Dont you hate it when you go to buy a new car, and the $19,999 MSRP of the one youre looking at magically climbs to $40,000 by the time you get the package you want? Car manufacturers and dealers have a funny way of adding things that they call "options," like bumpers and air-conditioning, which most sane people would call must-haves. Well, unfortunately, this is also true of boat manufacturers. When the list of options for a boat is twice the length of the list of standard features, you know itll take hours with a calculator to get from the sticker price to the real-world price.
Plenty of those "options" are real necessities which you cant leave the dock without. So the next time you go to buy a boat, make sure you know what the actual price is going to be, before you make any decisions. Youd like some tips on common things to look for? Dont worry, thats what were here for.
1. A Compass
Its truly amazing that most new boats sold today either arent fitted out with a compass, or force you to pay extra to get one at the time of purchase. Anyone who leaves the dock without a compass is playing fast and loose with their own safety, unless you always---and I mean always---have the boat ramp within sight. Its extremely easy to get turned around on the water, especially if fog sets in or rain reduces visibility. And a compass is the only sure-fire way to know what direction youre heading in.
What about GPS? Do you really need a compass, if you have a chartplotter at the helm? Unquestionably, yes. Electronics fail with shocking regularity, and even if your unit doesnt fail, the satellite constellation could. Dont laugh---its happened before, due to solar flares and accidental jamming caused by other consumer electronics. So when you make your tally, be sure to include the cost of a compass.
2. Leaning Posts & Helm Seats
Shocking but true: There are some manufacturers out there that will list their boats without including the cost of any seating at the helm. And, just how many boats do you think leave the factory without somewhere to sit? None. But they still consider the seats optional, just to give your calculator and your brain a work-out. Even worse, in at least two cases I know of, manufacturers of center console boats actually consider the console itself "optional." Really? Yes, really.
3. Power Plants
Of all the options you choose, the power plant will unquestionably have the single largest impact on your boats purchase price. And I can see why many manufacturers would list the engine as an option; different buyers will make very different choices when it comes to power. So youll just have to grit your teeth on this one, and figure it into your calculations. But as you do so, there are a couple of important points to bear in mind. First off, remember that some manufacturers will include under-sized engines on their list, to keep the introductory price as low as possible. Even if you dont care about being the fastest guy on the water, its often a mistake to get the smallest engine offered. In some cases, once you load down the boat with gear, fuel, and passengers, you might not even be able to get on plane. And secondly, consider resale value. A lot of buyers out there do like going fast, and if you choose a small power option it can make it harder to sell the boat when youre ready for an upgrade.
4. Cushions & Fillers
How would you like sitting on solid fiberglass, or the plastic of a bare cooler? Yeah, thats what we thought. But there are a few manufacturers out there who price their boats without including any cushions. Just imagine going through a steep choppy bay, with an unprotected butt!
In some other cases, you can also opt for fillers and cushions that turn a bow deck into a larger casting platform or a sunpad. This may or may not be a must-have depending on your situation, but it can add hundreds of dollars to the bottom line, so remember to figure in the cost if this is something youll opt for.
5. Tops & Sun Protection
The Texas sun can do a lot of damage, if you dont have any way to get some shade on your boat. But few fishing boats come with standard tops. That means youll have to make choice, usually between a Bimini top and a T-top. Biminis are by far less expensive (theyll add a few hundred dollars to the cost of an average boat, versus a $1,500 or $2,000 for a T-top). But theyre also a pain to put up and take down, they get in the way when fishing, and many need to be lowered when running or theyll get damaged by the wind. T-tops, on the other hand, are sturdy enough that they allow you to add options like rocket launchers, spreader lights, elevated VHF antennas, and even outriggers or radar. Of course, a guy who spends most of his time on lakes or reservoirs simply doesnt need this stuff. So figure out your needs ahead of time, and itll be easier to figure in the cost of a top when youre looking at that boat.
6. A Console Head
This may not count as a must-have for you, but if you plan on taking a female guest more than a few miles from the dock and your boat is big enough, youll be better served by having one onboard. On smaller boats, of course, this is a non-issue. But, why do so many builders advertise that their center console has a head compartment - yet the boat doesnt come with a head? Its a lot more common than one might think.
Your average boat comes with a pair, in the gunwale. A few builders add a second pair, or maybe some vertical rodracks at the console. But how often do you look at a new boat, and wish it had more rodholders? Id say 90-percent of the time---and Ill bet most of you agree.
8. USCG Safety Gear
Some high-end builders include safety gear like life jackets, a fire extinguisher, flares, and a throw cushion but the majority do not. Many dont offer it as an option, either, but expect you to go the marine supply store, and purchase it on your own. Heres the catch: If you want your fire extinguisher mounted on the boat so its accessible, USCG regulations stipulate it must be attached to the mount it came with, which requires screwing or through-bolting. Many boaters dont particularly like the idea of drilling holes in their brand new boat. Wait a sec, wont the dealership install a fire extinguisher for you? Sure, for a price, of course.