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Now's the time to buy boats if you don't mind a cold test ride

Boat buying and selling activity increases from late spring through early summer, providing anglers and recreational boaters a great opportunity to find a new or pre-owned boat at a great price, even if it requires a test drive on a cool spring day. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

As spring arrives, both anglers and recreational boaters often begin contemplating the idea of purchasing a new boat. Whether the boat is brand new and purchased from a dealer or a pre-owned model listed in the want ads or Internet, there are a few items that potential boat buyers should take into consideration.

First, buying a new boat comes with added protection. Most boat manufacturers have warranties, which work as an added layer of insurance and may include replacement of items like latches, switches and gauges for a period of a few years. Many have hull and deck warranties as well, with some boat companies granting the original buyer a limited lifetime warranty on the workmanship of the hull.

Engine companies also provide standard warranties, some of which are extended at no cost to the buyer if purchased during specific time-periods. As an example, Mercury Marine currently offers a 5-year warranty on its four-stroke and direct fuel injection engines if purchased from a dealer before April 15, 2009, which adds an additional two years on to their standard protection package.

Boat and engine warranties cost less and are effective for a longer duration when obtained through a certified boat dealer. And when you buy from a dealer, you're not simply getting a boat, you're starting a relationship with the personnel, who may be providing service work and trouble-shooting advice for years after you've towed your new vessel out of their lot.

Additionally, when a buyer decides on a new boat, they can choose from many different options, including interior and exterior color, electronics, trolling motor, a specific engine size and canvas packages.

Yet for some people, purchasing a pre-owned boat directly through a private seller is a viable option. However, both buyer and seller should use caution and common sense when making their decisions.

Classified ads are a great place to look for a used boat and if searching a local paper, the buyer can typically expect to drive only a few miles to inspect the product and ask questions face-to-face.

Those in the market for a pre-owned boat can also access information and ads on the Internet. Not only can they find classifieds listing boats for sale from private parties, they can search inventories of pre-owned boats from dealers as well.

Yet the Internet can make the world feel small when looking at pictures of a boat in, say, Kentucky, but remember, you still have to take a trip to inspect the product. After making a long trek, some buyers are more apt to agree to the purchase, even if the boat isn't exactly what they expected due to the time and mileage they committed.

Another consideration when using the Internet to find a boat are scams. Although the greater majority of buyers and sellers on the Internet are good, honest people, there is potential for deceit.

If buying a boat, never send full payment before meeting with the seller personally and thoroughly examining the boat, trailer and engine; a test drive is ideal if possible.

If selling a boat, beware of suspicious inquisitions that ask for personal information, such as a bank account number for the "buyer" to deposit the funds into. If you should fall for such a scam, your bank account will soon show a negative balance instead of a positive gain. And you'll surely still have your boat to sell.