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This Old Boat — How to Tell When It’s Time for a New Watercraft

If you’re a water lover, your boat becomes more than just a way to spend a few great hours on the lake or ocean. It becomes a part of your family and a reminder of all the great times you’ve spent on it. This is why it’s sometimes hard for boaters to know when it’s time to upgrade to a better boat. If you’re wondering if it’s time for a new boat, ask yourself these questions:

How Are You Using It?

Just like for our houses and cars, our needs in regards to boats change throughout our lives. Changes in work schedule, children being born or leaving home, retirement, illness and other factors may mean that we now use our boats more or less. Do you go fishing every weekend or just a couple times per year? Do you have the time to spend on maintenance? If you think that you’re not getting enough use out of your boat now, it makes sense to sell it or, better yet, donate the boat to a good cause, rather than have it sit in the slip or in your driveway unused.

On the other hand, you may be using your boat more now than when you bought it. If you’ve had a change in career, retired or moved closer to the launch area, then you may actually spend more time on the water and therefore will need a bigger boat or one that allows you to go farther.

Changes in purpose also matter. If your family used to love wakeboarding on the lake but lately you’re attracted to saltwater fishing, then you might not have the right boat for your purposes at the moment.

How Much Do You Spend on Maintenance?

In addition to the practicalities of usage, you need to consider the costs involved with keeping an older boat. As boats age, the maintenance costs typically rise. In addition to regular upkeep, you may find you’re spending more money each year on repairs, replacements and other maintenance. It’s up to you to do the math and decide whether or not the cost of keeping your old boat makes financial sense. While a new boat—or new-to-you —won’t be free of maintenance costs, if the new boat fits your lifestyle better than the old boat it might be worth paying for the difference.

The two biggest points of maintenance on a boat are the motor and the hull. If your hull is sound, then you probably have a boat that will see many more nautical miles. However, if you’ve discovered rot in the hull, cracks in the transom or any other structural problems on the boat, then you have a convincing reason to change to a new vessel. Likewise, if the boat’s motor is beginning to fail you, the cost of replacing the engine (and refitting the boat’s cables and ports to accommodate that engine) may be more than the cost of upgrading to a new vessel. Electronics are another point of concern on older boats that might help you make the decision to sell up.

Does It Require Many Repairs?Storage for your boat is another issue. If you’re not using your boat as often as you used to, perhaps paying for the slip at the marina isn’t such a good investment anymore either. Even if you’re not paying to store your boat, because you keep it on a trailer in your driveway, chances are that the storage is costing you in other ways. What could you do with the extra space if you had a slightly smaller boat instead? Though there will be as many different reasons to keep or change boats as there are boaters, it pays to consider the costs.

One reason that many boaters are attracted to owning their own vessel is that it’s a creative outlet as well as a sporting outlet. If you enjoy fixing up your boat as much as you enjoy sailing or motoring on it, then perhaps an older boat is fine for you. But, if you are strapped for free time and would rather spend what leisure moments you have available on the water rather than in dry dock or holding a varnish brush, then perhaps getting a newer boat that requires fewer repairs will make sense to you.

At the end of the day, deciding to buy a replacement boat is a big decision that needs to be made according to your personal situation and the use you hope to get from the boat.

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