If you've read this far, you probably already have a good idea of the type and size of boat to serve your needs. Read a bit further, however, to review the pointers offered by people who help connect potential buyers with well-suited boat choices. And many choices there are, since the U.S. has the largest boat support and building community in the world, an estimated 1,000 makers of boats -- and within each brand, another handful of models and numerous options.
Most people considering a purchase do so because of a good experience on somebody else's boat. That's due to boating being as much a social event as a vehicle to a task, such as fishing or water skiing. Your boating acquaintances -- friends and family -- and where you live provide more input about what to buy than just about anything else. What activities are people doing on the water? Are they sailing, motoring, paddling or often tied at the dock -- or usually doing a multitude of things? How many guests go with them; how many will go with you? How far do they go or how long do they stay on the water? Who else might be using your boat and why? Will you trailer the boat? Do you plan to keep you boat for more than a couple seasons?
Answering these questions, and others that may apply to a specific local water resource you plan to enjoy (confined small lake, river, reservoir, navigable waterway or canal, bay, great lake, ocean) will lead you to a comfortable type, size and form of "push." Remember that many boats are made to be multi-purpose and can be used to enjoy a variety of activities. On the other hand, if you know you will only be bonefishing or some other esoteric boating specialty, then go for that niche type.
Those planning more activities and having more guests aboard should plan for more room (especially length of boat and storage areas) for adequate personal space and stowage. The more time planned to be on the water also argues for adequate shelter, to get out of the elements (sun, rain, wind) or overnighting (bunks, a head, perhaps a galley). If other family members or trusted friends will be regularly using the boat, will it accommodate their activities, too? Trailering is an activity pursued by about half of the boat owning community to provide mobility (or simply a place to keep the boat when it's out of the water). Keep in mind that extended towing will require an adequately-rated tow vehicle, and that may not be your current SUV or car. Those planning to keep a particular boat for more than two or three years should anticipate changes in family size or boating activities that may point to a slightly different model or length, more or less power, additional accessories, etc.
With this information, begin the process of "affordability". You will find a wide range of prices in almost every boat type and model division. So, start with a comfortable overall budget figure and begin to examine the possibilities. With the large number of boat builders and sellers -- including private owners selling pre-owned boats -- across the country, buyers will usually find several brands, models, sizes, options and price categories from which to choose. The good news about buying a boat is that, like cars, new and many pre-owned ones can be purchased with a loan, changing a one-time payment routine into monthly installments.