Whether you’re new to the boating world or a seasoned veteran, we know how overwhelming it can become when finding the boat that best suits your lifestyle. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of options and seemingly endless choices, so we’re here to help provide you with the top ten questions you should ask as you consider your purchase. First, a couple of questions to be sure you ask yourself, and then discuss with your manufacturer and dealer. Followed by some important questions to ask about the boats and their features, more specifically.
1. What kind of activities do you want to be able to enjoy while boating? One of the most important questions you first need to ask yourself, is simply- what do you want to do with your boat? So many boats on the market are made with specific uses in mind, and it’s important that your expectations align with what that manufacturer and dealer can truly provide for your lifestyle. Some things you may want to consider include:
Will you be spending a lot of time cruising from point A to point B on your home lake, and how far away are those points from each other? If cruising is a huge component of your lake life, a comfortable ride is a must. This comes down to a lot of elements from the construction of the boat to the seating upholstery and cushioning, not to mention driving and handling. For more details on what to look for, be sure to check out questions 5 and 6.
How much of your on-water time will be spent lounging, and/or anchored out at a sandbar? Lounge time is most commonly spent towards the transom of the boat, so it’s important that your watercraft is equipped with features that make this time convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable. See whether or not the boat has a transom lounge seat option, and be sure to physically sit in those seats. Are they comfortable? Do they have things like footrests, or the ability to stow into the sun-pad, depending on your preferences? How easy is it to get in and out of the boat from the platform, and what options are available for making this easier? Things like an extra easy-to-use flip down step from the sun pad, comfortable lounge seats, and a non-upholstery walk-through from the swim platform into the cockpit are all features that you’ll want to consider. Having these kind of options accessible and best suited for you can make or break your lounging enjoyment.
What options do you want to make sure you have when it comes to activities behind the boat? Surf? Wakeboard? Ski? Tube? Maybe a combination of all of the above! Be sure that the boat you’re interested not only is capable of producing the performance you need, but also pay attention to how easy or difficult getting it properly set up can be. Many boats in today’s market have surf and wake systems that are seamlessly integrated into a technology system, to easily create and produce exactly what you’re looking for. Be sure to ask your dealership what it takes to get the boat set for your activities, along with details of the performance. For more details on what kind of surf/wake technology to look for, refer to information in question 4.
2. What skill level are most of your crew members when it comes to behind the boat activities and wake/wave set up? Your usual lake crew may involve a group of friends, some young kids in the family, or an older lake-goer or two. No matter the case, always consider how much their fun and on-water success matters to you, as the boat owner. You may also need to teach someone to drive your boat from time to time- and extra important need for success. There are a few things to consider as you keep your crew in mind:
How much control do you have over the size and shape of the wake or wave?
When it comes to some of these towed water sports, it’s important to keep in mind that no two riders are created equal, especially when it comes to ages and level of experience. You’d never want a 250 adult male to be riding the same wave as a timid six-year-old beginner surfer or wakeboarder, so it’s important to keep versatility in mind. Rather than just “wave” or “no wave”, or “huge wake” vs “no wake”, having some levels in-between the two extremes can make sure that no matter who you have in your crew, they’ll have a great experience.
Is it easy to adjust these things from the drivers’ seat & perspective? In the same way, you want your boat’s wake & wave system to be just as easy to use whether you’re new to the boat world, or if you’ve been boating for decades. Let’s say you’re the one in the water, and need your driver to adjust the settings. You want your dash and surf system as seamlessly integrated and intuitive as possible, to make the learning curve for whoever is driving as convenient as possible.
3. How many people (and who) is in your usual crew, and how much stuff do they usually bring onboard? When people climb on a boat, typically a wide array of possessions come with them. Coolers, towels, bags, floats, boards, life jackets- the list goes on. So not only is it important to consider how many people can comfortably fit on the boat, don’t forget to think about where they can put their stuff!
How many people do you anticipate normally having on board (or how many people do you want to limit it to)? Your answer to this question will affect not only the length of the boat you’d like to end up with, but with the ergonomics of the cockpit as well. Be sure to compare across brands by physically getting a chance to climb into each boat, and take note of whether or not it feels spacious. For example- not all 22-foot boats are made the same!
How many boards do you want to be able to comfortably store? See how many boards can be stored on the tower and bimini, as many boats have these options. Also keep in mind the types of boards these racks and sleeves might hold, and make sure it aligns with your goals. For example, surf boards are often much thicker than wakeboards, so it’s important that your board racks accommodate these kind of considerations.
What kind of layout do you want in the bow? A lot of people love spending time in an open bow, and it’s easy to see why. It can also be one of the most overlooked elements of safety while boatings, so it’s important to note related elements. For example- is there an option for feet to touch the floor, how high up the side are you actually seated, and do you truly feel like it’s secure seating option? In addition to safety considerations, keep in mind things like seating customization and additional storage.
Consider the small things, especially if you may have kiddos on board from time to time- everything from how the bow seating accommodates little ones to the fit and finish within the normally unseen parts of the boat. Take a look at the fit and finish of the interior- make sure the boats you’re exploring have fully finished interior features, such as under the gunnels and beneath the steering column. Check for accessible wiring and other elements, especially if you have little ones that will be tempted to touch everything!
4. What types of technology are included? We all know what a huge role technology plays in today’s world, and the boat world is no different. The tech involved on your boat will involve everything from gadgets to engine
diagnostics, so understanding what tech is important to have is a key component of your lake life convenience. A couple types of technology to consider:
Telematics and Engine/community communication- While it’s not necessarily brand new technology, the user experiences are becoming more important and improved throughout the industry. While asking about telematics, ask about all of the features these platforms provide- everything from engine information to geofencing alerts and community engagement. Some programs even make it possible to check on things such as fuel levels, battery voltages, and geographic locations from afar.
Surf & Wake technology- In today’s boat world, your boat should come with a complete and seamless surf system integration that involves every part of the boat. Everything from the ballast to the software, hull design and wake shaping devices- each system should be custom to the specific model, and should always be within the bounds of what the boat is designed to do.
Lifestyle- Of course the lake life calls for certain bells & whistles within your boat. Along with the innovations that will provide a great surf experience, equally as important is a great experience within the boat, whether you’re moving or not. Check the boat you’re looking into for things such as wireless charging (how many options do you have to charge phones? Is there a convenient charging station for the driver?), quality sound systems that are easy to connect to, and things like additional sources around the boat (maybe on the transom?) to toggle between sounds or lights for when you’re in party mode.
5. Where is your favorite seat in the boat- have you sat there to test it’s level of comfort? Chances are, you’ll be spending several hours at a time when you’re on board sitting in the boat, so be sure they’re comfy!
Upholstery & cushioning on all seats- Be sure to ask about vinyl options, especially if you live in a more southern location where heat can become brutal. Many vinyls are made to maintain a cooler temperature even in triple digit weather, so be sure to see if these options are available. It’s also important to know how comfortable the seats are.
For the driver- Ask about driver seat options- how much adjustability is there? Can you raise and lower the seat? How about move it forward and back? Does it have a booster seat option, and if so how much height do you actually gain? Be sure to sit in the seat and understand that most wake boats at some point have some bow rise, so being able to see out in front of the boat means you want to be able to sit as up high as possible. Along with the seat positioning- how comfortable does the dash make you? Is it overwhelming right away, or does it start to make sense as you look into it? How many features revolve around keeping your crew safe (such as rear view cameras)?
For the kids- Here’s where you want to keep bow seating in mind- many kids gravitate towards the bow of the boat, and you want to keep the majority of themselves inside the boat. Many boats offer playpen seating or a customization option to set up their bow this way, but having the flexibility to keep feet on the floor during times of rough water could be beneficial.
6. How does the construction & overall engine quality help/affect how the boat drives and rides to keep you comfortable? Many things can affect how comfortable you and your boat crew are while out on the water.
What kind of noise can you expect from the engine, especially while running at high RPMs? Does the boat have some sort of launching system and/or how quickly can you fill/drain ballast? If you need to move quickly for any reason, having flexibility over your movement regardless of the weigh load in your boat can be very important. Ask about how the boat handles under load- including how quickly it can get on plane, and how quickly ballast can be drained and emptied.
What types of additional things are done during the construction process to create a smoother ride? The way a boat is built will have quite the impact on how it performs out on the water. Get as much information as you can from the manufacturer and dealer about the construction of the boat or boats you’re shopping.
7. How do you normally store your boat, and what features would make your storage process easier? We all want summer to be endless, but storing your boat easily and without trouble can make your entire boat ownership experience better. A few things to consider:
How easily does the bimini and tower fold? Ask a dealer to show you in real time the process for folding a bimini and tower. And don’t just take their word for the fact that “it’s super easy”- make it a point to watch or even try it yourself. Having easy folding towers opens the door for an over-the-tower cover, as well, protecting your towers, board racks, and bimini from varmints and critters.
What types of trailers are available for the boat you’re shopping? Are the trailers made by a third party, or from within the same manufacturer? Having a trailer that can properly handle your boat and pull with ease can make for traveling with it- whether it’s ten minutes down the road to the dealership or 1000 miles for a trip to Lake Powell- a make or break situation. Be sure to ask!
8. What kind of budget do you have, and what features are you most willing to spend more for? Some brands have great options across the board as far as what you can get for within your budget, and get you the most “bang for your buck”. Look for lines and models that have a lot of customization as far as options go, without sacrificing your “must haves” or any sort of quality-of-boating feature (like a depth finder). Standard options should always be high quality and make sense for everyone’s boating ease, and means you’ll be able to get into that affordable boat without sacrificing anything. One note- you shouldn’t have to sacrifice performance for affordability, so make sure those wake and wave shapers along with the most important technology is still part of the deal!
9. What kind of warranty does the boat have? What does it cover, and what steps are taken to limit the number of claims? Noise level can quickly become a source of irritation if it’s something you weren’t able to take the time to pay attention to early on. Ask about how the engine compartment/belly of the boat might be sound-proofed or padded, and ask what kind of RPMs you can expect the boat to be running while under heavy loads at surf (and cruising) speeds.
One of the most important topics for discussion should revolve around the longevity and promises made surrounding the lifetime of your boat. This not only has to do with the reliability of the warranty itself- how long is it, what are the limitations, etc- but from the very beginning of the build process. Get as many details as you can about the quality of materials used throughout the build process, and information about the engine’s performance and lifetime reliability.
10. Where will you primarily be boating, and do the boat options line up? Every body of water is different, which is one of the things that keeps boating fun and exciting. If you’re somewhere in a coastal region, or enjoy visiting areas of the sort, be sure to ask about saltwater packages and what comes with those options. Not every boat is made to handle harsh salty water, but there are steps that some manufacturers take to ensure the ability to explore these areas without causing damage.