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So, you think you’ve found the right boat. You’ll never know for sure unless you test-drive it. Some dealers will make this easier than others. Be patient, even if it takes several weeks for a demo day or other public event.

Once you’re behind the wheel, what now? Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your test drive.

• Before even turning the ignition key, sit at the helm and visualize driving the boat. Are the sightlines clear forward, aft and to each side? Be sure to stand at the helm, too, and check the thigh-rise bolster (if there is one) to make sure it is set at a comfortable height.

• Evaluate the boat’s slow-speed maneuverability around the dock. Is it responsive to the wheel and throttle? Does it back down well and turn equally well to each side?

• Pay attention to the boat’s ability to plane. The longer it takes to get up on plane, the longer your view will be obstructed by the bow. In addition, a boat that takes a long time to plane may be powered or propped incorrectly, which can result in poor efficiency.

• Put the boat through a series of turns at various speeds. (Once again, pay attention to the responsiveness of the throttle.) Are the turns tight and precise or wide and slow? Does the boat lean in comfortably, or does it seem forced and out of balance? A boat that is out of balance can be a safety concern.

• Drive in some rougher water. If there is none, make your own using the boat’s wake. Pay attention not just to the hull and how it handles the waves, but also to the tower and / or bridge to see how solid they are. Unsound structures can compromise the integrity of the boat.

• Take your time and inspect the quality of the boat’s construction. Open hatches to see if they are finished inside as well as out. Check the back-end access to helm electronics. Make sure you can easily reach each engine’s service points. Look for imperfections in the fiberglass.

Last but not least, consider the overall style and how functional and cruiser-friendly the boat is. You’ll (hopefully) be spending a lot of time on board, so comfort and confidence are key factors.

United Marine Underwriters is more than just boat insurance. Browse our Used Boats For Sale at Boat Browser or our new Lakes and Waterways’ Guide at Lake Browser. Check out our True Fish Tales – the ones that did not get away – and share your fishing stories.

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3 Responses to Testing, Testing…1, 2, 3

  1. Emery Piper says:

    Brought Tracker 190 TX 2012.
    Like it .

  2. Bruce Kitchens says:


    Great tips! I bought a used 420 Sea Ray and had a professional boat handler put “Kate” through the paces you just described while I lent my attention to the things you mentioned. I also had a boat surveyor onboard during the sea trial so I was assured of the overall condition of the boat under the various conditions. Then I took my turn at the wheel to experience the capabilities of the boat through many of your recommended maneuvers. It was a great experience and one I will repeat for any future boats I acquire!

    Kudos on the tips!

    Bruce Kitchens

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