Thursday, July 9, 2009

What to Look for when Buying a Inflatable Boat

As you may know, specialization of today's inflatable boats is now in the of the minds of the designers. Each distinct group is specifically designed for a different set of applications and is built and equipped with different components and equipment. Most inflatable boats today fall within one these specific categories.

If all you need is a small boat to get you from ship to shore, then a typical inflatable tender is the best answer. If you're after a medium sized boat for diving or watersports there are many choices. If a large rigid-hulled inflatable (Rigid Inflatable Boat or RIB) for recreation, rescue or work is what you need, there are again many designs available with a wide variety of standard and optional components. The choice is quite wide through the entire spectrum, ranging from very compact models with simple slatted or inflatable floors, to larger tenders with inflatable or wooden keels and solid wooden or aluminum floors, up to the fiberglass or aluminum rigid-hulled inflatables. To avoid confusion, before buying, or even shopping for an inflatable, discuss and decide on exactly what the uses or requirements will be for your new inflatable boat. This will minimize the models to choose from, which in turn will minimize confusion.

Dealer Location and Reputation
The location of the dealer is important because you don't want to have to travel too far for you inflatable boat needs. Whether it's parts, repairs or just technical support and friendly customer service tips, a close dealer can be a close friend. In particular, as a new boat owner and perhaps new to inflatable boats, you may have questions, need to claim warranty, or need regular servicing to maintain a warranty. Any way you look at it, closer is better.

Years ago, inflatable boats where the most expensive boats on the market and only a few people could afford them. This was due to the use of exotic materials and the hours of meticulous hand labor which went into their construction. Now, the boats still use the best materials, but in the late seventies, the companies started investing millions of dollars in computer-driven assembly equipment. This enabled prices to be dramatically reduced as economies of scale rose, enabling more and more consumers to enjoy affordable inflatable boating. Zodiac and its sister company, Sevylor, are now the leading low-cost producer thanks to these technological investments. So be wary of inflatable prices substantially below the Zodiac/Sevylor line. They may be either produced in developing countries by unskilled labor, or marketed by companies who are unaware of the importance of profit margins. They will be glad to see your dollar today but may be unwilling or unable to fix a problem later, or supply that much needed spare part.

You may be enamored with competitor's claims, all of whom will promise they have the best or longest warranty. There was even a lifetime warranty offered some years ago by an inflatable boat company that soon enough disappeared. A lot of manufacturers use attractive warranties as a substitute for quality or proper boat design, or simply to shore up a lack of product features. You should also be sure in your own mind that the company will be around long enough to deliver.