Make a Splash!
Ready to take the plunge and finally buy a boat? Consider the following factors before letting your affinity for water sports influence the investment.
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Boat-Buying Advice for Beginners
1. Ask yourself why you want to own a boat. What kind of water activities do you enjoy? What’s your budget? How much time will you be spending on your boat? Answering these questions will help you decide on what kind of vessel would be best for you.
2. Do your research and take your time browsing. Boat-buying can be exciting, but make sure not to rush into the first deal you find.
3. Never purchase a used boat without taking it out for a ride on the water first.
4. Don’t get dazzled by the attractive cosmetic aspects of a new boat. Walk around the boat to check for the practicalities, like neat wiring, leaking hatches, engine function and visibility from the driver’s seat.
5. Go over the paperwork carefully to make sure everything's in order. You might not be able to get a permit for your boat if anything is amiss.
Types of Boats for Different Needs
For those new to boating, bowriders are a perfect fit. They’re considered to be the most popular runabout boats, with extra seats for everybody on board to relax in the sun. Bowriders have a good reputation as a family boat, but doesn’t mean they’re not also plenty ready to give wakeboarders, skiers and tubers a thrilling ride.
If you’re looking for a more professional experience, boats designed specifically for the speed and power that advanced skiers and wakeboarders crave are also available. Some of these boats reduce the size of the wake for skiers, allowing them to more easily glide across the water, and others create larger waves for wakeboard experts to perform tricks on. The catch is the price hike for such a specially designed vessel.
Don’t discount the trusty pontoon. While older pontoons are typically slower and less maneuverable than other boats, modern pontoons can be used for watersports and they’re still perfect for cruising on the lake with your favorite beer and friends.
It’s All About the Money: The Cost of Owning a Boat
Even though the idea of basking on your own boat in the blazing Texas sun can take all your worries away, don’t forget there is a less relaxing side to boat ownership: cost and upkeep. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details. It’s not inexpensive to own a boat, even after the upfront cost of purchasing one. Insurance, permits, storage, and maintenance can all add up quickly, and a lot of these expenses vary widely depending on the size of your boat. Texas registration fees range from $32 for a 16-foot boat to $150 for a 40-foot boat, and registration has to be renewed every two years. Every insurance company has their own rates and policies, but on average, you’re going to end up cashing out $300 to $500 a year. You’ll pay much more than that though if you opt for a more expensive high-performance boat or yacht.
Beasts Beneath the Boats
With their long, crocodilian snouts equipped with needle-like teeth, this unusual freshwater fish can look downright prehistoric. Alligator gar can live for decades, growing up to ten feet long and weighing over 300 pounds. In the past, their appearance and raw power haven’t lent them a good reputation. The Texas Game and Fish Commission targeted them for elimination in the 1930’s, but today they’re safe as a popular sport fish that can help target invasive species.
The water moccasin makes its claim to fame by being the only venomous water snake in North America. Their poison can assault the circulatory system and cause extreme pain and muscle damage, but fatalities are rare. In fact, despite the fearsome myths surrounding them, cottonmouths rarely bite humans at all. Research shows they are much more likely to try to escape or put on a defensive show by opening up their striking white mouths, rather than to resort to an attack.
While you may not cower at the sight of them, zebra mussels pose more of a potential danger than any reptilian creature. This invasive species can damage docks and motors and wreck water pipes, driving up water costs for entire cities. They haven’t made their way to the Highland Lakes yet, but lakes just a short drive away are facing an infestation. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department warns that even Austin’s beloved Barton Springs could fall victim to the mussels if residents aren’t responsible. They implore boat, canoe, kayak and paddleboard owners to clean, drain and dry their vessels after each use to protect Austin lakes.