Are you dreaming of cruising the open waters to new-to-you destinations? Is driving to your favorite coastal restaurant just not cutting it anymore? Owning a boat can be a rewarding and exhilarating experience for you and your entire crew, but it also comes with a plethora of questions and considerations. There is a lot to navigate from insurance to financing, dockage, surveys, and the decision between used and new. Let’s dive into some of the most common FAQ’s about boat ownership that we’ve encountered in our 50+ years in business.

1. Do I need any special licenses or certifications?

The requirements for operating a boat vary depending on your location and the size of the vessel. In some places, you’ll need to complete a boating safety course and obtain a boating license or certificate. Some insurance companies may want to see that you’ve completed additional certifications before granting coverage. It’s best practice to check with your local boating authorities to understand the specific requirements in your area.

Boat US Foundation provides courses for many of the states in our Gulf Coast region, but not all. Click here for a guide to the requirements for local states and whether Boat US courses meet their mandatory education requirements.

2. Do I even need boat insurance?

Boat insurance is not legally required in all states, but it’s highly recommended. Like car insurance, boat insurance provides financial protection in case of accidents, theft, or damage. It can also cover liability if you injure someone or damage their property while boating. Most importantly, you’ll find marinas all over the world will require you to be insured before they grant you a slip.

When starting the boat-buying process, it’s smart to obtain quotes from multiple insurance providers to compare coverage options and rates. This will ensure that you find the most competitive and comprehensive policy. For more information on boat insurance, check out our blog – Navigating Boat Insurance.

3. What maintenance will I have to do?

No matter what kind of boat you get, regular maintenance is crucial for keeping your boat in top condition. Boat owners who are proactive about their maintenance use their boats more often, enjoy it more when they do (with fewer surprises underway), and benefit from significantly improved resale value. Regular maintenance to schedule should include cleaning the hull, changing the engine and transmission fluids and filters, and inspecting and repairing any damage.

Bottom PaintSaltwater – 2/3 Years, Freshwater – 4 Years
Engine OilAt least once a year or every 100 hours of operation, whichever comes first
Transmission FluidOnce a year or every 100-200 hours of operation
Filters (Oil, Fuel, and Air)Replace oil filters with every oil change. Change fuel filters seasonally or every 100 hours, depending on usage and fuel quality. Regularly inspect your air filters and replaced as needed.

Here on the Gulf Coast, we benefit from not having to “winterize” the boat, but must still be vigilant not to neglect our boats during the colder months. It’s healthy for any boat to regularly “stretch her legs”. Be sure to seek out advice from boat-ownership veterans, though we’ll caution you that someone’s YouTube views do not always translate to responsible boat ownership.

Always consult your engine’s owner’s manual for specific maintenance schedules and recommendations. It’s best practice to keep detailed records of your maintenance tasks for yourself, your warranty, and the next owner.

4. What Safety Equipment Do I Need on My Boat?

Safety should always be a top priority when boating. Basic safety equipment includes life jackets for all passengers, a fire extinguisher, distress signals such as flares or an emergency beacon, navigation lights, and a sound-producing device such as a whistle or horn. The amount of safety gear we recommend beyond this really depends on your usage. If you are at the helm offshore, particularly by yourself or at night, it’s smart to tether your life vest to nearby deck hardware. EPIRB, or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, is a device that alerts search and rescue services to your location in case of an emergency out at sea. A life raft is also a smart investment for offshore boaters. Make sure to keep track of the upcoming service date and the onboard location of all safety gear so that it’s ready to go in case of an emergency.

5. Should I Buy a New or Used Boat?

The decision between buying a new or used boat depends on your budget, preferences, and priorities. New boats may offer the best long-term value and come with the latest features, warranties, and a smooth handover. On the other hand, used boats are more affordable and may offer better short-term value. Consider factors such as depreciation, maintenance costs, and resale value when making your decision.