of vessel you have. Maintaining your engine each year can also cost a couple of hundred dollars annually, especially if you use it on saltwater instead of freshwater.

There are plenty of other pieces of equipment you’ll need too, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers, anchors, and more that can easily be overlooked during initial calculations. Discover Boating has a fantastic guide about some of the hidden costs that can come with boat ownership.

After factoring in all the additional costs, you may find that purchasing a boat right now isn’t as feasible as it once seemed. If this is the case, wait a bit longer until you are 100 percent sure that you can afford all the hidden costs that can come with a boat. It may seem like a drag to put off this purchase, but you and your family will be able to enjoy days out on the water much more when you know that your financial situation fully allows for it. 

Suggested starter boats

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Now that we have covered what to look for in a beginner watercraft, here are a few models that are suitable for first-time buyers. 

The Bayliner Element F18 is a perfect center console fishing and cruising watercraft for beginners, as it has a simple interface and self-bailing cockpit. It also comes with plenty of hidden storage to store fishing equipment. This model starts at $20,000

If you’re looking for an easy ride, you can’t go wrong with the Escape RT 220 pontoon boat. This model looks great, remains steady in choppy waters, and has plenty of options for customization. It starts at around $30,000. 

Finally, those wanting a jet boat should look no further than the Yamaha SX210. This model is lighter and quieter than its competitors, and it comes with an easy-to-use touch-screen display. It starts at around $40,000.