Skip to main content

Choosing the right boat: advice from APRIL Marine

Published on
  • Marina, les bateaux aux pontons
    So, you've decided you want to buy a boat? Or maybe you're looking to change boats because yours is no longer the right size, it's too old, too expensive to run or not suitable for the future trips you have in mind?

Follow APRIL Marine's advice to help you ask the right questions and make the right choice according to your usage, your requirements and your budget.

How you plan to use your boat

You should base your choice of boat on relevant and considered criteria. The process should begin by answering several questions:

  • What do you plan to use your boat for?
  • Do you plan to make your boat your main residence? Do you plan to use it for day trips, multi-day trips or for longer periods? Will you be sleeping and eating on-board your boat?
  • Where do you plan to sail? At sea, on rivers or lakes?
  • With whom will you be sailing? Alone, with a partner, as a family? This will impact your space requirements. Also, will you need assistance from someone when sailing or can you sail alone?
  • What level of comfort and equipment would you like? Do you need storage space?
  • Are you looking to travel long distances or are you more interested in speed sailing?
  • How much time do you have to spend sailing and maintaining your boat?
  • Will you need a boating license to be able to sail your future vessel? Have you already taken your license? Do you have the required sailing knowledge?
  • Are you looking for a family boat, a houseboat, a leisure boat, a fishing boat, a speed boat, a single-hull or a multi-hull vessel?

Initially, these questions should help you work out whether you should be opting for a sailboat or a motorboat and what type: for regattas and racing or for comfort and long-distance sailing.

No one boat will be able to meet all your criteria, so compromises will have to be made. However, if it is the right type of boat to match your usage, you shouldn't face any unpleasant surprises.

The boat's features

In order to find your ideal boat, you need to think through certain features.

River boat or mixed boat?

Where you intend sailing will determine the type of boat you need, which will differ depending on whether you plan to sail at sea, on rivers or on lakes. The practice itself is also accordingly different.

River boats have more openings, whereas seafaring vessels are designed to withstand strong waves. Will you be spending more time inside or outside, and therefore looking for more space for an indoor lounge or a big deck?

When and in what circumstances will you be sailing? Do you plan to get your boat out during the summer only, or also in winter? Will your boat need to resist the cold, rain, sunshine?

What size of boat should I buy?

The minimum size for a boat depends on several key criteria, how many crew members can be on board, any safety issues and the duration of trips.

It is a mistake to opt for a boat which is oversized in relation to your usage. Your needs will vary depending on the number of people potentially staying on-board, whether you wish to spend several months on-board and whether you will be using it for holidays or just day trips. This will impact your space and layout requirements.

You also need to bear in mind that the bigger the boat, the more expensive it is to run, as docking spaces, fuel consumption and maintenance all depend on size. The administrative and regulatory requirements are also greater for larger vessels.

It is not worth overstretching yourself, so opt for a smaller boat initially and you can always upgrade to a bigger one at a later stage

What type of hull should I choose: steel or plastic?

Most boats are made either from steel or polyester (generally referred to as plastic). So, which one should you choose?

Their weight is roughly equivalent, as is their solidity. However, steel is easier to change and repair following an accident.

Steel can rust and plastic deteriorates through osmosis and hairline cracks. Yet at sea, plastic is more resistant. In terms of maintenance, plastic is simpler and less time-consuming than steel.

Ecologically-speaking, the environmental impact of building each boat is roughly the same, however steel can be reused unlike plastic.

The boat's engine specification

Buying a boat is not complete without choosing the right engine, all the more so for motorboats.

How many engines do I need?

Some people advocate getting two engines, for security reasons, so that if one engine fails, the other can take over. Yet others work on the assumption that a well-maintained engine would never give up without warning. Indeed, if you overlook engine maintenance, regardless of whether you have one or two, you're ultimately running the same risk.

So, for a small boat under 15 metres long, you could say that in addition to being unnecessary, a second engine will mean twice as much maintenance and therefore double the costs.

For those looking to push the speedometer, this issue is even more relevant. Don't forget to ask your dealer for advice. The cost of this can be significant.

What about engine power?

It is vital to choose the right type of engine and propeller for your boat. The weight and power of the engine impact the boat's performance. The right sized propeller will help you optimise the engine's and the boat's performance.

Make sure you opt for an engine with the right power for your boat and for the activities you are planning. A small engine does not necessarily equate to lower consumption if it needs to work harder. To the contrary, a boat which is too powerful will lead you break the safe speed limit. You also need to keep in mind that the power you require will vary depending on whether you are sailing alone or taking passengers on-board.

In order to calculate the optimum level of power for the boat, you need to take into consideration its weight and dimensions, including the weight of passengers, fuel and equipment. Generally-speaking, you can get close to the maximum power for which the boat was designed.

To offer the best possible care for your boat's engine, take a look at our engine damage cover. take a look at our engine damage cover.

How to work out your budget

The budget you need is not limited simply to the boat's purchase price. It should also cover the costs for maintaining and using it.

If you are planning on buying a new boat, bear in mind that they can cost as much as a large house. Depending on your down payment, it is possible to find a boat loan solution or to opt for a boat lease purchase option. These solutions allow you to spread the payments and make it easier for you to buy your boat.

While it is reasonably straightforward to calculate the budget you need to buy a boat, it is more difficult to work out the costs you may incur while owning one. You therefore need to consider in advance how you plan to use the boat as well as any requirements you may have in terms of fittings. You mustn't forget to allocate a portion of your budget to sailing and safety equipment.

In your expenditure items you should also include insurance, which is admittedly not mandatory but highly recommended, boat licence fees if applicable, shipping costs, fuel, paperwork and any compulsory equipment. Boats need regular maintenance, such as careening, painting and wintering, and these costs are significant. If you need to transport your boat from one place to another, don't forget to buy and insure a trailer too.

Your final decision

Once you have thought through these issues thoroughly, and any questions you had have been answered, you can then prioritise your key criteria and list any must-have aspects for your boat. This will help you work out what type and model of boat is right for you, and start your research to bring up a list of those available boats which meet your criteria. Select the boats which match your criteria and do a price inventory for these vessels to find out whether it is possible to finance the purchase.

Take a look at our boat classifieds online.

If you have any lingering doubts about such a big decision, you can always opt to lease the boat you are interested in initially to test it out before going ahead with the purchase.

Read all about our co-sailing solutions.

You can also take a look at our article on the key points to check before buying a second-hand boat as well as all our services to help you sell or buy a boat and share your passion for sailing.