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Buying a Boat: A Step-by-Step Guide

Buying a Boat: A Step-by-Step Guide

The process of buying a boat–especially for the first time–can be daunting.  It can feel like entering foreign territory where you don’t speak the language and there’s reams of documents to fill out and sign!

That’s where we come in. Ocean House Marina is a full-service dealership and it is our job to guide and assist you through the process.  We appreciate your business and want to keep you as a customer for years to come, so we are motivated to do everything we can to reduce stress, answer your questions, and help you arrive at that day when you finally step onto your own new boat.

Boating is FUN and we think buying a boat should be too.

To help, we’ve created this guide to boat buying. We’ve tried to answer some of the questions you will have about the process (and our sales representatives are always there to answer all follow-ups you might have). In addition, you will find lots of helpful apps and services on our website to help you understand the process.

Ready to get started? Read on.

When is the best time to purchase a boat? 

Having over 35 years of experience in the industry, we find that the best time to purchase is just after the new year. The winter boat show season offers our most competitive pricing combined with some of the best promotions offered by our manufacturers. Manufacturer’s may offer extended warranties and additional savings on eligible models during the promotional period. 

If I want to order a boat straight from the factory how early should I get the ball rolling to have it in time for the start of the season? 

In some cases, we may not stock the boat that you have your heart set on. That doesn’t mean that we cannot order it for you, given that it is manufactured by one of the brands we carry. However, to ensure that the boat is shipped to us in time for the start of the season, we suggest getting the ball rolling in January or February. This will ensure that we can spec out the boat, discuss pricing, execute an agreement, and order the boat from the factory with enough time to complete any in-house requirements.

Once the boat is shipped to us and received by our service department, there are usually service items that will require attention. For example, if your boat is kept in saltwater for the season, we will recommend bottom paint. In addition, you may have some electronics you’d like installed on the boat. In some cases, this is completed in-house vs. at the factory. Therefore, we like to ensure we have enough turnaround time that we’re not cutting it too close for an on-time delivery. 

Choosing the right type of boat

There are millions of boats out there, and they come in all shapes, sizes, made by different manufacturers, designed to fulfill every kind of boater’s wish, from fishing to fun. How do you pick the right one?

Great question!  You might have a general idea about what kind of boat you’re looking for, but to help narrow down the choices, we’ve created this tool on our website to help first-time buyers narrow down their search.

On the page, click on the button labeled “BOAT” to see a drop-down menu of boat types and classes. Select the one you are interested in and all brands we carry that meet that type will appear for you to explore. You should be able to get a good feel for the kinds of boats we offer and also see what we have in stock.

Is there a way to get a feel for boating before jumping into ownership? 

Yes, of course. We recommend our aluminum and pontoon boat rentals as a great stepping stone. With daily, three-day, and weekly rentals available you can test the waters and determine if boating is your next best adventure.

How do I know that I am getting a good deal? 

Historically, the best time to purchase a boat is in the fall or winter. This is when the manufacturers offer their best promotions. This timing also falls within the winter boat show season when dealers provide their deepest discounts.

Also, some manufacturers offer no-haggle pricing on specific boat models; Scout Boats is known for this with their Get on the Water packages.

What are the costs associated with boat ownership? 

Another great question! Just like with an automobile, there are maintenance expenses when you own a boat.

To help you learn what those expenses are, we have created an in-depth service request form on our website.  You can click-through the various services listed on those forms and receive an estimated cost on the last screen.

To see the estimated costs for winterizing services, click on the winter work request form and explore some of the recommended maintenance steps for fall/winter:

Boat Hauling

Pressure Wash Hull

Pump out Holding Tank

Battery Service/Storage

Winterize Motor

Shrink Wrap

Likewise, you can click on the standard spring work request form and see the estimated costs involved in getting your boat ready for the season:

Shrink Wrap Removal

Bottom Painting

Battery Installation

Spring Commissioning

Topside Wash or Full Detail

Boat Launching

There are other recommended service steps that most boat owners need to be aware of to help keep their boats in prime running condition. They include:

20hr service

100hr service

Waterpump and Thermostat Replacement – Every 3 years or 300 Hours

Tune up – Every 3 years or 300 Hours

Timing Belt – Every 5 Years or 1000 Hours

Can I buy a boat from you if I am not from Rhode Island? 

With new boats, as long as you intend to register and use the boat in Rhode Island you can purchase from our dealership. For used boat purchases, you can purchase from us and register the boat anywhere in the world you want.. Please visit our guide for expanding your used boat search beyond local parameters to learn more. 

Do you have a list of available used and new boats? 

Yes. The  inventory page of our website is regularly updated  as new, used & brokerage inventory becomes available. 

We do not list a used or brokerage boat for sale on our website until we have thoroughly inspected it and addressed any major issues that boat may have. Of course, we may have additional used or brokerage boats in our yard awaiting that inspection and listing, and you’re always welcome to come look around in person!  But since we stand behind what we sell, we’ve learned to do due diligence and avoid problems when at all possible. 

As a first-time buyer, what can I expect?

If you decide to purchase your first boat through our dealership please know that there is added value in doing so. We know that getting into something with little experience can be both exciting and daunting. However, we are here to make you feel comfortable. From answering your questions to an on-the-water orientation, we take pride in providing you with a thorough, educational experience. Following your boat closing, you will participate in a hands-on, on-the-water orientation. This part of the delivery process is to ensure that you become familiar with the operational components of the boat and feel comfortable handling the vessel on your own. 

From our experience, we recognize that understanding the cost of ownership is a contributing piece of the puzzle in regards to your decision. As a result, we have created pricing resources outlining the most common boat expenses to anticipate. This can be found on the service page of our website. You might also find it helpful to play around with our spring and winter work request forms, which provides an overall estimate for all the work that you select for completion at the start and end of each boating season. 

Before the delivery: What Steps Do I Need To Take?

Prior to taking delivery of your boat, you will need to arrange for marine insurance. You can usually arrange a rider through your auto or home policy or you can also obtain insurance via Boat U.S. 

Connecticut-based  boaters must obtain a boater’s safety certificate. This can be obtained through NESS (the New England Science and Sailing Foundation) located in Stonington, CT. 

Our dealership will process all RI boat and outboard registrations on your behalf. 

Also, please note that boat registrations outside of Rhode Island are the responsibility of the buyer. 

Will you provide me a temporary plate for my new trailer? 

Trailer registrations are the responsibility of the buyer. 

Rhode Island does not issue temporary plates for trailers and we are unable to register the trailer with the RI DMV on your behalf. However, if you pay for your trailer in full prior to taking delivery, we can provide you with your registration packet so you can obtain your registration & plate prior to taking the boat home. 

If you choose to register the trailer following your boat closing, you have 30 days to complete registration with the DMV. Therefore, you will need to keep your bill of sale on hand within those 30 days when transporting the boat until your registration has been completed. All trailers are legally required to be registered with you local DMV. Trailer registration is very important even if you’re only transporting your boat a mile down the road. Authorities are cracking down on unregistered trailers. This is a boat owner’s legal duty. 

Unregistered trailers cannot be registered by a new owner and therefore you will not be able to pass on ownership of an unregistered trailer to a new buyer. 

How should I supply the funds for my boat purchase?

We will accept cashier’s checks or bank wire funds for boat purchases. If you are financing your purchase, your bank will typically  transmit payment to our organization directly. Sometimes, if you’re financing via a personal credit union, the funds will be provided to you and then you will then provide payment to the dealership via cashier’s check or bank wire.

Do I need a boating license? 

In Rhode Island, if you are born before 1986, you do not need to obtain a boating license. However, if you’ve never operated a boat before, or it has been a while, we recommend completing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved safe boating course. 

Connecticut  boaters are required by law to obtain a safe boating certificate. The New England Science & Sailing Foundation located in Stonington, CT offers boating safety courses that cover powerboat operation and provide certification. Other organizations that also offer these courses include local parks and recreation departments. Please check with your local organizations for the latest information on available courses.

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