December is a good time, between Christmas shopping trips and office parties, to go on the web and research the various brands of electronics you’ve just gotta have for your boat next season.
The manufacturers of electronics, have tons of information on their websites for all their products like VHF with DSC, GPS, GPS combined with chart plotters, depth sounders, fish finders, compasses, radars, etc.
The more you can read about these electronics and know about them before visiting the winter Boat Shows, the better off you will be. You will be able to ask intelligent questions and make more knowledgeable comparisons of features, benefits and price.
Boat Show Research
Unlike the web, the Boat Show exhibitors have actual products for touchy feely comparisons; for instance, readability of screens under bright lights (sun), actual size and feel. Make sure you are able to read the screen with your glasses and even more importantly, with your sunglasses. (Take your sunglasses with you to try them out).
You don’t want to get out on the water next summer to learn you can’t read the screen with your sunglasses. Maybe you need a pair of prescription sunglasses or a pair of big sunglasses that you can wear over your readers!
Are the controls user friendly? Is the software user friendly? Compare different manufacturers’ features and user friendliness. Does it do what you need or more than you’ll ever need? You may want to drop down or jump up a model or two. If it doesn’t do all you need, keep looking.
If this piece of electronics that you are buying requires a technician to install it, and you are not the installer type, check out sources of installers at or near your boat before you actually buy the product. Don’t find out later that the marina either won’t install it because you didn’t buy from them, or they don’t know how or who could install it.
Line up a potential installer before you buy or it may have to stay in a locker rather than on your dash.
Repair / Adjustment / Warranty
Most electronics need to be repaired or adjusted at some point. Make sure the manufacturer has an easy and fast procedure for repair and/or adjustment. You don’t want to have to ship it away for 6 - 8 weeks during your boating season for repairs.
Read and compare warranties. If it’s not on their website, email and ask.
Use your web browser to find the various manufacturers of electronics. Just type in the brand, model or type of instrument. You’ll find all kinds of information.
With the measurements you’ve read about on the various websites, narrow your choice down to those that will actually fit on your helm. There is no sense buying electronics that won’t fit your boat. A yacht sized radar isn’t going to fit on a bass boat, and conversely, a bass boat sized bracket mounted fish finder is going to look out of place on a yacht with all other instruments flush mounted.
Even if it’s "a good deal", it isn’t a good deal if it doesn’t fit your boat and do what you want it to do.