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Do you dream of zipping along on the open water? You're not alone. Annual retail sales of new boats, engines and boating accessories in the U.S. totaled $16.4 billion in 2014, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. And, chances are you live in an area that isn't far from an ocean, lake, river or other body of water where you can put a boat to good use. Whether you're using it for fishing, water skiing or sailing, a recreational boat is a major investment and lifestyle choice. So it's important to consider if your current lifestyle is a good match. Ask yourself these five questions to find out.

  1. Can you afford it? Boats can range in price from a couple hundred dollars for a small dinghy to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a yacht. Even so, you should budget for expenses beyond the purchase price. You'll need enough money up-front to cover the title and insurance fees, as well as safety gear, such as life jackets and fire extinguishers. You'll also need to budget for ongoing expenses, such as maintenance, fuel, taxes and storage fees. If you're buying a used vessel, you'll also want to pay for a survey (see below).
  2. What type of boat do you want? The type of boat you purchase depends largely on how you plan to use it. Do you dream of lazy afternoon fishing trips with the kids or racing across the open water? If you want to use your boat as a second home, a cabin cruiser with a bathroom and sleeping bunk might be a good choice. If you want to enjoy swimming and socializing with friends on the weekends, a pontoon may be more your speed. Research different types of boats to find the right one for you.
  3. New or used? Purchasing a used boat can be less costly than purchasing new, but you may spend more money than you anticipated in the long run if the boat needs equipment upgrades or other improvements. Before signing a purchase agreement, have the boat surveyed by a reputable marine surveyor so you know exactly what you’re getting. Contact the Society for Accredited Marine Surveyors to find a certified marine surveyor in your state.
  4. Where will you keep it? Storing a boat can be a major expense, and the larger the vessel, the more truck or trailer power you’ll need to transport it and the more space you’ll need to store it. If you like to travel and your vessel is larger than 30 feet long and 8 feet wide, you may need to obtain special permits and professional help to move it.
  5. Do you have time for a boat? Be honest with yourself about how much time you really have to use, enjoy and maintain a boat. How many weeks per year is the weather appropriate for boating in your climate? How often during those weeks would you be able to use the boat? If you haven’t the time and energy to put into boat ownership, you may want to consider renting. Answering these questions will help you narrow down your choices and focus your search. No matter what type of boat you choose, Navy Federal Credit Union can help you figure out how much you can afford and provide an easy application process. We offer low rates and up to 100% financing to cover taxes, title and tags*.

*Financing is available on boats and recreational vehicles used for recreational purposes only.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.