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What you should know about buying a boat on Long Island

Angelo Costanza, of Blue Marlin Boats in Seaford, says he has seen an increase in people's interest in buying a boat for the summer season because of the coronavirus lockdown.  Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Long Island is a boater’s paradise. With beautiful bays and deep harbors, there is not only plenty of opportunity to get on the water, but a diversity of ways to enjoy your boating day. From cruising and waterside dining to wakeboarding, tubing, water skiing and, of course fishing, fun abounds. Even in these trying times, the boating lifestyle beckons, for it offers a chance to practice social distancing by heading out and away from the crowds.

But getting into boating can be a little scary. After all, there are substantial financial commitments, plus boating regulations and protocols to learn. You’ve undoubtedly heard that the happiest days of boater’s lives are when they buy their vessels — and when they sell them. That can be true if you get off on the wrong foot. Start out right, however, and you’ll likely be a boater forever.

With just that goal in mind, here’s a few points first-time boat buyers should keep in mind while navigating the purchasing process.

1. CHOOSE YOUR FLAVOR

“The first filter for any boat purchase is deciding what style vessel best matches your needs,” says Peter Atlas, proprietor of Long Island Marine Group in Northport. “There’s a big difference between boats designed for overnight cruising, hard-core fishing or water sports.” Ask boating friends for their recommendations and use their experiences as a template, suggests Atlas.

2. CONSIDER YOUR WHOLE BUDGET

With upgrades and accessories, it’s easy to bite off more than you can chew if financing a boat purchase. In addition to the base price, you’ll have payments for gas, maintenance, dockage, storage and insurance. Boating is fun when payments are manageable, not so much when costs are a burden.

3. UNDERSTAND DEALERS VERSUS PRIVATE SELLERS

“Reputable dealers ensure all paperwork is completed and no leins exist on the purchased vessel,” says Angelo Costanza, principal owner at Blue Marlin Boats in Seaford. “New boats come with manufacturer’s warranties but it’s buyer beware for used vessels so in that case dealers offer some security.” On the flip side, new boats can loose up to half their value within 6 years, so buying from a private owner can land big savings if everything checks out.

4. SHOP FOR THE DETAILS

New boats should be in mint condition; all items tightly secured and well-fitted. On used boats, some nicks and chips are likely to be found in the finish and along rub rails but serious corrosion around the engine or helm is a caution flag. Check that all dashboard instruments function properly, batteries are fully charged, the shifter and throttle operate smoothly, the bilge pump and the water pump work, and all decking feels uniformly firm and secure underfoot. Check stitching on fabrics, and check seats and bolsters for tears.

5. YOU'LL WANT AN INSPECTION

Much like you'd test-drive a car before purchase, boats should be taken for a spin on the water. “Sea trials are absolutely necessary,” advises Craig Kelly, sales manager at Great Bay Marine in Islip Terrace. “That’s your chance to see how a boat handles, if it performs as advertised, and if it is comfortable. Additionally, it's commonplace to hire a certified marine surveyor who will “check from bow to stern to help ensure you get off to a good start," Kelly says. 

6. FACTOR IN INSURANCE, ON-THE-WATER ASSISTANCE

Most experts agree it’s important to purchase towing insurance from either BoatUS or Sea Tow International, the two primary boat-towing providers in the United States — even if boat towing is included under your auto insurance. “It’s like AAA for your boat,” says Atlas.

7. TAKE A BOATING SAFETY CLASS

Brianna’s Law requires anyone born after January 1, 1993, to complete a boater safety course before driving a motorboat in New York — but it's a good idea for anyone operating a vessel to take a refresher session.

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