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Choosing a Boat Lift: 14 Questions to Ask Before You Choose

Buying a boat lift or dock is a significant investment, so you want to be sure you get the right option for your needs. When you call Jet Dock, we make an in-depth inquiry about your watercraft, water site and user needs in order to design a system customized for you. (This is one big reason why we never sell online.)

Other manufacturers, however, might not provide so much guidance. So it's up to you to know what to ask.

When comparing all the many boat lifts for sale, print off this handy checklist of questions, and be sure to get the answers before you decide. It's a surefire way to simplify your search for the best boat lifts available, and it could save you a lot of time, money and headaches.

1. Will this boat lift or dock work at my particular water site?

Some companies will sell you their products without even checking to make sure they’ll work at your site. Shallow water, deep water, fluctuating waters, muddy, rocky or uneven sea floors, nonexisting infrastructure to attach to, winter iced-in locations, etc.,can all cause the boat lift or dock you just bought to function improperly at your location. Make sure to make sure!

2. Will this boat lift adequately dock or dry-dock my particular boat? And is there proof?

Don't just take the company’s word for it — ask for pictures or references. Many companies sell different types of boat lifts that don’t really keep your watercraft completely out of the water. Use common sense: Can a 10-pound sausage fit in an 8-pound bag?

3. What happens when I get a bigger boat?

The average person only keeps their boat or PWC for four years. When you change your boat, you need to change your boat lift or dock. Unlike a Jet Dock floating boat lift, most boat lift systems are not modular or changeable. Look for drive on boat lift systems that can expand or contract with your needs.

4. What happens when I move?

Many types of boat lifts and docks become fixtures to land or are so cumbersome to move that they simply aren't portable. Find out if you’ll be able to take your investment with you. If not, consider looking into a portable boat lift.

5. How long will this product last?

Most boat docks and lifts have warranties that vary from one to 10 years. But be careful: a five-year warranty may only be on a minor portion of the product, while the remaining portion – often the most expensive mechanical parts – carries only a one- or two-season guarantee. The best boat lifts will be guaranteed longer overall. Obviously, a lifetime warranty says a lot about a product’s overall quality and design.

6. Can I easily use this boat lift and dock by myself?

Riding solo can be one of the most relaxing and satisfying boating experiences. Check to be sure you can easily and practically use the boat lifting system without helpers. Some types of boat lifts are very tedious or nearly impossible to use on your own. Make sure you can launch and dock by yourself!

7. Can I fully access my watercraft on this boat lift?

Some boat lifting devices do a wonderful job of lifting a boat into the air. But, for that matter, so do tow motors and cranes. The problem is that you can’t access the craft for easy boarding, loading, launching, dry-docking, unloading, cleaning, fueling or maintaining. When comparing boat lift devices, make sure to consider your ease of boarding and access – this is critical to your boating fun.

8. What happens if the boat lift or dock breaks?

Everything in the world – especially in the marine world – can break or wear out. The difference between a quality boat lift or dock investment and a poor one is what you have to do to fix the problem. Look for a system that has easy-to-replace, modular sections, or does not need professional expertise, mechanics or a complete replacement when an “oops” happens.

9. What are the maintenance costs?

Even when your boat lift or dock doesn't break or fail, it will still eventually require some kind of maintenance. Check to see if you can do it yourself and, if not, what annual costs you should expect.

10. Can I avoid the need for a permit if I choose a portable boat lift?

In many areas, permanent structurescan require a lengthy and costly permitting process. To avoid this, look for portable boat lifting devices that are sold as retail products, and check with your local authorities about the requirements for them. More often than not, portable boat lift systems require a less involved or non-existent permitting process.

11. What other add-on costs could there be?

Some boat lift and docking alternatives can involve many unforeseen costs. Permitting, dredging, pile-driving, environmental mitigation, gangways, access walkways, concrete footers, seawall reinforcing or rebuilding, electrical wiring, etc., all represent costs that may not have been considered along with the initial quote you received. What once looked like the least-costly alternative may end up being the most expensive, and not necessarily in exchange for the best option. Look for products and quotes that are all-inclusive and do not rely on building or rebuilding your existing infrastructure.

12. Will this boat lift be allowed at my marina?

Many marinas and waterside condo associations have restrictionson mechanical boat lifts that can alter the existing docking structure or block the view of neighbors. Check to make sure that the types of boat lifts you're researching will be allowed at your marina. Consider a low-profile, floating boat lift and/or dry-docking solution that is not physically supported by the existing docking structures or, with the boat hanging in place, does not block the view of others.

13. What is it like to communicate with this company?

You never know when you'll need to reach a customer service representative. Think about how easy or difficult it is to communicate with a boat dock or lift company before you buy from them. If you have to leave messages, call back several times, wait for someone with knowledge to call you back, wait for information in the mail, go through delays or face reluctance to get a firm, meaningful quote, then you need to seek alternatives. A boat lift or dock is a major investment – make sure you are dealing with a company that's easy to deal with.

14. What questions did the boat lift company have for me?

This last question isn’t a question for the boat lift and dock manufacturers at all – it’s actually a question for you. After communicating with a boat dock or lift company, ask yourself how thorough they were about collecting information on you and your docking needs. The less they want to know about you and your situation, the more you should consider looking elsewhere. Not sure what they should be asking of you? Try filling out our interactive dock finder questionnaire and find out.

While there are more questions to ask about each particular situation and need, the above questions are critical for any boat lift shopper. And we're ready to help you answer these and more. At Jet Dock, we employ knowledgeable, well-trained and conscientious sales, customer service, accounting, shipping, production and field operations teams to help make sure your project goes right, every time. Invest wisely. Invest in a Jet Dock floating boat lift system.


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