Skip to content
Previous article
Now Reading:
Six Steps to Renting a Boat this Fourth of July

Six Steps to Renting a Boat this Fourth of July


Six Steps to Renting a Boat this Fourth of July 


My husband and I are typically very laidback people.


When food at a restaurant comes out different from the way we ordered it? What a great time to try something new.


When the freshly-turned 12-year-old next door wants to kick off her babysitting business with our offspring? Sure thing. Our kids are tough; we’ll play those odds all day long.


So when we showed up to pick up a rental boat last summer on the Fourth of July, we wanted to make it work. But by the time we got down to the dock, it looked like our pontoon was two seconds away from being on the bottom of the lake.


My husband turned to the rental attendant and said, “I’m not a pro on water displacement formula but this boat seems to be sitting extremely low. Actually, it looks like its quite possibly sinking.”


“Are you sure?” she asked.


The three of us all tilted our heads to the side to see if a different angle would help the situation.


It didn’t.


All of a sudden, an impressive wave for a no-wake zone pushed the boat up just enough for us to see the portside pontoon was clearly punctured and this boat was taking on water.


“So I guess you don’t want this one?” she asked.


Um, no. When we rent a boat, we typically shoot for one that’s not actively damaged.


Renting a boat when you’re in different places around the country is the best way to vacation. It’s a great way to experience different lakes and try out different kinds of boats. Even if your home lake is huge with many boating opportunities, it’s still fun to see what other bodies of water our beautiful country has to offer.

There are a few things to consider when you rent a boat though to make the experience easier and more rewarding.


1. Plan Early. Busy weekends, such as the Fourth of July, will fill up quickly. Make your plans early so you can get your reservation in while you still have options. Calling last minute means you will most likely take whatever boat is left and pay twice the normal price to do so. This will also give you time to work the cost into your budget.


2. Establish Your Main Goal. If you’re planning on fishing, a ski boat is going to make it harder because it’s not set up for the typical angler. Likewise, if you want to pull the kids around on tubes or skis, a boat with a small outboard might dampen the experience. Ask the rental company about their entire rental fleet, whether it be a runabout, a pontoon or a deck boat. Let them know your main goal and listen to what they recommend. We have young kids, so we like to tube. While we usually bring our own towable, we need to know the boat is going to be able to pull it.


3. Shop Around. Bigger boating lakes have more than one rental service. Call around and get a few quotes. Personally, I’m not above mentioning competitor’s prices and seeing if they will match it. Obviously, you have to accept their final answer with grace but more often than not, they have some flexibility. Plus, competing companies offer different rental periods, such as half-day, full-day or multi-day rentals. I have even seen hourly rentals in some cases. Make sure you get the deal that fits your schedule best.


4. Do a Walkthrough. If my story teaches you anything, it’s to do a walkthrough before you take possession of your boat. You don’t want to be financially responsible for other people’s mistakes, so make sure your rental boat is well maintained. For example, any exposed screw holes on a pontoon will be a sure sign something is missing. Ask for a full tutorial so you know where things like bilge pumps, battery switches and other necessary items are. Also, make sure you understand what safety equipment is required for the body of water and that it, too, is onboard and in good working condition.


5. Take the Opportunity to Try Something New. Renting is a great time to try something new. If you’re renting in an unfamiliar area or driving a different kind of boat than you’re used to, err on the side of caution. If this is your first time on particular kind of boat, make sure you’re extra careful and know how to safely captain the vessel. Different types of boats respond to wind and waves differently and may produce a sensation you aren’t used to so be prepared to learn and have fun at the same time.


6. Ask for Tips. I’ve been to Party Cove on Lake of the Ozarks and The Channel on LakeHavasu. These hotspot areas are not setup for families with young children. If that’s your thing, you will certainly have fun heading there. If it’s not your thing, ask the attendant where the cool kids typically go and then for a map so you head in the opposite direction. Also, ask for any other recommendations that will be helpful before you set off so you don’t waste gas looking for swimming holes or lakeside-dining options.


There you have it. Renting can be fun. We always had a great time, even our experience last summer ended up with a happy ending. The rental company gave us a bigger boat for the same price and we spent the day on the water. It doesn’t get much better than that.



Article written by Katie Burke


Katie Burke is the Editor of Houseboat Magazine and the Assistant Editor of Pontoon & Deckboat Magazine 





Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options