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How to Choose the Right Boat

Congratulations! You’ve decided to embark on the exciting journey of boat ownership and now the real fun begins…choosing the right boat for you and your family. The market is flooded with new and used boats, and the choice can be overwhelming. How can you narrow down what is right for you with so many styles of boat, manufacturers and models to choose from? What might be the best boat for fishing and family fun won’t necessarily be the perfect weekend cruiser. 

Whether you’re buying a used boat or a brand-new boat, the considerations will be the same, and here we take a look at the questions you should be asking yourself to help narrow your search down to the perfect one. 



small yacht


Be Prepared to Compromise

Before we start looking at the types of boats you can choose from to suit your needs, it’s worth mentioning that your boat-buying journey will involve a fair amount of compromise. While you might find your dream boat out there, at the perfect price, in the right location, chances are that at some point you’ll have to make a compromise. Before you get going, write a list of the things you’re not willing to compromise on, and try not to be too rigid. You’ll open yourself up to frustration and disappointment if you create an unrealistic list of must-have’s. 

Another point to consider is to not get too hung up on an exact model or design. Instead, focus your search on the condition and equipment of the boat. These factors will allow you to keep within budget because, as any boat owner knows, the purchase price is just the beginning. You might find the exact model you’re looking for, but it needs work, while next to it is a boat which is in better condition but is a different class or model. The same can be said for location. The perfect boat in the wrong place isn’t necessarily the perfect boat. Keep your mind open and be flexible. 

Next, analyse how you plan to use the boat. Will it be family cruising? Club racing? Day sailing with occasional weekends away? Bluewater sailing? The trick is not look too far into the future when buying a boat now. What you may think you want in 10 years’ time will very likely have changed by then anyway. So focus on the now and near future and buy what fits with your lifestyle. 


Who Is the Boat Going to Be Used by?

This should be the first question you ask yourself. Is it going to be you and your partner? Is it for a family with younger/older children? Do you plan to entertain day guests on board? By working out who will be coming on board most often you can get a good idea of how many cabins you might need, the seating or entertaining areas, the draft, ease of boarding and catering options. Finding the balance between a boat big enough for everyone that will no doubt want to accompany you, and something you can handle comfortably (and which fits in our budget) is a fine line. 


What Do You Want to Do With Your Boat?

This question above all others will probably impact the style of boat you buy most. After all, if water sports and fishing are your thing, you’re not going to be looking at buying sailing yachts. Have a good think about how you intend to use your boat, and let that guide your choice. Some examples might include:


  • Fishing boat

A centre console boat with a permanent roof, or a cabin cruiser or deck boat might be good choices for deep sea fishing, while a Jon boat or skiff might be just what you need for solo inland or coastal trips. 

  • Water sports boat

Water skiing or towables are great fun for all the family, but you’ll need something with some power so inboard sports boats and the up-and-coming crossover boats are good choices of style. 

  • Multi-use boat

If you plan to spend nights on your boat, want to entertain friends or have a larger family and want to enjoy some watersports too, you need something which ticks a lot of boxes. A motorboat with a cabin is a first choice, but if watersports aren’t so important to you, a pontoon boat could be a good option. 

  • Overnight trips boat

Weekends away allow you to explore further, and sailing yachts offer great opportunities for doing so. The saloons often convert into additional beds too. If you’re happy on inland waterways, consider a canal boat or Dutch barge which offer huge amounts of room for the money. And of course there is an array of motorboats and catamarans with cabin space to choose from too. 

Chek out our Guide on Types of Boats


boats on a lake


Where Do You Go Boating?

Where you go boating, the climate and weather will all play a role in helping you choose the right boat, and chances are you’re already well aware of your local conditions when it comes to spending time on the water. A pontoon boat might be lovely for calm lakes or rivers, but wouldn’t be a first choice for seasonal, choppy waters for example. 

Where you experience a lot of rain or variable temperatures – we’re looking at you Northern Europe and parts of the United States – you’ll want somewhere you can take cover from the elements, such as a closed cabin space. An open-top deck boat or sleek motorboat shouldn’t be high on your list unless you don’t plan on using it very often. Instead, opt for a cabin cruiser or yacht for example. 

It may be that you’re a fair weather sailor and would prefer to travel to another country or part of the country, in which case you might be looking at buying and keeping your boat nowhere near to where you live. That of course allows you to look at different options which are more in keeping with the local climate (check out our guide to Post-Brexit VAT if this is something you’re thinking about).  

In considering where you’ll be boating, it’s worth pointing out that a lot of boating on inland waterways involves towing your boat, so you’ll want something on the smaller side such as a cuddy boat


How Much Experience Do You Have?

While the temptation to get a bigger and more complicated boat than you’re experienced handling is there – after all, it’s a big investment, and you don’t want to outgrow it too quickly – buying something you’re not comfortable with can take the fun out of boating fast. Unless you have substantial experience, it might be worth buying a boat you’re competent at handling and getting some professional tuition to help you learn the ropes of your new boat. Not only will you enjoy our newfound confidence more, but your family or guests will feel more at ease too. There is always time in the future to upgrade to a larger boat as you outgrow this one. 


What Budget Do You Have?

Ultimately, what you buy comes down to the budget that you have. All the above factors are all well and good, but if you can’t afford, not only the purchase cost but the upkeep, it’ll soon turn from a dream to a nightmare. Be realistic about what you can afford, and make sure you take into account all the ongoing expenses, from berthing to maintenance to insurance. To help you plan your budget check out our guide to creating a realistic budget or see ways of cutting the cost of boat ownership


Sailing on a catamaran


Have You Considered Yacht Co-ownership?

Your luxury purchase will cost less initially, your upkeep costs will also be significantly lowered, and should you decide to enter into your boat syndicate through a dedicated yacht share company - the maintenance and upkeep will generally be taken care of by them. If you want to experience the world’s oceans, in the most beautiful and luxurious fashion and share the cost of this wonderful lifestyle, then yacht co-ownership may well be for you.  You will also get more boat for your money.


Rightboat.com is a treasure trove of new and used boats for sale in all corners of the globe. Once you’ve narrowed down a few styles of boat, use the advanced search options to be specific about what you’re looking for, or simply browse through by location and see what catches your eye. Whether it’s family boats for sale, blue water sailing yachts for the adventure of a lifetime, or a small fishing boat for a bit of ‘me time’ we have everything you could think…and a lot more you haven’t. 


This article was published in March 2021 and updated in July 2023.


Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

Get in touch:Linkedin

More from: Samantha Wilson

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