Bowrider Boat Buying Guide, 10 Facts to Consider Part 2

A bowrider boat is on my must have list!  We are going to The Toronto Boat Show to look at all of the shiny new boats.  I understand there will be around 1000 of these splendid toys at the show to drool over. Okay…so how do I sort them out…value, construction features, overall look, how comfortable the seats are…did I forget to mention price?

Welcome to Boater’s Chat Boat Buying Guide part 2.  Before we continue for our list, lets review the first 5 Facts from Part 1.

  1. The Salesperson:  Know who you are dealing with!  The level of expertise and product knowledge can have a significant positive or negative on your overall satisfaction.  Understand that if there is only one brand at the dealership his job depends on a successful sale to you.
  2. The Dealership: Every dealership has a reputationAre they a dryland or wet marina…this in itself tells volumes.  How close is the dealer to where I am actually going to go boating?
  3. Brand ReputationEvery brand has a real reputation. Not a magazine reputation.
  4. Boat Retail MarketplaceBrands with multiple dealers can mean lower prices.
  5. Boat Retail PricingYou cannot get more in terms of quality and value boat for less money….impossible!


Hull Construction What Are You Actually Buying?  Know if you are buying Vinyl Ester or Poly Ester resins and gel coats.  The difference is beyond significant.  Vinyl Ester costs more but provides a huge advantage.  Make sure you are buying a boat with a Vinyl Ester barrier coat under that shinny gel coat.  What hull strengthening materials are used? Fiberglass roving and what weight? Fiberglass cloth which is cheaper? Or just chopper gun roving? Understand that there are different qualities of gelcoat even by chemical family such as Vinyl Ester.

Listed below is a good article by Rick Strand on resins, boat building and the use of wood and plywood in boat building.  Worth a look!  Boat Construction Comparison – By Rick Strand

Boater’s Chat Boat Buying Tip #6.  Know how to ask the right questions on hull construction and understand what is the best hull building technology and what is not.  If your salesperson fumbles or cannot answer some routine boat hull material construction questions…move on!  The word quality is over played and perhaps meaningless today.  Show me the goods! 

Stringer System:  You cannot see it but it is one of the major building blocks of your boat for its entire lifespan.  The Stringer system supports the outer hull from the inside from the continuous shock of impacting water and its waves.  It’s also the basis of floor support and essentially everything above the waterline. Old school tradional technology systems  are treated marine plywood…..this is still very successfully utilized today by leading brands as Crownline Boats and Cobalt Boats.  Cobalt is the most expensive bowrider in the marketplace!  The safest is a fully formed fiberglass stringer or a composite material system properly bonded in place to the hull.  Some more expensive boats may in fact have wood stringer systems which can in fact provide a stiffer hull surface.  The key is absolute proper encapsulation of the entire wood structure under the floor to prevent contact with water.  Warranty….if you build it right….then tell the market it is right with a strong no nonsense warranty!

Crownline for example utilizes a pressure treated plywood stringer system as per their video (Bowrider Boat Building By Crownline) and a plywood transom system.  Boater’s Chat was in the Crownline plant some 15 years ago…the process has been significantly updated and would be considered state of the art for a wood stringer system.

As a comparison, Campion utilizes a solid formed one piece stringer fiberglass stringer system (F.I.S.T. system) bonded into place on their small bowrider runabouts. Check out: (Bowrider Boat Building By Campion)

Boater’s Chat Boat Buying Tip #7.  What is down there in the basement of the boat you are considering.  Wood…plywood….fiberglass stringer system…composite materials stringer system bonded to hull and floor.  The only place you can even get a glimpse of the stringer system is in the transom area near where the bilge pump is.  Make them show you! While you are visiting that area, look at the care and level of finish in the engine compartment.  Careful rubbing on edges, as most builders do not finish cut edges and fiberglass silvers are nasty. 

Hull Design:  Greatly misunderstood and discounted by boat buyers. When they actually get to ride in a proper notched transom designed hull, they are often shocked at the difference.  Bowrider builders especially the less expensive brand are notorious for placing a large top deck on a shorter bottom hull and calling it a larger model. The model number does not in most cases actually reflect the actual running length of the boat. The key traits to smooth operation and efficiency are a notched transom design with negative outer chines, a sharp point of entry and a dead rise degree angle of 15 to 21 degrees. Just because a boat salesman tells you that their higher dead rise at the stern is best does not make it so.  It is the total combination of notched transom, entry point, width, outer chines and dead rise in combination with weight that provides ride quality.

Boater’s Chat Boat Buying Tip #8.  Hull design and weight are key markers of ride quality.  Look for a notched transom, negative outer chine design, sharp point of entry and a dead rise degree angle of 10 degrees+ on a small boat and 15 degrees+ on a 17′ to 19′ and perhaps more to 21′ degrees on a 20′ to 23′.  Watch for cheating on hull lengths as it is very much alive and well.  

Upholstery:  Upholstery is so misunderstood by buyers…it is the three bears approach to boat buying.  Really bad in pontoon buyers! A lot of buyers walk on the boat to where they normally would sit and say…too soft…too hard or just right! Rarely do they ask a single question about the boat and how it is made.  The type of vinyl , vinyl backing, type of stitching and type and density of foam is key.  Remember there has to be enough seat compression based on your actual weight while under way not while sitting at rest in a showroom.  Waves happen and shock absorption from the seating is all that is between you and your spine.  White and off white colours are best.  They may show some dirt but you will not get second degree burns from the sun when you sit down. Unlike dark upholstery in some boats.

Boater’s Chat Boat buyers Tip #9:  Sitting in a boat at a show or in a showroom does not actually tell you much about ride in actual operation.  Light coloured interiors are best as they do not heat up and as such tend to last and look better longer.  That interior should be expected to last 20 years.  Vinyl’s…how thick…UV protection, stich count, what type of materials inside and whether the seat has breathing for interior condensation.  Carpet on the floor is always a problem.  A full glass liner with at least snap out carpet or one of the new synthetics.

Power…. Outboard or Sterndrive:  The popular mistake made by boat buyers is with horsepower….not buying enough of it!  The following is a true story from the 2014 Toronto Boat Show.  I was displaying in the Cypress Cay Pontoon booth and a middle aged women approached me about pontoons.  As I normally do I go through a discovery process on what their needs were so that I can provide the right solution.

This person told me that they had an average load of 8 to 10 adults and they wanted the ability to do watersports.  Great information!  I showed her quickly a 21′ three tube pontoon powered by a 150 HP engine that could also be powered by a 115 HP Outboard.  “Oh no”, she says as she looks at the price!  “At booth Brand X they told me I only need an 18′ 2 tube pontoon boat powered by a 25HP engine”.  I asked if she took the time to look at weight capacity and power recommendations.  “No…they told me it will work just fine!”

I told her that the boat from Brand X would not work for her, as it is underpowered and would not handle the stated passenger load.  I said, “You can write the cheque for a similar model/hp here with actually better construction but I will not accept it…its not right!”  She didn’t care. Brand X said it will work and she was going to buy it!  I suggested that she either confirm the deal subject to a water test under load or get a in writing warranty as to performance.   Off she went…did not need that stuff and was going to buy it!  Where is she now with her purchase?

In order to make a major purchase….you are going to have to put your trust in a salesperson and brand.  The ability to achieve trust will be easier when you understand how the market operates.  One of the intentions of Boater’s Chat is to give you the ability to timely and with confidence develop trust in your purchase decision.

Boater’s Chat Boat Buying Tip #10:  Horsepower either outboard or sterndrive what is the general rule?  Stay within 10 % of the boat builders recommended maximum horsepower when considering fiberglass boats.  If you choose not buy enough horsepower you cannot fix that….if the salesperson sells you an underpowered boat…that cannot be remedied either.  Boats with hydrofoils on the engine tell you that the horsepower is insufficient and quite possible that the hull does not perform well onto plane.  The right horsepower will actually save you money!  Remember that a boat works against 5 times more frictional resistance than a car faces traveling down the road.  You do not want to find yourself in a situation where due to insufficient horsepower you need run your power plant at high RPM’s all day….bad for fuel consumption and increases engine wear/tear and in doing so shortens engine lifespan.

For additional information on Boat Hull Construction, Resin Systems and Manufacturing Comparisons, check out the following articles:

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