1. Quality vs. price
Buy the best-quality boat that suits your needs and budget, says Joe Thompson, executive director of the Yacht Brokers Association of America. "The better-quality boat will probably cost more than a boat of lesser quality, but it is still likely to be a relative bargain in the long run because it will have enduring investment value you can realize when you sell it."
2. New vs. used
If you plan to sell the boat within five years, buy used to mitigate the depreciation factor. Consider buying new if you plan to keep the boat longer than five years and it's in your budget.
It's never been a better time to buy or find great deals. And though financing is still available it can be harder to qualify for a loan now. Be prepared to provide proof of income, have a good credit score and put 20 percent down. Putting down more than 20 percent will get you a lower interest rate and reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan. More money down means less risk of an upside-down mortgage (owing more than the boat is worth) on a newer boat. For more, see Yes, banks are still writing boat loans.
"If people are willing and able to take on a higher deductible, most carriers will reduce their premium generally about 10 percent, moving from a 1-percent to a 2-percent deductible," according to Jim Nolan, vice president of underwriting at BoatU.S. "This is an option a lot of people overlook even though most will not even submit smaller claims anyway."
5. Brokers and surveyors
"Start with a good broker and a knowledgeable surveyor, and buy a boat built by a reputable builder," says Mike New of the American Boat and Yacht Council. "You'll save money in the long term because those boats hold their value, and you won't have to spend money to bring them up to standards."
6. Hull types
"Full-displacement boats are the most fuel-efficient, but they're limited by their hull speed and I, for one, would not be thrilled at the prospect of running around at 6 or 7 knots," says Soundings technical writer Eric Sorensen, author of "Sorensen's Guide to Powerboats." "Planing hulls, on the other hand, get you there in a hurry, but you pay for it in fuel consumption because they use more propulsion energy per nautical mile. Any time you get a boat on plane, you're expending a lot of power for the privilege of going faster. A moderate-weight, keel-less semidisplacement hull is a good compromise between speed — 12 to 18 knots or so on plane — and fuel efficiency."
7. Fuel-efficient engines
The new generation 4-stroke and direct fuel injected 2-stroke outboards are quieter, burn cleaner and are more fuel-efficient than traditional 2-strokes. Sorensen says fuel economy is better with the new technology, but the real benefits are in less noise and lower emissions. Volvo Penta's Inboard Performance System and Cummins MerCruiser Diesel's Zeus pod drives are 30 percent more fuel efficient than traditional inboards, according to published boat tests. Sorensen says some larger boats (more than 35 feet or so) are good candidates for repowering with pod drives. "Volvo even has a boat integration test center set up to determine compatibility with IPS," he notes.
8. Fuel economy
Reduce weight inside the boat and windage topside by removing full deck or cockpit enclosures; keep the bottom clean and smooth to reduce drag; tune the engine and use fuel additives for more efficient combustion; ensure props are clean and undamaged for maximum thrust; operate at the most fuel-friendly cruise speed; avoid head seas and winds; plan the shortest route to a destination; and time passages with fair tides. For more, see 17 ways to save fuel.