Shopping Tips

The following tips should prove invaluable when it comes time to purchase a boat. Follow each step, and your first experiences with boating are far more likely to be positive, fun and hassle-free.

Plan ahead

Start by narrowing down your options. Ask yourself carefully exactly what you want to do with your new boat. Where will you be travelling? For how long? Who will be coming with you? Will you be going offshore? For overnight trips? What’s your budget? What activities do you want to do? How much space will you need? Your goal is to find the ideal boat for you and your family, and your list will help you narrow down the huge array of choices out there.

Decide whether you’re buying new or used

Once you’ve got a detailed description of the type of boat you want, it’s nearly time to go shopping! First, you’ll need to decide whether you want the security and peace of mind that comes from buying new, or the reduced budget you can take advantage of by buying second-hand. For more information to help you make your choice, visit the ‘New or Used’ page.

Get an inspection

When buying a second-hand boat, it pays to bring along an experienced boatie (or ideally, a professional marine surveyor) to carry out an inspection first. Typically, an inspection will include:

  • Hull condition
  • Engine and propellor
  • Bilge
  • Electrical components
  • Fuel tanks
  • Batteries
  • Rigging and sails
  • Decks and floors
  • Accessories and hardware
  • Upholstery.

You’ll also want to check the maintenance history, hours logged and storage history. In short, look at absolutely everything. Lights, ropes, hatches, sails, stove, the works. It’s preferable if you can inspect the boat out of the water as well as in it, too.

Consider warranties

If you’re buying new or through a dealer, it pays to shop around and carefully consider the warranty options available for each boat you’re considering. They’re often valuable, and should carry some weight when it comes time to make your final decision. Transferable warranties may also become a bonus if you end up selling the boat. Make sure you’re fully aware of exactly what the warranty covers (sometimes the engine, for example, won’t be included), and find out what the resolution process is if something on your boat does fail within the warranty period.

Look into the legalities

Just the same as when buying a car, it’s a good idea to check there is no money owing by previous owners if you are buying used or second hand boats. You can do this via the Personal Property Security Register at

Additionally, make sure you insist on signing the change of ownership papers right away after purchasing, and insure your new rig over the phone before you even leave the premises. And if you’re buying a trailer boat, insist on a new warranty and double check that the lights and brakes work properly when connected with your vehicle.

Keep a log

Make sure you take a camera along with you on your shopping excursions, as well as a pen and a notepad, and document everything. Involve your family or partner too, and make notes of their preferences so you build up a visible picture of the ideal boat. This will make it much easier to rank your top choices.

Remember, there’s no big rush. Boat shows can sometimes advertise ‘show-only specials’ to entice people to impulse buy. Often it can pay to discreetly ask the dealer if they would be prepared to honour that price for a few weeks, giving you a chance to look around.

Take a test drive

A sea trial is essential for you to get a feel for how the boat handles out on the water. Bring the family along, and try out a variety of manoeuvres. It’s best if there’s at least a small amount of sea chop so you can really put the boat through its paces.

Consider ownership costs

Ensure you’re aware of additional costs associated with boat ownership including storage, maintenance, fuel, insurance and repairs. Visit our ‘Cost of Owning A Boat’ page for more information.

Learning to use your new boat

It’s a good idea to complete a boating education course before taking your new boat out for a spin – that way you can be sure you know the rules of the road, the basics of navigation, and how to best keep yourself and your family safe. Many dealerships and marinas employ experienced boaties who can teach you key skills, too. Just make sure you take it slow to start with, stay within your comfort zone, and get lots of practice!

For further information go to our useful links page.