Your boat may be in winter storage, but this is still an exciting time of year for boaters. The offseason is boat show season, when boaters get to tour a wide selection of gorgeous new boats.

If you’ve never owned a boat before, but are thinking of buying one, boat show season is even more exciting for you. You’re considering a purchase that could change your life, giving you long days spent fishing, weekends spent waterskiing or wakeboarding, and evenings spent on the water socializing with friends. But there’s a lot to consider when buying your first boat. Here’s a few tips that will help you on your journey.

How will you use your boat?
With so many styles of boats available, you should consider how you will use your boat and then pick out a vessel to match your needs. Do you plan to use it for fishing, cruising or for watersports with the family? Such considerations will help determine the size, layout and amenities you need.

Where will you keep your boat?
One of the biggest considerations for new boaters is where they will keep their vessel. Will you keep your boat in a slip at a marina or on a mooring? Or are you planning to keep it at home and trailer it? You also need to consider if come winter you’ll store it on your property or if you’ll pay for storage at a facility. What certification do you need?
Most states require boaters to have some type of boating education certification, so check on what your state requires. [See Colorado’s requirements here.] If you plan to boat in neighboring states, check if they accept your state’s certification or if you need one specific to that state. 

Handling the walk-through and sea trial.
A boat for sale might look nice, but give it a thorough inspection to be sure it’s in a good shape. Inspect everything on it, from the deck and fittings to the engine and machinery. If you’re satisfied, try it out to see how it handles. Consider how fast it goes and how responsive it is. If you’re still interested, and the boat is in the water, have it hauled out to give it a more thorough inspection and make sure there are no problems below the waterline.

Closing the deal.
Don’t end up paying more than you should. Determine the boat’s value to you and try to stay close to it. Also, if you’re buying a used boat from a boatyard, check that there are no outstanding bills or liens on the boat.