Winter is a happy time for boat shopping. Expos like the Toronto and Vancouver International Boat Shows offer hundreds of models, all in one place. At this time of year, manufacturers provide discounts and other incentives to dealers to encourage them to attend the shows, explains Steve Tait, the general sales manager of Gordon Bay Marine in MacTier, Ont. Dealers pass those along to their customers. Ready to go? It’s worth asking yourself a few questions first.
How will you use the boat?
“Think about how you want to enjoy your boat,” says Tracey Hart, the marketing director of Discover Boating Canada. For example, an outboard engine will get you into shallower water, ideal if you plan to regularly pull up on a beach. If you need rugged “pickup truck” for hauling building supplies, consider aluminum over fibreglass, advises Don Prittie, the president of Boating BC and the general manager of Canoe Cove Marina in North Saanich, B.C.
Who’s going to operate it?
The age and experience of the driver will dictate the style of boat you get and its engine power. If you’ll have seniors aboard, consider how easy it is for them to get on and off and to walk around the deck.
What’s your budget?
Include insurance and accessories, such as dock lines and fenders or a trailer. “Get a boat that suits your needs, but not more,” says Prittie. The cost of some marina services is based on price per foot. Plus, the bigger the boat, the more fuel you’ll use.
Can you spot quality?
Similar-looking boats with different prices can have different standards of engineering and materials — from resins to interior finish to the way the hardware is attached. If you’re on a sheltered lake and you’d rather spring for luxury seating over through-bolt hardware, that’s likely okay, says Tait. But if you are on bigger water, screws aren’t secure enough. It’s better to sacrifice the seating.
Where will you keep your boat?
When you buy local, you establish a relationship with the service team that will maintain your boat. (Bringing in an outside boat? Check for a mechanic onsite or nearby who is certified to service your engine.) Make an appointment to meet your local marina operator or dealer at the show. You might even score some free tickets.