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Buying a new boat? Here's what to look for

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As we get to this time of the year that we know the weather will be getting better, it is hard not to think about boats for the upcoming open water season.

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Last year I thought I was going to switch my boat out. I had just completed my seventh season with my rig, and it gets used a lot. After shopping around and test driving some boats, I decided to just invest in some reconditioning. I know what I am looking for in a boat, and staying with what I already have isn't that difficult of a decision. I bought the boat I use now because of the features and options it has as well as how it applies to what I need in terms of boat performance. This boat is very similar to the previous boats I owned. After spending the money on reconditioning what I have, I know I will be looking at a couple more seasons out of my "office space" before I have to make another boat decision.

The considerations for the boat you want are bigger than just the price tag, although with the cost of new boats that is always going to be a significant part of the equation. Other considerations will include what kind of use your boat is going to get.

How many will be fishing out of your boat? This is where size will matter. If you are looking at more that two fisherman most of the time you will most likely want something over 17 feet.

Will you also be using the boat for family recreation? This may help you determine if a tiller boat or console boat, and horsepower considerations need to come into play.

What waters will the boat be on? Small lakes usually require smaller boats, as does river fishing. If the boat is going to spend some time on Lake of the Woods, Leech, Winni, Mille Lacs, Red or other large bodies of water around the state, then you will want to step up in size and horsepower.

Aluminum or glass? Glass boats are usually thought to ride better than aluminum. They are heavier than and not as influenced by wind, as the lighter and usually higher profiled aluminum boat design. Both have positives, and both have drawbacks. For me this consideration comes down the types of accesses I am launching my boat from, the fact that I pull up to many unprotected docks, and I often need to beach my boat. These factors make me lean to the aluminum side of the boat equation.

New boats come with warranties and extended payment options that can make them affordable. You will however, pay more for the boat in the long run. Buying used is always a risk, but you may get more boat bang for your buck. You can get some great deals on used boats as others upgrade or change according to their needs.

If you're looking to be a first time boat owner, I recommend you start out used and small. You will need to spend some time with your boat "learning curve." This process can be an expensive one if you go too big and too new too quick. The best deal is to find exactly what you are looking for from the little old lady that only fished out of it for an hour every Sunday. Good luck on your boat hunt.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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