If you’re considering buying your very first boat then it may make sense to start off with a used and inexpensive boat, and work your way up. For many first time buyers they look for something uncomplicated to handle, spacious enough for all the family, in good condition, and easy to maintain. The good news is that there are many used boats on the market which tick all of these boxes and have price tags which are manageable. Before deciding on a budget for your boat, it’s important to do your homework and calculate the running costs, too. There are berthing fees to pay, maintenance, fuel, and insurance to name a few. See our guide to budgeting for a boat and work out what fits comfortably within your financial situation.
All the prep work is done, and it’s time to start looking for your boat? There are many ways to find your next boat but one of the most instant and competitive is to use online boat marketplaces such as Rightboat.com. Enter your search parameters including geographical location, budget and type and style of boat and start browsing. While the term ‘affordable’ means many things to many people, for the purposes of this article we’re looking at boats which are under £20,000/$27,000.
Cabin Cruiser Power Boats
Compact cabin cruisers are a fantastic option for first time buyers, with lots of interior space, protection from the weather, and the ability to sleep aboard. They allow for plenty of adventures, while choosing older models keeps costs down. With a small aft cockpit and a compact galley in some, you’ll be well-equipped for fun days of coastal exploration. The price tag on a cabin cruiser can be high for newer or more powerful models – we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars - but there are plenty on the used market by respected manufacturers such as Sea Ray, Beneteau, Bayliner and Chaparral for under £20,000/$27,000.
Rigid Inflatable Boats have long been the workhorses of the sea, but are also popular with day-trippers, explorers, and for general all-around fun in the sun. While you could find a small brand new RIB within our budgetary constraints, on the used market that money will go much further. You’ll find 20-foot-plus RIBS in excellent condition by manufacturers such as Osprey, Williams, Zodiac, Ballistic and Ribcraft, to name a few. Lightweight, easily transportable, and with outboard engines for easy maintenance, a RIB is sure to whet your appetite for more boating adventures. Brush up on your bargaining skills, and you might get the trailer included in the price.
Fulfilling the dreams of would-be sailors and staying within our price range can easily be done in the used boat marketplace. The smallest models are completely open but from 20 feet and up many have a snug little cabin perfect for overnight stays onboard, as well as a galley, head, and storage space. Bermudan cutters and sloops are common, and many of the classic boats on the used market are sailboats. It goes without saying that you need to proceed with caution when buying an older sailboat whether it’s fiberglass or wood, and get a good pre-purchase survey done. But in good condition and well maintained, even older sailboats are simply magnificent to sail and can be very affordable.
Another good style of powerboat to consider is the flybridge style. Popular with fishing and cruising enthusiasts, the fly bridge offers bucket loads of space and a lot of boat for the money. With a galley, saloon and forward berth, it can easily accommodate a whole family for a weekend of coastal cruising, and while it might not look like your typical family boat, you’d be surprised at the fun you can have fishing and exploring.
Sport Fishing Boats
For a dedicated angler nothing beats a fishing boat trimmed out to match the way he or she fishes. Some models of sport fishing boats have a walk-around layout, with an enclosed helm and cuddy which allows you to escape the sun or rain. Others are the ever-popular center console layout, and almost all over the 20 foot mark have an integrated private head in the cabin or console. They’ll also have rodholders, livewells, and integrated tackle boxes to help you catch those fish. With powerful outboard engines, they will zip you around quickly and many come equipped with fish finders, GPS, and radar so you can cruise to far-off fishing grounds.
OK, so you won’t be spending weekends sleeping on board, but a bowrider offers so much daytime fun that you really won’t mind. For a first boat, bowriders are very affordable and extremely versatile. And because smaller models can be towed on a trailer you don’t have to worry about expensive berthing fees. They have a bow cockpit seating section so they can accommodate a large number of passengers, and have sterndrive or outboard engines. Most are also perfectly suited to recreational watersports such as water skiing, tubing, and swimming. Add a cooler box and canopy, and you’ve got the perfect place to while away sunny days on the water.
Narrow Boats and House Boats
A boat big enough to live on usually comes at a higher price, however, if you’re open to a project boat then it is possible to pick up narrow boats or house boats in our budgetary range. In Europe, narrow boats trundle leisurely down the inland waterways and come in all guises, from luxury floating homes to traditional rustic canal boats. And just about everywhere on Earth you can find house boats which are more or less floating homes. Be aware that a project boat will need some work and investment after the initial purchase price has been paid, and you’ll want to ensure you get a good marine survey done beforehand. But if you’re happy to spend weekends using some elbow grease you could end up with a very affordable and beautiful boat. You might even decide to try living on your narrow boat for a complete change of lifestyle.
As we have seen there are many ways to get out on the water and enjoy the boating lifestyle without exceeding a reasonable budget. We’ve looked at some of the smaller or more affordable styles of boats you could consider investing in, but there are other ways to reduce the cost of boat ownership and even a few creative ways to make money with your boat apart from chartering your boat.
A word of caution: While an inexpensive used boat might seem like an appealing purchase, make sure you do your homework and find out why it’s so cheap. Boats can have huge and costly problems, and one that hasn’t been maintained properly could end up costing you additional money and plenty of headaches. With all used boats, get a professional to take a good look before buying so you know what you’re getting yourself into. For help and advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Rightboat.com, or browse the website for your perfect first boat and get started on an exciting new journey.
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