How to Find the Best Boat for You

There might be ice on the lake, but winter is a smart time to buy a boat. With a calendar full of boat shows and sales at the dealerships, this season offers fantastic deals and plenty of time to consider exactly what you want. Three local experts offer their tips to help you score the boat you want and make your boat buying process fun and easy.

Don’t think you have to win the lottery before you start looking:
“Affordability is the number one concern,” said Lee Bakken, manager of Frontier Power Sports in Fergus Falls. “For first time boat owners, I think there’s a lot of misconceptions out there that it’s expensive to own a boat.” It’s not, he insists.

The statistics back him up. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the leading trade organization for recreational boating in the U.S., reports that 72% of boat owners reported an annual household income of less than $100,000.

There’s a boat for every budget, from small fishing boats to tricked out pleasure crafts built for speed and everything in between. And getting a loan you can afford might not be as hard as you think. “With boats, there’s a lot of banks that will stretch those payments out,” explained Bakken. “The reason they’ll finance them longer is a boat doesn’t depreciate as rapidly as some other products. So you can make it very affordable.”

Once the papers are signed, maintenance and expenses for upkeep are minimal for most users. “The new engines are very fuel efficient,” said Bakken. “Most people in our part of the country change oil once a year and add gasoline as needed.”

So come in with a budget and idea of what you can realistically afford to pay per month. Remember that you want the best possible boat for your money, but you don’t want to be so stressed out about overspending that you can’t get out and enjoy it.

Involve co-buyers from the start:
“You get it a lot,” explains Brian Cain, marine salesman at Outlet Recreation in Fargo. “Maybe the wife is here, or the husband is scouting first.” Cain and his colleagues will take the time to learn what the customer needs, answer questions and show them some great options. Then the customer will explain that they’d love to buy – they just need to get their partner to come in first. When they do, the entire process starts over. And the buyer who made initial contact has to listen as the second buyer asks the same questions they themselves asked just a few days before.

“In reality,” Cain said, “it would be nice if both decision makers were here.” Cain added that he’s happy to take as much time as both partners need to feel confident in their purchase. But working together on the project from the start is a much more efficient use of both buyers’ time. If you’re already planning a visit together, take a few extra minutes to sketch out a budget and write down any questions in advance. You’ll be on the same page and mentally prepared so you can focus on browsing the showroom instead of figuring out what to ask on
the fly.

Know how you’ll use your boat:
When you walk into the showroom or a boat show, be ready to answer a few key questions. (Don’t worry, you already know the answers.)

“When people come in, we ask them ‘Where are you going to use your boat?’” said Bakken. “What size of a lake? Are you going to fish? Are you going to ski? How many people are going to be in it? Are you going to be towing a skier or kneeboarder?

Salespeople aren’t being nosy – they’re being practical. “If they’re on a super small lake, putting them on a 25-foot boat isn’t really feasible,” Cain explained. “It can’t even get to top speed. And some (lakes) have length restrictions. So usually, it’s going to be size first, and then we go to floor plan.” Motor size is the last piece of the puzzle.

Marine dealers are in the business of matching customers with the perfect boat for their needs, so be honest. If it’s just the two of you now, but you’re expecting twins and want to take them (and a bevy of their cousins) out for a pontoon cruise in a few months time, say so. If you dream of water skiing, but haven’t actually tried it yet, mention that too. A professional will help you make the best choice for both your current and ideal boat ownership scenarios.

Decide which conveniences are wants and which are needs:
If you’re new to boat ownership or haven’t shopped around in a while, the electronic bells and whistles can seem overwhelming. “From trolling motors and depth finders, everything is going Bluetooth,” said Bakken. “The technology is endless.”

The advances in technology help to make boating safer and more convenient for users. And that’s a benefit for everyone.

“All of the new boats are loaded with the latest technology,” added Nate Harms, general manager of U Motors in Fargo. “From GPS to cruise control, the amenities focus on ease of use that both new and seasoned boat owners can appreciate.”

Some new improvements are less flashy, but no less popular. Towing covers are pre-fitted, without the snaps of yesteryear, which saves customers time and energy. And interiors have been re-tooled too.

“Flooring in fishing boats is going away from carpet and into vinyl floors just because of ease of maintenance and cleaning,” explained Bakken.

The towboat market has also followed a similar trend. “The introduction of synthetic flooring options to the marine industry in the past couple of years has been huge,” explained Harms. “It is less maintenance, more durable, and looks great.”

None of these advantages are strictly necessary, of course. But they do make using your boat more convenient, which means more fun on the water.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a lake place:
A lack of waterfront property doesn’t mean a boat is out of reach. “Today’s boats are easier than ever to transport, unload and enjoy,” explained Harms. “With Fargo being only 35 minutes from some excellent boating lakes, anyone can load up the family, hitch up the boat and enjoy a weeknight on the water.”

“Trailers have gotten better so they’re easier for a person that doesn’t a have cabin to get a nice bunk trailer and pull it back and forth,” added Cain. Numerous Minnesota lakes and river-based state water trails offer public access for hours of boating fun. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers downloadable, county by county guides at

Consider usage before buying an extended warranty:
“Most manufacturers have a standard three year warranty on outboard engines,” said Bakken. That’s adequate for most people in the Midwest, who will only be

using their boats for a few hours a day on the weekends. But if you live on the water all year, you want to take a sunset cruise every night or if you want to triple the time you spend fishing, it might be worth asking your sales rep about extended warranties.

For boat owners who spend more time on the water than the average user, the extra investment is well worth it. An extended warranty can cover unexpected expenses and provide extra peace of mind. “It’s like health insurance for your boat motor,” said Bakken.

Find a dealership you click with:
“At the end of the day, it’s not only about the boat, it’s also about the dealership,” said Harms. He and all the dealers interviewed for this article indicated that a dealership and a salesperson should be willing (and excited) to go above and beyond the basics to make a customer feel comfortable, both on and off the water.

So don’t be afraid to take the contact information your sales rep offers and don’t be shy about asking questions. Inquire about services that the dealer offers – from winterization to conveniences like a delivery option. If you’re a new boat owner, it can be very reassuring to have an experienced employee actually get out on the water with you and walk you through everything you need to know.

The right dealership for you is the one that will walk you through the process, answer your questions and be available for follow-up and service. A true professional knows that helping you find the right boat for you is important. But helping you make memories on the water for years to come is the real goal. ~L&H

by Alicia Underlee Nelson


Windows are Important

When it comes to our homes, whether it is in the suburbs, the middle of a city or at the lakeside out in open country, we love to get everything perfect. From remodeling the kitchen to the color of the bathroom walls, we are very particular about where we call home. But even with all of that care, we often forget our windows, or rather, we don’t really forget them, but take our windows for granted. Yet the windows of our homes and the window treatments, are really important, not just from a decorative point of view, but for the home itself.

There are many ways that windows, and window treatments, are important, and this is especially true for homes in the country, at lakeside or anywhere more open to the elements. There are obvious functions windows do, they let in light, and if yours don’t, you need to speak to your contractor today because something has gone terribly wrong! They also provide ventilation, and both of these things are complimented by the kind of window treatments added to them.

The reason this means something is not because we don’t like sitting in the dark at midday, but because letting in light also
gives our homes warmth. The natural heat

from the sun can be an important source of heat on a cool, crisp fall day, and that is not all. Ventilation is also important, a cool breeze on a warm day is nice, but ventilation is more than that, giving your home the air it needs to breath, preventing condensation and other problems stale air can cause.

However, today as energy costs rise ever upwards, it is the energy efficiency of windows that can make a real difference, and one that we should all pay attention too. Whether heating or cooling our homes, the energy required to do either is most likely the biggest expense you have for running costs, so anything we can do to keep that cost as low as possible has to be a good thing. That is where window efficiency comes in, and why it is often a very cost-effective thing to do to replace old windows with new, energy efficient ones.

Modern vinyl-framed windows are available in so many different styles to match almost any existing windows, but they come with many benefits. Because the vinyl frame has great thermal performance itself, the window overall has incredibly high insulating abilities. Whether you have the heating or air conditioning on, less heat travels through the window. Your unit does not have to work so hard, which saves energy and can even mean less maintenance is needed.

Vector Windows makes a standard double-pane, LoE coated glass that is also considered double-strength glass. In winter, these are designed to dramatically reduce window heat loss, protecting homes as temperatures dip. In summer months, the windows transfer less heat because the sun is filtered and reflected back outdoors. The result? Savings on energy and a lighter monthly bill.

Modern windows have other benefits. The frames are in all practical ways, inert. That means they don’t rot, they resist mold and mildew, they don’t flake and you won’t find a colony of termites setting up home in them either! Just an occasional wipe down with a damp cloth is all that is needed to keep them looking factory fresh. Now, less work to do around the home? That is surely interesting to everyone.

But windows are more than just the frame and glass, there are also the treatments we add inside, which are also important in their own right, but also form part of your interior design as well, so functional and decorative at the same time.

In the last couple of years, Minnkota Windows has seen an increase in exterior color options. The company has eight standard colors for the exterior of a window, with the majority of sales being white. However, recent trends have been turning to other colors: brown, bronze and other earth tones predominantly. However, frequent customization and requests for red, blue and black are also popular. Minnkota will take any color sample from soffit, fascia or even a metal roof sample and match it for window exterior color or even just a brickmould color for trim accents.

Many will say the decorative aspects are the most important, but what they do to compliment the qualities of the window itself should matter just as much. For instance, on a really sunny day, we may need the windows to be open for ventilation, but prefer to block out much of the light. Blinds are great for that, and stopping the home from heating too much through natural light can save money on cooling too.

Some window treatments are better for that than others, but whether you choose blinds shades, shutters or draperies, beyond the decorative looks that enhance your room, they are important as they add options for controlling light, ventilation and heat that come through the window. Which is best is a question that has been asked many, many times, and the truth is there is no ‘best’ type of window treatment, they all have benefits, they just take different approaches that have different visual appeal.

One thing they have in common is privacy. Closing drapes, shades, blinds and shutters gives your home privacy, and while this can be important in a city, for homes that spend time empty, such as a lakeside home you visit seasonally,
it can make a real difference. With closed window treatments, the interior of your lakeside home is completely private when you are not there, and for many of us that extra peace of mind is one of the most important aspects of having window treatments. Knowing that the day you leave, everything is locked up and out of sight is just somehow more comforting than leaving the windows uncovered with the inside of the home open for anyone to see.

The idea of leaving a home, whether going to work during the day or a lakeside home you bid farewell to for the winter, also brings us onto the final aspect of windows that is incredibly important today, and that is security. The latest windows have high security locks and are incredibly strong thanks to their construction. This makes them a real boost to home security. Wherever your home is, being more secure when you are away is incredibly useful, not just from a practical perspective, but for peace of mind, and in some cases, upgrading old windows to new ones with high security locks can even have an effect on home insurance premiums, saving money long term.

It is those second homes that we leave empty for several months of the year that get the most benefit from modern windows when it comes to security though. Tough frames and glass, secure locks and solid construction make them a burglar’s nightmare, and while a home that is out of sight and empty is always a little vulnerable, the risk is much less when the window security matches the rest of the home.

We take our windows for granted, but a window today, with its rot proof frames, advanced glass and high security locks, is very different from windows made even 20 years ago. No matter where your home is, new windows can add a lot, but for those of us with homes out by the lake, modern vinyl windows are the perfect choice. ~L&H


Inside Out

A fully equipped outdoor kitchen with a built-in grill, marble countertops, a beverage center and a stainless steel sink may sound like a luxury item that few could afford or maintain.


Reimagine Your Yard with Water Features

by Alicia Underlee Nelson

Adding a water feature to your outdoor living space can transform any yard into a soothing oasis. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are six

ways to update your outdoor space using the latest trends in water feature design.

Add interest to a small yard with a pondless waterfall

“A pondless waterfall would be perfect for a small yard because there’s no pond,” says Troy Hallan, landscape designer at Natures Garden World in Fergus Falls. “The majority of the pond is buried underground and you don’t see it. The waterfall falls into rock and that’s all you see.”

Choose a soothing outdoor spot to maximize relaxation and add ambiance to your everyday routine. “You could do a bubbling rock or a bubbling vase, maybe at your entry point or at a spot where you like to drink coffee,” suggests Wes Pare, the owner of Lakes Area Landscaping in Pelican Rapids. Using a water feature to honor and elevate ordinary moments can improve your peace of mind as well as adding beauty to your yard.

Divide a larger yard into zones

A larger yard can incorporate a pondless waterfall and additional design features. Designate one zone for the waterfall, one for an outdoor entertaining area and one for play. Then create cohesion among the zones by placing plants and flowers in beds, planters and on the surface of the water.

Don’t be afraid to repurpose familiar landscape design elements by adding water. Pare recommends reimagining retaining walls as water features. The retaining wall will echo the rest of your landscaping, but adds the soothing sight, sound and smell of water to your outdoor experience.

Go modern

“The trends I see right now are real modern designs — very straight, almost rectangle-style ponds and fountains made of metal,” says Hallan. “They don’t all have to look natural.” Fountains made of metal and geometric shapes offer a striking counterpoint to the organic shapes and materials in landscape design and appeal to those with a pared down sensibility. Water features with clean lines compliment contemporary architecture and the glint of metal adds a sculptural feeling to a fountain that really appeals to modern art lovers.

For those wanting to accent a contemporary home with a modern water feature that’s made of a natural material, Pare recommends basalt, a dark and dramatic volcanic rock. His company has made columns into a water feature for a striking effect.

Create a mini habitat

If you have the space, it can be fun to think big. “You see a lot of ponds with koi fish, little streams, creeks and waterfalls,” says Pare. “But you really need some acreage.”

The eye-catching koi fish can even weather a tough Midwestern winter outdoors with the help of a small tank heater and a hole in the ice to aid water recirculation. “They kind of go dormant once the water is 50 degrees,” explains Hallan, who has a koi pond at his home. They start swimming again once the weather warms.

If fish aren’t your thing, consider making your pond a habitat for humans. The addition of a few water plants to shade and cool the water will minimize algae and mimic the natural ecosystem, creating a swimming hole that kids and teens (and kids at heart) will love.

And don’t let the maintenance worry you. “Most people want it small, because they think the maintenance will be an issue,” Hallan says. “They think something small will be easier to maintain. But the pH of the water changes really quickly in something small. Even a sunny day can make the water temperature get warm and the water can get slimy. In something larger, the water will neutralize itself.”

Try repurposed rustic

If stark and sleek design isn’t for you, that’s not a problem. The rustic look never goes out of style. It just gets reimagined and reinterpreted.

Upcycling – reusing and repurposing existing (and often vintage) materials — remains a trend, says Hallan. He’s seen everything from “upcycling an old whiskey barrel or washtub into a little water feature that sits on your patio” to converting barrels and watering cans into self-contained fountains.

Save money with a self-contained fountain

If you’re on a budget, you can save big and score major relaxation points with a small, self-contained fountain. These elements are portable and work equally well on porches, patios and in the yard. They may be smaller fountains, but they still generate a serene, soothing presence.

“Just the sound of trickling water will really drown out the sound of vehicles or neighbors,” says Hallan. “It doesn’t have to be big to get that sound of running water.” The simple addition of one small water feature can help the stress of daily life fade into the background, offering a new way to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Lifeform LED

Grab your visitors' attention front and center on your homepage, then give them an action to take.

Get Started

Contact Info

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

+1 650-253-0000

Daily: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sunday: Closed

Copyright 2016 © All Rights Reserved