Essential Or Superfluous?

Distinguishing between must-have upgrades versus wants

Published in the March 2021 Issue January 2023 Feature Heather M. Serrano

Navigating which upgrades you want for your boat can be a tricky affair. I mean, if you’re buying a new boat, then you’ve already made a substantial financial commitment, so what are a few more thousand dollars for upgrades? Am I right?

Wrong. That’s a dangerous thinking mentality that could put you in a financial predicament that you’ll be paying off for years to come. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get what you want. Rather you should know what you want before spending a large chunk on lavish upgrades you simply won’t use.


Targeted Upgrades


These days, there are a plethora of boat floorplans from which to choose, allowing you to customize your layout to fit your preferences. On top of the different floorplans, you’ll find options for things such as wet bars, livewells, and extended swim decks, just to name a few. In every case, knowing your preferences is of salient importance here.

For instance, if you know that you’re primarily going to entertain on your boat, you may want to opt for some upgrades that maximize on wet bars, tabletops, coolers and plenty of cupholders. It’s a safe bet to say you’ll probably want to invest in an upgraded stereo as well, with extra speakers and even a subwoofer. Options like that will really get the party started and everyone will want to hang out with you on your party boat

However, these options will be a little overkill if you plan to primarily use your boat for fishing. Plus, that subwoofer would scare away the fish. Though I’m sure a fancy wet bar would be convenient at times for fishing trips, you’ll most likely let it go to waste if you’re mostly focused on dropping in a line and drinking a simple beer with your buddies. After all, why complicate things?

If you’re an angler at heart, then you’d do better to focus on upgrades such as livewells, extra rod holders, and a higher-end fishfinder. There are plenty of options that can refine your boat into the ideal fishing vessel, and you’ll thank yourself later for choosing to go with more targeted upgrades to satisfy your needs.

Likewise, if you know you’re more of a watersports fanatic, you can skip the fishing options and go for upgrades like an extended swim deck or a power wakeboard arch. Extended swim decks are great for watersports preparation like strapping on your wakeboard or skis. You’ll definitely want a little more room back there if watersports is your main focus.

The same goes for an upgrade like a power arch. If you’re a daredevil who’s into big jumps and tricks in towing sports, a power arch will give you the lift you need to get some significant air. But if you’re content with only towing the occasional tuber, then a power arch is a little much, and your money would be better spent on something you’d use more.

Moderate Or Maximum?

Another big question when it comes to upgrades is horsepower. Sometimes the standard engine on a boat leaves something to be desired in terms of raw power. I get it. However, you have to ask yourself how you primarily plan to use your boat before immediately opting for twin engines with 400 horsepower a piece.

For example, if you plan to mostly go angling, then you’ll probably be satisfied with something in the 40 to 90 horsepower range. But if you want to pull the occasional tube, you’ll need something more in the 115hp range. Likewise, if you want to do some major watersports, you’ll want to go to at least the 150hp mark or higher.

With these numbers in mind, ask yourself how you plan to use your boat instead of defaulting to the largest engine. But who knows? Maybe you need at least 800 horses on the back. It sure is tempting isn’t it? So many ponies.

No Questions Asked

With that said, there are some options that seem universal and aren’t even a question. For instance, if you’re getting an entry-level deck boat, you often have to upgrade to get the snap-in carpet. Let me just say that I’ve taken a few too many tumbles to not say yes to the carpet option every time. Those decks can be slick, especially when you just get out of the lake. You’ll thank yourself later for the extra traction.

The same goes for Bimini tops. In a perfect world, a Bimini top would always come standard, but on the off chance that it doesn’t, definitely opt for one.

If the boat already comes with one and they’re offering the power Bimini top as an upgrade, I’d recommend going with that because it’s incredibly convenient for every kind of boater. Whether you’re focused on entertainment, fishing, or watersports, you’re going to want to relax in the shade with the convenience of a click of a button.

Know Your Preferences

The main thing is to know how you plan to use your boat when it comes to any sort of upgrades. That can’t be stressed enough. Sure, some upgrades sound fancy and even necessary at the time, but a 400hp engine will never make sense if you only plan to fish, just as having an upgraded fishfinder will never justify itself to a boater only interested in watersports.

Just be wise and have fun. I know you’ll make the right decisions.

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