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advice on family ski boat

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Old 07-12-2013, 04:57 PM
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Default advice on family ski boat

I apologize in advance if this has been covered elsewhere.

I'm looking into buying my first boat for my family, and I know virtually nothing about boats besides how to enjoy using them :-)

I live in Northern California, and plan to use it in the delta and local lakes (all fresh water).

My main use will be for waterskiing, tubing, knee boarding, exploring, etc., but all very casual - no need for an ideal wake for any particular activity. My kids are young (6 and 8), but want something that we can use throughout their childhood.

I don't want or need anything flashy - I want something reliable that is unlikely to be a money pit. I want the Camry or Accord of boats.

I don't want a boat that is particularly large - I'm thinking 17 to 21 feet or so - but I want it to be able to seat several people. I'm thinking of an open bow for this.

And, of course, I don't want to spend a lot of money :-) I would like to get something used, preferably $10K or under if possible. I don't mind if it's an older boat, as long as it's reliable and in good shape.


So, my questions:

What features should I be looking for in a multi-purpose boat like this?

Any particular manufacturers I should be looking at? What models? Any I should avoid?

What's the best way to have a boat evaluated by someone who knows what they are looking for? Are their mechanics who you can hire to come look at a boat at someones house, or does it need to be taken to a marina or something?

Can I get what I'm looking for this amount of money ($10,000)?

Feel free to answer any questions I didn't ask, but should have


Thanks for your help
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Old 07-12-2013, 06:14 PM
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I don’t think your going to find much love here related to a ski boat, now that said having had one they can be fun for a family outing. With this being your first boat I would not go overboard, I would try to get the most boat for the buck. I am not a bayliner fan or hater, I as do many here think they offer a budget minded boat of average quality and I think that for a first boat one could fit you well (for much less than 10k). I see lots of them in my area selling for next to nothing, I think a lot of people get them and decide boating is just not there thing. So if I was a first time boat buyer not knowing if I was going to stick with it or how much I was going to use it I think I would look at some of the used bayliners, as for the model I haven’t a clue I would just have to look, as for power I would want something that you can get worked on locally. Above all I think I would get a survey, that way someone with a trained eye can see the boat and provide honest condition report to you.
Good luck Rob
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Old 07-12-2013, 06:27 PM
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Hello, welcome to the forum and to boating in general.

There are lots of people on here and lots of opinions, so you should evaluate each and how it fits into your total needs.

My experience is that the type of boat known as a "deck boat" might warrant serious consideration. I'd recommend one with a "stern drive", also known as an inboard/outboard (the engine is inside the boat, but the propeller and the mechanics that convert the rotation of the engine's driveshaft to the rotation of the prop are outside the boat).

The deck boat has been described as "the SUV of boats" because it does a lot of different things well, They have fiberglass hulls, can "plane out" so they can tow skiers/towables, but they seat a lot of people (about 10 in a 21' boat) like a pontoon would.

Also, I strongly recommend you find an instructor-led boating safety course taught by the United States Power Squadrons or the Coast Guard Auxiliary and complete it. With children on board, you need to learn a lot of the safety and operational procedures they teach - boating is not like driving a car and it's knowledge that you typically won't have come across previously.

I won't get into brands of boats - that's a can of worms on this site.

There are people who will evaluate boats. For the size boat that you are describing, I'd recommend finding a good marina that services boats and having one of their mechanics take a look at it. You can also hire a "surveyor" who (usually) has a certification to evaluate boats, but that may be overkill from a cost perspective depending on how proud CA surveyors are of their work. Surveyors generally charge based on the length of the boat, after a flat rate. In any case, find someone who knows boats to look over it. There are a lot of defects that can happen in boats and a new boater won't know how to find them. Just know that no one will guarantee that they will find all the defects on a boat.

I found these examples in No. CA:

http://www.boattrader.com/listing/19...-238-Db-356904
http://www.boattrader.com/listing/20...2-IO-102068377


Use craigslist or boattrader.com to find others.

Also, think about insurance and emergency towing (both while trailering and while on the water). I'd recommend investigating BoatUS for both, as well as just joining BoatUS to get access to the resources on their website. Their magazines are really great, too. Make sure before you buy on-water towing (if you do) that the towing service is available on the waters where you will usually be boating.

Have fun, stay safe, and good luck
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Old 07-12-2013, 06:48 PM
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I am a skier and for recreational purposes I would suggest getting an outboard boat with a tow pylon ahead of the motor. Should your kids take a liking to any towline watersports, it is very limiting being towed behind an I/O with a hook behind the transom. I also believe I/O's are more dangerous and more likely to catch a rope than outboards. Of course the ultimate tow boat is a straight inboard but that's not what you are looking for.

Bonus: Outboards are easy to work on.
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Old 07-12-2013, 08:12 PM
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if you really want a crossover/multisport true ski boat... try to find an older but loved mastercraft 205 or malibu sv23 based direct drive. both marinized automotive powered which are very easy to work on, both are boats that you will grow into and not turn around and sell within a few seasons.
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Old 07-13-2013, 02:03 AM
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Hey Soxfan.

I am in a similar position as you. I've been around boats my entire life but this is my first time buying one. My dream boat is a nice v drive wakeboard boat but those are crazy expensive as you will find when you are looking around, even boats around 15 years are still over 10k.

You can find good deals on the I/O (inboard/outboard or stern drive). Depending on how old and condition, you can get these for 1500 to 15k or higher. The deck boat could be a good choice as well as a deep v hull for recreational boating.

Direct drive boats are nice but expensive but I don't think they have a good layout for a family recreational boat, they target more the enthusiast skier. Having an engine right in the middle of the boat eats up a lot of space and by the time you add gear and an ice chest, there Is little space left. V drives are great but expensive as well and again target the enthusiast skier and wake boarder. Typically these are made by brands like Malibu, ski natique, master craft, Sanger, supra, etc. all are great brands and boats but you will pay a very pretty penny for one.

Brands, like anything have loyalist and haters. What I have found is in the i/o world, it is as much about how well the boat is cared for as it is about brand. From what I can tell, cobalt, sea ray, regal, chaparral tend to be the upper class brands but are also more expensive. Bay liner seems to be at the bottom of the stack and other brands sandwiched in between. This seems to be reflected in how well they hold their resale value.

However, it is about the care of the boat so, you can find a well cared for bay liner that is a better deal than a beat up sea ray.

I would suggest that you consider something larger than a 17 footer. That can be a cramped boat especially as your kids are growing fast. I think you will also find that the 17 footers are under powered especially for tow rope activities. If you have adult friends that might want to ski you really need at least a 6 cylinder engine. I personally would not buy anything smaller than an 18 footer with a 4.3L v6. It's big enough to get an adult out of the water on 2 skis but still economical on the gas. I personally like the 19-21 foot range.

Watch out for wood rot (soft spots on flooring). This can be an expensive and painful process to repair. Check the motor out, check hoses, belts, engine oil, etc. if you are comfortable around engines, check eng compression. Look at the hull for deep gashes, scratches to see if owner beached the boat regularly. While this wont necessarily hurt the boat, it does reflect how well the owner took care of it. Check the prop for dings, etc, again not a major thing by itself but reflects on overall care. Check for mildew on the carpet, check the gauges.

Lake test it. Boats can start and run fine when hooked up to a hose, but may show serious issues when placed under load on a lake. If they won't lake test, run, don't walk away.

See if owner has maint records.

Check the interior, any rips in the seating, cracking?

Check out the trailer, does it look like it was cared for, rust, etc. how re the tires, bearings, etc.

You really want to find a boat that has been well cared for as that will minimize your time in dry dock so you can have more fun on the water. Something that was properly winterized and stored.

I just committed to buying a 1998 20 foot Stingray for $5500. It had a v8 with low engine hours (129) and was in great shape. I think I got it for at least 1500 under market value. So , deals are out there, you just need to keep looking. Stingrays may not be the top brand but this was a much better deal than a 93 19 foot sea ray I looked at the week before, it only had a v6 and it was beat up, mismatching interior, deep scratches in hull, etc and the seller still wanted 4700 for it.

I saw a number of deals out there so don't stress if you miss out on one as there will be another along shortly. I think I missed out on 3 or 4 by just being too late to get over to look at it. Kept looking and within a day or 2 there was another to choose from.

Last edited by Java Jack; 07-13-2013 at 02:31 AM.
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Old 07-13-2013, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by soxfan98 View Post
My main use will be for waterskiing, tubing, knee boarding, exploring, etc., but all very casual - no need for an ideal wake for any particular activity. My kids are young (6 and 8), but want something that we can use throughout their childhood.

I don't want or need anything flashy - I want something reliable that is unlikely to be a money pit. I want the Camry or Accord of boats.
One day you will look back and realize how inaccurate the phrase "my main use" is when referring to how you think you will use a boat - before you ever own one. My friend, you have no idea how you will use a boat until you own one. You will also rapidly want an ideal wake for some activity - who knows what that will be, but I would guess that would be a wakeboard wake with your kids, and your location.

Second, and in a related story, this idea of something that can be used "throughout their childhood" is another theory that will not play out in reality.

Now, having said that, take your ten grand and find the best 19-20 foot IO bowrider you can for that. Use it a year or two...then you'll know how you'll use a boat...and your second boat will either be a 24 foot bowrider - or a purpose built ski or wakeboard boat. But at least you'll know for sure.....
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Old 07-13-2013, 06:40 AM
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If you'll notice my signature...you'll see that our family is about 12-14 years ahead of yours....so I've been where you are. See the progression...
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Old 07-14-2013, 12:03 PM
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Thank you all for your responses - this was exactly what I was looking for.

I'm in no rush to get one right now, which works to my advantage - I can keep an eye out for ads, but now I have a better idea what I'm looking for.

As for my main use - you're right C.E., I probably have no idea what direction my usage patters will move to as time goes on. My parents had a basic I/O deep V boat growing up, and I loved water skiing and exploring with it a few times each summer when I was a kid. In my mind I want to replicate that experience with my kids, but who knows what will inspire them. My kids aren't real athletic or outdoorsy types (my son would probably play Minecraft on the boat while we all had fun if I let him...), but maybe this will be his "thing." That's why I want something basic and inexpensive - maybe this will be all I ever need like with my Dad, or maybe I'll be posting here 10 boats later like you!

Jack - great advice all the way around. My Dad's boat final gave up the ghost because of those "soft spots," so I'll definitely pay attention to that. His boat was 17 feet, I think. It was fine, but a little extra space would be nice. I have another question for you. You stressed the importance of lake testing a boat, which makes a lot of sense. Most of the boats I've looked at online are at someone's house. How does this usually work? Do you buy it with a contract contingent on it "passing" a lake test, or do you or the seller actually tow it to some water prior to the purchase? Are sellers really willing to do this for a sale that's not 100% done? Should I get a mechanic or surveyor to come out to the house prior to a lake test, and the lake test is kind of like the icing on the cake?

Once again, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you all taking the time to read my post and give thoughtful, useful responses.
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Old 07-14-2013, 05:33 PM
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Good luck, and let THT know what you end up buying...and stick around. A ton of expertise on this forum.
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Old 09-28-2016, 06:08 AM
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Zombie Thread

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Old 09-28-2016, 06:24 AM
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Unfortunately real ski/wake/wake surf boats are very expensive. You can find many bowriders that can be used for kind of skiing but to do it right especially with adults it takes a boat with a lot of torque and weight so the boat is pulling the skier/boarder not vice versa. But for pulling children a decent I/O bowrider will be OK.

Our last one was a wakesurf boat, a Centurion Enzo SV244, that would carry a dozen people and put out a 4 to 5' surf wake. It was a V drive with 409 HP V8 and the new ones are even better.
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Old 09-28-2016, 06:34 AM
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Fear of The Walking Thread.
new series starts this sunday

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Old 09-28-2016, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Lookinup76 View Post
can you find a solid ready to use one for 10K? If so I might have to look into that myself.
Maybe he could have in 2013....which was when the thread was last active.....
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Old 09-28-2016, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by 6104696 View Post
Maybe he could have in 2013....which was when the thread was last active.....
I didn't realize Taylorsharpe had brought this back from the dead. no morning coffee yet
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Old 09-28-2016, 06:49 AM
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have to assume he is spamming his link to his website using old threads?
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Old 09-28-2016, 06:51 AM
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With a family of 4 seating should be a concern. A bow rider or dual console would be a good fit.
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Old 09-28-2016, 07:10 AM
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I wonder what soxfan bought three years ago ?
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Old 09-28-2016, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Lookinup76 View Post
have to assume he is spamming his link to his website using old threads?
you think NOOOOOO
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Old 09-28-2016, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by mitchell master View Post
I wonder what soxfan bought three years ago ?
Since he hasn't posted in 3 years, maybe he never bought anything.

Another case of newbieitis...digging up dead threads to comment on.

Edit...the guy that dug up this 3 year old thread, taylorsharpe, is a spammer.

Last edited by chuck34; 09-28-2016 at 09:25 AM.
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