How to Buy a Boat Suitable for Boat-Towed Water Sports

How to Avoid Disappointment and Do Your Homework

wakeboarding boat
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Once you fall in love with power boating there's no turning back. It's in your blood forever. Shopping for a new boat can be challenging. So many decisions to be made and so many things to consider. It's often a bigger decision than buying a car, which is essentially a means of transportation to get you from point A to point B. A boat is usually a multipurpose investment that can be used for waterskiing, wakeboarding, barefooting, tubing, jumping, fishing, riding to your favorite hangout, weekend getaways, and more. And each of these events sometimes requires different qualities in a boat to get the best performance.

Before you take the boat buying plunge, consider two of the most widely spoken quotes in the boating world. "The happiest day of a boat owner's life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell the boat" and "Boats are nothing more than holes in the water into which you throw money."

Sounds gloomy, doesn't it? It doesn't have to be. That's why it is so crucial for you to do your homework prior to purchasing a boat. Most people who are about to buy a boat have visions of nonstop fun on the water, but the reality is boats can be lots of work and require extreme care and regular maintenance in order for that fun on the water to be long-lasting.

If you're still up to the challenge and responsibility of being a boat owner, use the following checklist to go by when purchasing a boat.

Considerations for Buying a Boat for Boat-Towed Water Sports

Purpose of the Boat

Decide what your main purpose(s) for the boat will be. Do you want it strictly for tournament waterskiing or strictly for recreational wakeboarding? Or do you have kids that like to do a little bit of everything behind the boat? Will it mainly be a fishing boat that you'll occasionally want to water-ski behind? These factors will determine your engine type (inboard, inboard/outboard, or outboard). 

Body of Water You'll Be Using

Larger, more wide open bodies of water require bigger boats or those with V-drives or inboard/outboard engines. Larger boats handle rough water better than smaller boats. Direct drive boats are good for smaller lakes that generally have smooth water. Serious slalom skiers usually prefer direct drives and serious wakeboarders prefer V-drives. If your body of water is large and often chops up a bow-rider may not be the best choice. You don't want to run the risk of water coming in over an open bow.


How much can you afford? Saving money on a purchase up front can cost you in the long run. Be sure to buy quality. Remember to take into consideration the following costs beyond the actual price of the boat and your monthly payments: insurance, boat and trailer registration fees, taxes, fuel, docking/mooring fees, storage, and equipment such as life vests, fire extinguishers, flares, marine radio, anchor, dock lines, and a trailer if needed. When the boat is not in use you'll want to give it proper storage. 

Don't overlook maintenance and repair costs to the boat. This can be the most discouraging factor to a boat owner. On average these annual costs averages around $50 per foot (boat length), however, they can be significantly higher, depending on if you do the work yourself, or you let a marina do the work for you. This is not an area in which you want to skimp. Good maintenance habits can add years to your boat and save you many pounding headaches.

Also, consider these optional items, depending on your water sports preferences: water skis, wakeboards, wetsuits, towables (tubes), tow ropes and gloves, weight system for wakeboarding, pylon, boom, tower, etc.


No matter how new your boat is, warranties can vary tremendously. This is an area in which you do lots of comparison shopping. If purchasing a new boat be sure to go with a boat manufacturer that stands firmly behind their product and is going to rise to the occasion when things go wrong. outlines things to consider when dealing with warranties.

NMMA Certified

Make sure the boat is certified by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The NMMA standards exceed the basic regulations set by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Dealer Reputation

This factor is extremely important and could make or break your boating experience. Make sure their service department is reputable and has a quick turnaround on repairs. To find a dealership in your area see the Dealerships / Sales links list.

Word of Mouth

Find other people who own or have previously owned the brand or model of the boat you are considering purchasing. They can shed light on areas you may have never considered. Other boat owners will tell you the truth.

Boating Safety

Take a safe boating course before you hit the water. The Water and Boating Safety Resources links page is an excellent source of boating courses and has great links to start implanting boat and water safety in your mind. Make sure that everyone who will be operating or just riding in the boat takes a safety course as well. Don't overlook knowing the proper way to tow a skier and how to retrieve a downed skier safely. Also, brush up on proper boat speeds for different boat-towed sports. 

Propeller Type

Three or four blade? Four blades are more expensive, however, they have a quicker holeshot and has a smoother spin. Three blades allow a little more top end speed. Prop manufacturers.

Attend a Boat Show

Boat shows are a great place to start your boat shopping. For starters, there will be lots of manufacturers under the same roof, saving you travel time to multiple dealerships. Dealers often offer boat show discounts. Popular times of the year for boat shows are in the beginning of the year and the fall.

Time of Year

Buying at the beginning of the year will allow you to have your pick of the litter. You'll get more choices with colors, features, and special orders. Buy in the spring when everyone is getting boat fever and expect to pay more for your boat. Larger demand, larger price tag. Buy in the fall or later and you'll get lower prices when dealers are looking to unload boats before the new models hit the showroom.