Thinking of buying your first boat? Congratulations! Before you take the plunge, consider these eight tips that can help first-time boat buyers make the best decision for their wishes and budget. These tips can help you navigate your way toward enjoying the boating lifestyle.

Get on the water and go boating.

Tag along with friends or family members who are boaters to get a feel for what’s involved in the activity. Other options: Rent a boat for a day, or join a boating club for a summer to make sure that boating really fits your interests and lifestyle.

Decide what your needs are.

How do you imagine your boating lifestyle? Are you interested in water sports, fishing, entertaining friends and family, relaxing, swimming, cruising, or something else? Also consider more practical requirements such as how many people your boat will need to accommodate. Take notes of what you really need in a boat, and use that list to choose the best boat for you.

Understand the true costs and commitments of owning a boat.

The old adage that “the two happiest days of boater owners’ lives are the day they buy it and the day they sell it” may ring true if you don’t know what you are getting into. But owning a boat can create some of the best experiences and memories for you, your family, and your friends. Make sure you understand all of the investments involved in boating: monthly loan payments, interest, registration and titling fees, insurance, dock slip rental, maintenance, repairs of occasional mishaps, fuel, storage, trailer, trailer maintenance, life jackets, water sports gear, fishing gear, and more. Also consider the amount of time you will need to commit to owning a boat: packing and unpacking for trips, uncovering, prepping, fueling, cleaning, and re-covering the boat each time you use it. Click here to access a very insightful boating cost calculator that helps determine some of those expenses.

Do your homework on the industry.

You can find a wealth of information on the web and also in boating magazines. Check out Discover Boating and the Boat Owner’s Association of The United States, both of which provide all kinds of tips and tools related to the boating lifestyle. Read reviews, ask other boaters, and stop in to visit a marina/dealer before you are ready to buy.

The best deals aren’t always found at boat shows.

Boat shows are a great, fun way to see what’s out there and to get a feel for all of the different makes and models available. But the pressure to buy can be too intense, and “boat show fever” can prevail. Many “boat show deals” are available to you after the show is over.

Remember to buy a dealer and a boat.

Selecting an honest, reputable dealer with a proven record of customer satisfaction is important, especially when you are just starting out. Ask questions, ask current customers at the marina, look for reviews, and trust your gut. How do the dealer and all of their staff treat you? Does the dealer offer other services to help you enjoy your boating experience? Do they offer a certified service department for maintenance and repairs? Pay now or pay later; the cheapest boat or dealer may not be the best one, and making the wrong choice of a seller could end up costing you lots of hassles and money later on.

Start small.

We recommend first-time boat buyers really consider size when purchasing their first boat. Smaller, easier-to-handle boats allow them to learn as they go. Bigger boats can be more difficult to handle and cause unneeded frustration and costs for the novice boater and his or her family, which could drive you away from boating.

Be a safe boater.

Make sure you know the rules and regulations of the water. In order to operate a motorized vessel in New Jersey, you must have a Boating Safety Certificate and “Boat” endorsement on your New Jersey driver’s license for inland lakes. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary (USCGA) offers the “About Boating Safely” course, which gives you all the knowledge needed to obtain your certificate. The USCGA also offers additional courses and information regarding safe boating, as well as free vessel safety checks.

These tips were brought to you by Bridge Marina, conveniently located in Jefferson Township on Lake Hopatcong. The boutique, award-winning Bridge Marina is a Four Winns and Starcraft boat dealer. It also offers daily boat rentals, New Jersey’s premier Boating Club, dock slip memberships, marine store, certified service department, marine-grade fuel, and more. Bridge Marina has been nationally recognized twice as “Marina of the Year.” It was awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and is the only freshwater marina in the Garden State certified by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as a “Clean Marina.” For more information, visit www.BridgeMarina.com or call 973-663-1976.

Pictured is a 2018 Four Winns boat. (Photo provided by Bridge Marina)

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Jefferson Chronicle were not involved in the creation of this content.

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Bridge Marina is Lake Hopatcong’s award-winning, boutique marina. A certified Four Winns and Starcraft boat dealer, Bridge Marina also offers daily boat rentals, New Jersey’s premier Boating Club, dock slip memberships, marine store, certified service department, marine-grade fuel, and more. Bridge Marina is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner and has been nationally recognized twice as the “Marina of the Year.” A community-minded local business and industry leader, Bridge Marina is the only freshwater marina in the Garden State certified by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as a “Clean Marina.” For more information, call 973-663-1976.