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David Pascoe
If you are a longtime boat owner, you know that owning a boat is a costly affair. Making decisions that keep not only the cost of your initial purchase, but also the long-term cost of ownership, well within you financial means is one of the critical factors of keeping the pleasure in boating. Its very hard to enjoy your boat when it becomes an unexpected drain on your financial resources. If you're buying your first boat, or are making a considerable step up in size, the following are some important points that should be carefully considered to help you achieve maximum enjoyment from your purchase.

Initial Cost One of the most important considerations is keeping the total cost of your purchase well within your financial means. One of the considerations often overlooked when purchasing a new boat is what the vessel will be worth a few years later in the event that you suddenly need to liquidate. We all know that the moment we drive a new car out of the dealership, it immediately loses 25% or more of its value. And although the immediate depreciation rate of most new boats is not quite so bad, the owner of a newer vessel is going to take a serious hit in the event that he has to suddenly sell. There's a good reason why banks want a 20% down payment on financing. One of the worst positions you can be in is to have to liquidate and finding that your liability is more than your equity. This is especially important if you're purchasing a used vessel. Bank repossessions hit an all-time high in 1992 and the majority were older rather than newer vessels.

Quality -vs- Quantity We seem to be living in an age when price and quantity are more important to consumers than quality. First time buyers in particular are often more interested in finding the largest size vessel for the least cost. This is a mistake. Boats float in a very corrosive fluid: sea water. Added to the corrosive effects of sea water are the effects of sunlight, ice and snow, rain and the rough conditions of oceans, lakes, and bays. In other words, boats float in a rather hostile environment, a factor that should make getting the best quality for the money a primary consideration.

Increasingly, boat builders are succumbing to marketing fads, sacrificing quality for appearance, style over safety and function. More and more builders turn to designers of fashion in an effort to snare the inexperienced into keeping up with the Joneses with the latest stylistic offerings. Succumbing to style over substance can be a costly mistake when, a few years later, when the trendy design is out of style and all that showroom glitz and gloss turns to rot and rust under the effects of the harsh marine environment.

There is no more instructive exercise than by taking a tour through a marina or boat yard and observing what boats look like after they're a few years old. Their age can be easily determined from the hull number on the stern. Take a look at how those glittering showroom finishes are holding up in the real world. Has the gelcoat turned chalky after only a few years? And what about those fancy graphics? Is the paint fading or is the taped-on feature striping peeling? How about molded plastic parts: are there numerous plastics that are cracked, chipped or broken? Look out for plastic trim and particularly window moldings. Are they painted and is the metal under the paint starting to corrode? Look at the hardware. Is it quality stainless steel, or cheap cast aluminum or "pot metal" parts that are corroding badly? Is some of the hardware painted and the paint starting to come off?

Check out the rub rails, for here is one of the better gauges of quality. Are the rails all bent up, loose and distorted, or are there numerous cracks along the hull-to-deck joint? If so, this is a prime indication of poor quality and that the boat is likely to leak excessively, resulting in damage to the interior. Are the outsides of the window frames smeared with caulking, indicating leaking windows caused by a weak and flexible structure? Does it have window frames intended for recreational vehicles, made of non-marine aluminum?

David Pascoe

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