9 tips to help you find the perfect trailer boat

By: John Willis, Photography by: Various

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  • Trade-A-Boat

While there's no such thing as the perfect boat, these essential tips from Trade-a-Boat's senior boat reviewer will at least help you get close when you buy your next one.


The perfect boat?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the perfect boat has never been — and will never be — made. When it comes to defining the best boat imaginable, each of us has our own wants, needs and requirements governed by passenger numbers, multiuse facilities, budget, towing and storage restrictions. That’s what makes us all individuals and thankfully it also keeps the boating industry on its toes by supplying us with a wide variety of craft to choose from.

Generally speaking, boats aren’t mass produced. They may come out of moulds and jigs but every fit-up is as different as every angler. The challenge when selecting your new dream machine is to tick as many boxes as possible while staying within your budget. Here are some tried and tested ways to help you make the right decision.


Towing weight

Trailer towing big boat

Can your tow vehicle legally tow your boat package and still legally carry a reasonable amount of holiday equipment, fuel and accessories? Check your vehicle’s specifications carefully. Insurance companies are quick to jump on overloaded vehicles when assessing accidents. Holidaymakers who’ve been turned around or put off the road entirely at fixed or mobile weighbridges aren’t unheard of. Pic: Aussie Boats Sales


Get the right trailer

Plate boat on trailer
Talking of towing, the right trailer means you can be fully self-sufficient for hassle-free launching and retrieval once you reach the water. A well-setup, drive-on trailer makes boating far more fun and reduces frustration at the ramp for all. Close consideration of trailer type can mean the difference between an enjoyable boating experience and the nightmare scenarios commonly acted out at the ramp by ill-informed and under-equipped boaters.
When purchasing, a close inspection of the trailer pays dividends. Check the trailer load ratings to ensure the package has sufficient allowance in the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) for fuel, accessories and all of your holiday gear. Most new trailers look alike but for dealers, a cheaper trailer is often the easiest way to create a lower package price. Pic: Ben Keys


Bigger isn’t necessarily better

Sea Jay tinnie

Easy access is the key. Without it, your boat will never get used. If good weather has been forecast, your boat must be ready to hook-up and go at a moment’s notice. Downsizing will often offer more opportunities in this respect.

Having said that, it doesn’t matter if you’re an angler, a diver, a waterskier, a cruiser or a combination of all four — there is a wide variety of suitable boat packages available. We fishermen often have to bow down to other family interests in the pursuit of our ideal fishing boat, however, it’s the angler that catches the fish and not the boat. The boat has to be capable of getting you and your passengers there and back safely. All other considerations are secondary. Pic: John Ford


But bigger power is better

Quad Mercury 400 Verado outboards

Boats often come with minimal horsepower to lower their overall price. This practice may be suited to Mr and Mrs Lovely, who only want to cruise at 5kts on their local farm dam but it can lead new boaters into unsafe territory. Less horsepower does not necessarily mean greater fuel economy but it will certainly increase your service and repair bills. Unsuitably low horsepower will overwork an engine, leading to higher fuel consumption, excess wear and tear and in some cases, engine detonation. The new technology in marine engines is terrific but often expensive. A good rule of thumb is to power the package with close to the manufacturer’s maximum recommended horsepower, not the minimum. If SCUBA diving is on the agenda, then the added equipment weight will require extra horsepower to handle it.


There’s a reason why well-known brands are still around

Cruise Craft boat

There’s generally a good reason why brand-name boats are well-known. Sticking to reputable brands generally ensures you get what you pay for. Many fishos love custom fitout boats and there has been a recent move toward vessels that meet commercial survey requirements. Brand-name recreational boats are generally of excellent quality. There are very few manufacturers that could be classified as an exception to that rule, and they generally don’t last too long. Well-established brand-name boats always demand excellent resale prices, although the move toward a world market has opened the Australian boating public to a huge variety of imports, some well-known, others less so. Pic: Angelo San Giorgio


Get the right price

Trixsta tinnie

If it seems cheap, there’s usually a reason. Selling boats is a numbers game and dealers often need to move stock cheaply due to financial requirements or even to make way for new models. Last year’s boat model does not mean it is of lesser quality. It is often arguable as to how much extra we pay for brand-names. There is no accepted rule of thumb on that one and each deal should be considered on its own merits. The bottom line is that no brand will continue to have ongoing success in this highly competitive field without providing a quality product that also offers reasonable value for money. History tells us that boats do not suffer from the rapid depreciation experienced by most motor vehicles, electrical components and other large family purchases, so if you do make a mistake, it may not turn out to be as financially gruesome as you thought. Pic: John Ford


Boat accessories, accessories, and more accessories

Fishing accessories on boat

Accessories make or break your boat. Sure, a basic boat will get you out there and back, and you will probably catch some fish, but it’s the fitout of fishing accessories that customises the package to suit your lifestyle, taste, style and budget. Equipment such as marine electronics, canopies and baitboards can always be added to a package – the basic hull configuration, horsepower and trailer should be your highest priorities. We all like our gadgets and gizmos but the plethora of electronic offerings out there will confuse you far more than your basic selection of boat, motor and trailer. While it’s great to have the best and latest devices, it’s also worth remembering that some of the cheapest electronics on the market are far better than the most expensive professional units of only a few years back.

A basic sounder and GPS will often suffice but a chartplotter with maps will take you into trickier waters with a high-degree of navigational ability and safety. Canopy selection is a matter of location and taste, as are decisions concerning anchoring, rodholders, baitboard, livewell, storage and communications. However, fuel tank selection is vital – obviously nobody enjoys running dry at sea. Creature comfort options such as seating, flooring, lining and bedding generally aren’t essentials for anglers and often the basics will suffice. But remember, it’s nice to have some shade and comfort for long, fish-filled days on the water. Pic: Nathan Jacobs


Is one boat enough?

Multiple boats

If you’re dedicated to a particular style of fishing, your boat-buying decision should be relatively easy. Unless your bankroll is suited to the purchase of a number of specialised rigs, the challenge for the average boater is to buy a boat that will satisfy across a broad range of applications. However, if you like to fish offshore one day and sweet-water the next, then the inclusion of a smaller tinnie or plastic boat next to your seagoing dream machine may be the answer. Pic: John Ford


Last but not least

Crestliner tinnie boat

If your quest leads you to a large payload but a low towing weight, then perhaps an aluminium boat is right for you. However, aluminium boats traditionally ride harder due to their lower hull weight, wider beam and shallower vee. These factors also allow easier planing at reduced horsepower, with associated fuel savings.

There are, however, exceptions. These days not all aluminium boats ride that hard, thanks to some terrific new designs and heavier plate constructions. Aluminium boats will put up with more abuse than fibreglass and can be easier to manage on poorer-quality ramps and during beach launchings.

Fibreglass boats are generally heavier than aluminium or plastic but that weight, combined with good hull design, generally translates to extra comfort on the water. There is no substitute for a big, deep-vee hull when it comes to riding comfort in a large swell or choppy conditions – unless of course you are a lover of twin hulls or prefer some variation of the cathedral hull design. Or perhaps you’ve considered a RIB?


The verdict

Whatever you choose, be prepared to pay the right price. It certainly pays to deal with a reputable dealer and an experienced sales representative. You’ll know them when you meet them – and they’re not necessarily the ones who talk the most, or the loudest.

Often, people will find the ideal boat but let it slide because they couldn’t "bust" the dealer enough on price. Be aware that margins on new boats are genuinely very tight. However, if a dealer is offering a product you like, with the facility for service and warranty backup, plus advice and security, then pay the price. It’s funny how irrelevant those few extra dollars become when you’re hooking that fish of a lifetime in your floating dream machine.

Hopefully I’ve given you plenty of food for thought but as a final parting comment let me leave you with this: when it’s all said and done, life’s simply better with a boat – whatever length or model it may be.


Originally published in August 2015. Why not subscribe to Trade-a-Boat today?


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