The Rules to Follow when Buying a Boat

October 12, 2021

It’s often said that buying your first boat is the best day of your life.

Unfortunately, an impulsive purchase that is not made with care can quickly turn into a nightmare.

In this article, find out which rules to follow when buying a boat to give yourself the best chance of making an informed, sensible purchase that you will truly enjoy.

1 – Choose the right kind of boat

Before you start looking for boats, you need to determine what your needs are. This essential step will help guide your choices throughout the purchasing process.

Ask yourself what you’ll be using your boat for. Do you want to participate in water sports, sleep in your boat, or invite several people aboard at once?

These are important questions, because there are many different types of boats, all of which have their own unique characteristics that make them more or less suitable for certain uses:

  • Deck boats
  • Inflatable boats
  • Fishing boats
  • Catamarans
  • Jet boats
  • Pontoon boats
  • Cruisers
  • Cuddy cabins
  • Yachts
  • And more!

Once you have determined what your needs are, you’ll be able to choose the type of boat, dimensions and amount of engine power that suit you best.

To maximize your chances of making a good choice, it’s best to talk to a professional boat salesperson about your needs. They will be able to ask pertinent questions and guide you towards a model that will work perfectly for you.

2 – Be aware of regulatory requirements

Once you have determined what your needs are, you’ll be nearly ready to start looking for your boat. Before getting started, however, you need to familiarize yourself with the regulatory requirements that govern the purchase of pleasure crafts in Canada. That way, you can make sure that the boat you buy is authorized for use in Quebec and Canadian waters.

Hull Serial Number

As of August 1, 1981, a serial number must be inscribed on the hull of every boat built or imported for sale in Canada. The boats must also meet construction standards. If you are considering buying a boat that does not have a serial number, insist that the seller obtain a number and inscribe it on the hull before you buy.

Canadian Compliance Notice

Most motor-powered boats sold in Canada must carry a Canadian Compliance Notice. The notice attests that the boat met the federal regulations in effect at the time it was built.

It’s important to note that if the boat has been modified over the years, its compliance notice may no longer be valid. Before buying a boat, you should make sure that it still meets construction standards. Don’t hesitate to hire a marine surveyor to examine the boat and notify you of any changes that need to be made to bring it up to standard.

3 – Where to buy a boat

Once you are able to ascertain whether a boat meets regulations and suits your needs, you can start shopping. At this stage in the process, you have two options: buying from a dealer or buying from an individual.

Here are a few tips for each type of transaction.

Buying a new boat from a dealer

Buying a new boat may be more expensive, but you can rest easy knowing that the boat you’re purchasing is in impeccable condition and comes with a warranty.

That being said, when buying a new boat from a dealer, remember that price shouldn’t be your only consideration. There are a number of factors to consider when comparing boats at dealerships.

The location of the dealer

It’s best to buy from a dealer located near the waterway you want to boat on. That way, if you ever have a problem with your boat, their technical team may be able to offer you dockside repair services. Even if dockside services aren’t available, at least you won’t have to tow your boat hundreds of kilometres for minor repairs.

Furthermore, if you need a replacement part, you won’t have far to go to get it from the dealer.

After-sales service

Not all dealers offer the same after-sales service. Some have more options and benefits than others. It’s best to choose a dealer that is generous with their after-sales service.

For example, if you don’t really have room to store your boat at home over the winter, you may want to pick a dealer that offers winter storage.

The dealer’s reputation

It’s important to make sure your dealer has a good reputation before moving forward with your purchase. Do a quick internet search or talk to past customers to find out whether you can trust the company.

Buying a used boat from an individual

Buying a boat second-hand is a good way to pay less for your pleasure craft. However, buying a used boat requires expertise and should never be done in a hurry.

It’s important to take precautions to avoid ending up with a lemon or paying more for your boat than it’s actually worth.

Do a visual inspection

Never buy a used boat you’ve only seen in pictures. Take the time to check out the boat in person and do a thorough visual inspection before purchasing it.

During your visual inspection, pay particular attention to the following:

  • The hull (any evidence of impact, cracks, corrosion, mould, etc.)
  • The engine and its components (turbine, propeller, spark plugs, compression level, smells, etc.)
  • Equipment (head, appliances, electronic devices, navigation lights, trailer, boating safety equipment, etc.)

Ask a lot of questions

If you’re still interested in the used boat after inspecting it, ask the owner about the following crucial information:

  • Year, make and model
  • Serial number
  • Engine and equipment
  • Date of the first launch
  • Number of engine hours
  • Previous accidents/damage
  • Remaining warranty
  • Previous owner(s)

Always test drive the boat if possible. Testing it out on the water could save you from unpleasant surprises.

Check whether the boat is insurable

Boats that are over 10 years old, have come from abroad or have been used on saltwater usually need to be inspected by a marine surveyor before they can be insured.

If you have to provide a report on the condition of the boat as a precaution or at the insurer’s request, do not finalize the transaction until the results come back confirming that the boat is insurable.

Ask to see maintenance and repair records

A well-maintained boat retains its value and is less likely to break down. Ask to see records that show the owner has been diligent about boat maintenance.

  • Oil change records
  • Record of replacement parts
  • Wintering and storage records
  • Etc.

Check titles and required documentation

If you are purchasing a boat from an individual, check the RDPRM to ensure that the boat is debt free. Then, ask the seller to fill out the Transport Canada bill of sale. The bill of sale will transfer the pleasure craft license to you.

4 – Insure your boat

Buying a boat is a major investment, so it’s a good idea to protect it with marine insurance. A marine insurance broker can help you select insurance coverage that reflects the type of boat you have, its value and how you’re planning to use it.

5 – Make sure you have the right licenses

Depending on the characteristics of your boat, you may need to get a Pleasure Craft License from Transport Canada. Before taking your boat on the water, you will also need a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, which must be kept with you at all times while boating.

Ready to start the process of buying a boat?

Buying a new or used boat must be done methodically. The process involves many steps, as described above, which must be followed in order to avoid mechanical, financial and regulatory problems.

Once you have found the right boat for you, visit our website to find out more about pleasure boating and take the official online test that will enable you to purchase your boating license.

Get your card today