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Boat Buying Guide: 9 Steps To Your Next Boat

Everyone’s dreamed of spending a sunny summer swimming, fishing and sunbathing on board their very own boat.

Australia spoils us with wonderful waterways, so it’s no surprise that our ‘lotto win wish list’ includes standing at the helm of our personal craft.

Sure, buying a boat is a little more complicated than some other purchases, but it doesn’t have to be a pipedream.

With some knowledge, you can get out on the water, windfall or not.

Here, we guide you through the steps it takes to get from shore captive to sure captain with ease.

  1. Boat License Requirements
  2. Questions To Ask
  3. The Process of Boat Buying
  4. Costs of Buying A Boat
  5. Boat Financing
  6. Buy New or Used?
  7. Places To Buy A Boat
  8. Best Time To Buy A Boat
  9. Boat Storage Options

1. Check Boat License Requirements in Your State

Like car licenses, boat licenses help keep everyone safe. Unfortunately, they’re not entirely straightforward.

Regulations vary state to state – and even vessel to vessel – so getting your boat license requires study.

Make sure you’re across all ‘dos and don’ts’ in your state and familiarise yourself with the Maritime Safety Act.

You’ll need to cover registration, safety, communication, operation of your craft, and more, so get cramming!

Check out our article on boating licenses for loads of tips about becoming licensed in each state – including fees and accredited courses.

How To Get Your Boating License in Australia – State by State

2. Ask The Right Questions

While they offer fun and freedom, boat buying’s not a frivolous decision.

On top of deciding how you’ll afford it and where you’ll store it, there’s power and purpose to consider too.

Not to mention the age-old battle between buying new or used!

These elements of boat ownership don’t just impact your initial spend, but also how much you outlay over the life of the boat, so it pays to be curious.

We prepared a list of 12 questions to ask before buying a boat. Familiarise yourself with those questions and you’ll be on course to an informed decision.

Read The 12 Questions to Ask Before Buying A Boat

3. Get Clear on The Process

family boat buying guide

Even veteran sailors admit that buying a new (or new to you) boat can be a little overwhelming.

Everywhere you turn there’s a boat ad or dealership you’ve never noticed before – and getting from hope to hull can seem daunting. Relax – by breaking the process into smaller steps, you can get on board without going off the deep end!

First up, check out our 4-step guide to get your head around the process, from choosing your craft, right through to christening her with the perfect moniker!

The 4 Steps of Buying A Boat

4. Consider The Costs

Most of us in the market for a boat have already bought a car and are no strangers to ongoing costs.

From budgeting to ensuring your boat is stored safely, to what you need to consider when setting up finance, there is a lot to think about.

Remember, lots of factors influence cost, including location, time of year and, of course, whether you buy pre-loved or dealer direct.

Crunch the numbers early in the process to ensure you enjoy your floating investment for years to come.

Find Out How Much It Costs To Own A Boat In 2021

5. Prepare Your Financing

Considering the high upfront cost of buying a boat, it’s likely you may opt to take out a loan to fund part of your purchase.

Some people choose to get financing for the full price of the boat. But you may only need to borrow part of the funds and use your savings to pay the rest.

If you’re planning to use finance, we recommend you apply for a pre-approval early on in the process. With a pre-approval, the finance lender agrees to provide you with an agreed-upon loan amount once you find the boat to purchase.

This means you will be able to shop for your boat, knowing exactly how much you can spend!

A great way to get the best loan is to apply through a finance broker like Credit One. They have access to over 40 of Australia’s top lenders and will find you the lender with the best interest rate.

Apply For Pre-Approval On A Boat Loan Through Credit One – Australia’s Best Rated Finance Broker

6. Decide Whether to Buy New or Used

Hand-in-hand with the cost is finding ways you might save yourself some cash, and with that, the inevitable question:

“Should I buy new, or used?”

As a (loose) rule of thumb, used boats are cheaper in the short term but can cost more down the line.

Meanwhile, a new vessel might be more costly at first, but aftersales care spares you coin down the track.

Ultimately, ‘new or used’ is no coin flip, and the choice is yours.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of New vs Used Boats

7. Find The Right Place to Buy Your Boat

Half the fun of buying a boat is shopping!

Standing before a bevvy of beauties, imagining yourself on the open seas – it’s all part of the excitement. But with so many options, where’s the best place to buy?

The pros and cons of each option are laid out in the article below, but, really, you’ve got several main ways to buy – retailers, brokers, classifieds (including social media), magazines, and classic word-of-mouth.

Boat shows can be a great place to bag a bargain too – just don’t buy on impulse!

5 Places To Look When Buying A Boat

8. Buy at The Right Time

Just as size and style impact how many boats you get for your buck, so too does when you buy.

Boating tends to be seasonal, so if you’re buying used, you might just bag a bargain come autumn when owners opt to sell rather than store.

Dealerships, meanwhile, sell on stock, so when new models drop so do the prices on old ones.

Check out the buying tips below, and remember, it’s also about when you’re ready to sail – no point bagging a boat before you’re licensed!

Find Out The Best Time to Buy A Boat

9. Consider Boat Storage Options

We’ve said it before – storage is a major consideration of boat ownership.

If you plan to hibernate your craft over winter, consider dry storage, which protects your boat from the elements. Meanwhile, wet (marina) storage is great if you plan to access your boat perennially.

Either way, prepping your boat for storage is vital.

Clean it inside and out, flush the cooling system with fresh water, remove the battery, refuel and cover. Storage costs and options vary from place to place, so be sure to read the article below.

Complete Boat Storage Guide


Behind every boat bought is a tonne of research – and a shipload of joy.

Navigate the know-how first, then it’s plain sailing.

Other Boating Resources

Boat Registration Guide: State By State

Trade A Boat – Online Marketplace For Buying & Selling Boats

Best Marine Navigation Apps

If you’re looking to upgrade your caravan, camper, boat or 4WD, get a 30 second quick quote on finance with CreditOne – Australia’s best rated finance broker.

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