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4.5 What's a good first powerboat?


This article is from the Boats FAQ, by John F. Hughes with numerous contributions by others.

4.5 What's a good first powerboat?

(Courtesy of Dave Kinzer)

Powerboats differ from sailboats in that sailors use their boats
simply to sail, but most powerboaters use their boats to do something
else such as waterskiing and fishing , so the "best" first boat could
differ greatly from person to person. Therefore, you should feel free
to disregard any piece of advice in this section as it might not be
applicable to your specific situation. To begin with, you should look
at the types of boats that are popular in your area for the activities
you plan. Boats that do not work well in a region usually don't sell
in great number, so you can learn by other people's mistakes
here. Talk to owners to find what they like and dislike in their
boats. This will help you get an eye for details that will count after

Second, think small. A smaller boat is easier to muscle around, and
and less likely to be damaged severely during the learning process. It
will cost less, and if for some reason you end up not liking the
actuality of ownership (think of burning 100 dollar bills for fun,)
the loss will be minimized. I'll contradict myself here and say get
one size bigger than the smallest suitable boat. This will give you
some more time before outgrowing it. Keep in mind your vehicle's
capacity to trailer it.

Third, buy used. There is a lot of argument on this point, and I
respect the other point of view, so I will present both sides. With a
new boat you have a warranty to protect you in the event something
goes wrong. If you have a good dealer, any problems will be resolved
promptly, and you will be back on the water with little or no out-of-
pocket expense. If you have a bad dealer, your boat will sit at the
back of the queue for the boating season while the paying customers
get their boats fixed (I know someone this happened to.) Buying a boat
a few years old will save you a bunch of money that can be used for
repairs, if needed. Have a mechanic check out the boat before you buy
to minimize the chance of having to use that money. A used boat will
probably have some equipment already installed (like radios, depth or
fishfinders, etc.) that you would have to buy for a new boat. Finally,
when you scrape your boat while learning near a dock, you won't have
to wince as hard.

I have managed to get this far without giving any specifics on what to
buy. My OPINION follows, with some thoughts as to why I believe them.
Start with a boat about 3 years old. A newer boat will depreciate
more, an older one may have problems that it takes an expert to
find. This is also about the time the first owner has discovered he
either doesn't like this enough, or it is time to get a 3 foot longer
boat. A good length would be 16-18 feet. This is big enough to
comfortably have some friends on, yet small enough that you do not
need a special tow vehicle. I recommend a single outboard or I/O
(stern) drive. Two engines aren't needed for this length, and you
don't want the expense to begin with. There are arguments all over the
place on I/O vs. outboard; I suggest you go with what is popular in
your area, for parts and service availability. The important thing is
that they handle the same in low speed maneuvering. Inboards,
V-Drives and jet-drives do some funny things (which are predictable,
once you know them) that are better left for learning later. If you
are planning on skiing, get enough horsepower. For an I/O drive, this
means a V6. Your towing vehicle capacity could decide the I/O vs.
outboard question. The outboard will need slightly less horsepower,
and will be considerably lighter.

Last, but not least, sign up for a boating safety course. There are
enough dimwits out there already, you don't need to make the situation
worse. It is not enough to say that you won't do anything stupid since
you don't know what the stupid things are yet. (dk1)


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