Whether it's sneaking off to a secret fishing hole, afternoons towing squealing kids on a tube or lazy sunset cruises, for many, summer means time out on a boat.

The cost of getting on the water can add up quickly though, especially with inflationary and supply pressures, so there are some key decisions to make before taking the plunge.

If you're looking to buy a boat for the first time as summer approaches, Wendy Ramsey says it's important to know what you want to do with your boat and where you want to use it.

"Is it family orientated, is it for fishing, are you looking to go through all the lock stations on the Rideau," says Ramsey, president and owner of Pirate Cove Marina in Kemptville, Ont., just south of Ottawa.

She says first-time buyers often look at pontoon boats or a bow rider, a type of fibreglass boat with seating near the front in addition to the rear of the boat.

"Something with an outboard, something that's easy to manoeuvre or trailer behind their vehicle," she says is what people often look for in a first boat.

However, Ramsey warns that the pandemic has seen a surge in demand, so the market is limited, making it hard for to find what you may be looking for.

"We do have some inventory left, but it is difficult right now," she says.

Daniel Proulx, co-owner of Orleans Boat World and Sports, says pre-owned can be a good way to get started in boating.

"If you like it then you know it's easier to upgrade after," he says.

If you go with a new boat, Proulx says there will be some immediate depreciation, though it won't be as bad as when buying a new car if you find yourself wanting to sell.

The cost of a boat, new or used, can run from a few thousand dollars to whatever your budget will allow. If you aren't going to pay for your boat with cash on hand, it means financing the purchase.

Rina DeGrazia, TD Bank's district vice-president for Simcoe and Muskoka in Ontario, says you can go with an unsecured loan or a secured loan backed by the boat or other asset, but a secured loan generally will have a lower interest rate.

A home equity line of credit that is secured by your home could also be used, however with the Bank of Canada raising rates, the costs of variable rate loans like that are rising. 

DeGrazia says if you opt to use something like a line of credit with a variable rate of interest, you might want to consider locking in the interest rate on at least part of the balance to give yourself at least some protection from rising rates. 

"It also protects you from complacency in terms of repaying the debt, because when you fix the rate and you want a fixed rate option, you're paying principal and interest," she said.

DeGrazia also says when making your boat budget, it's important to remember the costs related to owning a boat in addition to the cost to buy it. Gas, insurance, dock fees as well as haulout and storage costs at the end of the season can all add up, so it is important to account for them in your plan.

"The sticker price of the boat is just the surface. You've really got to do a holistic deep dive to understand like what are all the other costs associated," she said.

"As you add those up, they will be material and they will have a material impact on your budget if you've not considered that ahead of time."

Still, Ramsey says all hobbies cost money, whether it's your children's sports or golf or boating.

"The one thing with the boat is that you can be out there with yourself having fun or you can be out there with 10 friends or family members having fun," she says.

"Making memories throughout the summer on a boat is fantastic. I've been doing it since I was a very young child and I would not give up those memories for anything."