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Get the boat cover that is right for you.
By John Tiger
As most of us know, in season or in storage, your boat should be covered to protect it from the elements. In summer, a cover also keeps water out, so you don’t risk finding your boat on the bottom of the lake after a rainstorm.
Online or local?
Owners of popular late model brand-name boats (like Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Chaparral, Wellcraft, Larson, etc.) have a great advantage: Many online retailers sell custom-fitted covers for these hulls at greatly discounted prices. Simply go online to the sites mentioned in the “Resources” box, type in your year/make/model, and chances are there’s a cover for your rig for less than half of what it would cost to get a high-quality cover made at a local custom canvas shop. Even popular bass and walleye fishing boats, as well as tournament ski hulls, are usually “covered.” For owners with lesser-known brands or older models, buying a cover from an online or catalog vendor gets tougher. Most vendors have what they term “semi-custom” covers, which means they sort of fit. A local custom shop will be a much better choice; you’ll pay more, but get a much better cover.
What’s it made of?
Check material qualities before you buy. Most online resellers have material quality charts to show which covers repel water best, last longer, are good for travel, and resist UV-ray deterioration. Buy the cover that best suits your intended use. If your boat stays outside year-round, then spend the bucks to buy a higher-grade cover; it’ll last longer and protect your investment better. If you have a “garage queen” that sees the light of day only a few times during the season, then goes back into hibernation, a lesser-quality cover to keep the dust off will do just fine.
Buying online will save you a substantial amount of money. Even for boats 20–24 feet long, covers will run less than a grand, with many high-quality covers selling for less than $600. At a local shop, a cover made for a larger boat in the same size range will cost more than $1,000.
Of course, you get what you pay for. The custom cover made locally will almost always fit tighter, look better, last longer, and have custom features (like cleat flaps, Velcro closures, drawstrings, tie-downs and vented support poles) that mass-produced covers won’t have. Some online and catalog vendors offer features like these, but typically at extra cost. By the time the features are added on, plus shipping, a custom cover will look more appealing. Don’t forget that most custom covers are non-returnable. If you get the model, length or color wrong when ordering, it’s usually your tough luck. When in doubt, don’t just use the online shopping cart, pick up the phone and discuss your cover with a sales rep.
John Tiger is a veteran boating expert and enthusiast, having owned over 60 boats and engines since he fell in love with the boating life in his preteen years. He has written over 600 articles and tested over 200 boats.