I mentioned in Monday’s yellowtail post how I’ve been reading the Captain On Board blog penned by Captain Jeff Jones.  Last week, I was approached by a boat manufacturer that wanted to place a post on buying a boat.  I’ve noticed friends and acquaintances talking about buying and selling boats a lot recently.  I’ve often thought about it myself, so I felt like a How To would be a good topic for the blog.  In this guest post, Jeff gives you some good things to consider if you are thinking about jumping in for yourself…




By Captain Jeff Jones

Choosing what fishing boat to buy can be an overwhelming task and it needs to be thought out carefully before taking the plunge.  Some fall in love with a boat too fast and make the purchase only to find out they’re in over their head.  Others search for that “perfect boat” only to discover what others already know.  There is no perfect boat.  It’s a combination of your needs and wants paired to a boat with the qualities that matches them as closely as possible.   Hopefully, this information will help a little.

It really comes down to dollars and sense.  Figure out what you have to spend, not only on purchase price but all the other things that come along with owning a boat.   Slip or storage fees, insurance, fuel, maintenance and whatever must be done to bring the boat up to the standards you expect.  Slip fees will average about $13.50/ft , or $500/month for a 38’ boat.  Batteries last 3 years on average and cost about $100 each, an oil change every 100 hours will cost about $600 bucks for a boat with twin diesels and on and on.  It adds up quick, and those new to boat ownership are often taken by total surprise at how much it costs to keep a medium sized sportfisher in ship shape.

Gas vs. Diesel is another consideration.  Smaller boats now have a good option with the newer 4 stroke outboards.  These are quiet, fuel efficient and have proven track records with regards to reliability.  When you get out of the size range where 4 stroke outboards are a viable option, diesel is the way to go.  Marine diesel engines use less fuel, which means longer range and can run many more hours without major overhauls.  They are designed for torque and are happy when under a load, which is the opposite of gas inboards.  Fishing boats are inherently heavy, laden down with lots of fuel and bait for long voyages or multi day island trips.  You may save a little on the purchase price when buying a sportfisher with gas inboards, but it will cost you eventually.

Hull shape is another major consideration when purchasing a fishing boat.  Up along central California there are boat builders that cater to the commercial fleet and design their hulls for a specific duty.  The hulls are nearly flat at the bow like a surfboard, and they are designed to run up swell early in the morning before the wind comes up so they can “surf” downswell in the afternoon wind without worry.

Another boat builder in San Diego builds a boat that is totally opposite with deep V and a sharp bow to run down into Mexican waters early in the morning, and slice its way home in the afternoon slop.  Neither one of these boats would be a great choice for a guy that wants to fish Catalina most of the time.  Decide what you plan on doing with your new boat before you start shopping, and pick a hull that works best for you.

The wife and family factor is a huge one.  You can cruise and entertain on a fishing boat just fine, but it’s almost impossible to fish effectively on a cruising boat.   Look at fuel and bait capacity before stepping into the cabin to see the amenities.  Here are some basic guidelines to help once you have decided what you want to do with your new boat.  For local islands such as Catalina and San Clemente you’ll want 100-150 gallons of fuel and 50 to 65 gallons of bait water (1.2-2 scoops of bait capacity).  For offshore trips to the tuna grounds you will want 150-200 gallons of fuel and 65-90 gallons of bait water.  For multi-day trips where you may want to take the boat down the Baja Coast you’ll want a minimum of 400 gallons of fuel and 90+ gallons of bait water when looking for a boat great to fish on.  Carpeting, wallpaper and some creature comforts are easy to upgrade compared to fuel tanks.


Electronics are expensive and make all the difference when considering things like piece of mind and safety.  Either make sure the boat has what you need or budget for the best you can afford.  You’ll need a good compass, a GPS chartplotter, a quality fish finder and a dependable VHF radio to start, bare minimum.  A radar is a really nice, but not mandatory.  There are units that are all-in-one and they are very popular, but if one thing breaks the whole unit is broken.  Commercial boats rely on redundancy, meaning more than one of each important piece of electronics.  Choose carefully.

Hopefully you found this information helpful.  There are more factors to consider when making this decision than what is written here, but these are some basic considerations to get you started.  Flybridge or express model?  Fast or economical?  In a slip or on a trailer?  Twin engine or single screw?  Just remember there is no perfect boat, but as long as you know what you want you are well on your way.





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