First-Time Boat Owner: A Guide to Boating for Beginners

What to know when buying a boat for the first time

There’s nothing quite like hopping on your own boat and heading out into the open water. But, if you’re a first-time boat owner, you may find yourself asking: "I bought a boat. Now what?" Well, there’s a lot you need to know!

Buying a boat is a big investment, and you need to make sure you have all of the information you need so you can take good care of it and operate it safely. These top ten first-time boat owner tips will help you get started.

1. Make Sure You Have the Right Insurance

It’s extremely important to get insurance for your boat. There are a lot of things that can go wrong and you don’t want to find yourself on the hook for major expenses!

It’s a great idea to work with an insurance agent to make sure you get the proper coverage. For example, your policy should cover fuel-spill liability. This is necessary in case your boat accidentally discharges fuel or sinks while in a marina.

If you get into an accident while trailering your boat, the boat insurance policy should cover damages to the trailer, while your auto policy may cover any injuries or damage to other people’s property.

Working with a pro will help ensure that both of your policies work together and that you’re not left with any gaps.

How to pick a boat trailer

2. Learn How to Trailer Your Boat

Many boat owners struggle with learning how to properly trailer their boats, and it’s a skill that takes some practice. First, you need to make sure that your vehicle is rated to tow the boat you’re going to buy. If not, that’s something you’ll need to address sooner than later. 

Don’t forget to include the weight of the boat, plus fuel and equipment. The last thing you want to do is buy a boat and then find out you need a new truck!  Here is how to prevent ruining your truck from your tow rig.  Wondering what trailer is right for you? We wrote about deciding between a bunk trailer and a roller trailer.

3. Practice Launching and Retrieving

Make sure you read up on boat ramp etiquette, so you don’t end up looking like a jerk. Following these unwritten rules will help keep things moving smoothly and allow everyone to get in the water and on their way quickly.

One of the best first time boating tips you’ll hear is to go a few times during off-hours so you can practice backing down the ramp and launching. This will help make things less stressful when it’s officially time to go.

How to select boat storage method

4. Decide on Storage Options

If you’re planning to keep your boat at your home, you’ll want to check and make sure that your community allows this. You might need to make accommodations so it fits inside your garage or make other arrangements.

You might also decide to store your boat with a dry stack valet service or keep it in a marina. Each of these options adds to your ongoing costs, so make sure you factor this in ahead of time.

You also want to think about winters if you live in a cold climate.  This is long term storage and can cost more.  You will want to make sure you are properly winterizing your engine either way.

5. Create a Maintenance Checklist

If you want your boat to last, you must keep up on maintenance. From learning how to wash your boat the right way to inspecting your propeller and changing your oil, you’ll want to take the time to learn exactly what your boat needs.

Once you’ve got this information, it’s a great idea to create a checklist so you don’t forget anything. Whether you’re owning a boat for the first time or you’re a seasoned boater, this list can keep you out of trouble.

6. Get the Proper Equipment

Another important type of new boat owner checklist is one that suggests all of the equipment you’ll need. Of course, you need a life preserver for each person on the boat, but other things you might not have thought of include:

  • Dock lines
  • Fenders
  • Throwable flotation devices
  • Visual signaling devices (like flares)
  • Sound signaling devices (like air horns and whistles)
  • A VHF radio to call for help if needed
  • A medical kit
  • Oars or paddles
  • A heavy-duty flashlight
  • A basic toolbox
  • Extra light bulbs, fuel filters, etc.

Start gathering up these items right away so that you can make sure everyone is safe from the very first time you head out on the water.

7. Create a Pre-Departure Checklist

Before you head out on the water, always make sure someone who’s not on the boat knows where you’re heading and approximately when you plan to return. This way, if something happens and you’re not able to call for help, someone will know to come looking for you and will have an idea of where to start.

Your pre-departure checklist should also include double-checking that you have all your safety equipment, topping off your fuel, and checking your engine and coolant levels.

Boat safety check list

8. Practice Safe Boating

Finally, make sure you’re fully comfortable with how to operate your boat before you head out into the open water. Practice handling and docking several times and make sure you know the rules of navigation! It’s a great idea to take a boating education and/or safety course before you try to head out on your own.

From First-Time Boat Owner to Natural Pro

Remember that everyone was a first-time boat owner at one point. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll get. Take your time with these first-time boat owner tips and don’t allow yourself to get frustrated.

Two important things separate the pros from the greenhorns – repetition and having the right tools. From securing the proper equipment to using the right cleaning supplies, if you do things right the first time, you’ll have much greater success.

We’re here to help! Check out our online catalog for all the cleaning and maintenance products you need.