There’s nothing like the feeling of freedom that comes from taking your own boat out on the water. Whether it is for a getaway with your best girl, a fishing weekend with the guys, or a month-long adventure with ports of call along the way, you’ve got nothing but sky above and endless options.

What if you could combine all of that while saving yourself a ton of money and doing a little good for a worthy cause, wouldn’t that just about top all? It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a speedboat, sailboat, catamaran, cabin cruiser, yacht, houseboat, or canoe, you can get a great deal buying it through online boat auctions that benefit charities.

There are a couple of ways to think about it. Buy a boat that’s close to home and keep it forever (or whatever amounts to forever), or buy one that’s in a vacation destination, get a ton of fun out of it, and donate it back to charity. How inspired is that?

But first things first. If you’re going to be a novice boat owner, the first question to answer for yourself is what you want to use the boat for. There are a vast array of possible vessels out there, and really no one-size-fits all when it comes to boats. So think awhile about your primary interest before you start shopping.

Freshwater Fishing

If your main interest is fishing on a river or lake, an all-purpose fishing boat might be just what you’re looking for. It will have a gas-powered outboard motor and an electric motor for trolling, rod holders, and a livewell (a built-in cooler with oxygenated water to keep bait and fish alive). Another option would be a sportier and more powerful open cockpit fiberglass bass boat, sleek and low to the water with livewell, GPS, and sonar. On the other end of the spectrum would be a simple aluminum boat with bench seats and a tiller-steered outboard for fishing in protected waters. The latter come as compact as 12 feet long to tote on the top of a vehicle, hence the nickname, car-topper.

Saltwater Fishing

Coastal, large bay, and open ocean fishing call for more substantial boats, with protection from rough seas and weather. One type is what are called center console boats with convertible seating, T-tops, a sleeping berth, and a head (toilet); these can range from single outboard 15-footers to 42-footers with three or four huge outboards that produce a top speed of 70 mph. Another type is an express or walk-around, which has added amenities like a forward cabin and lounging space below a raised deck. At the top end for serious saltwater fishing is the sport fishing boat equipped for multi-day excursions to find the biggest fish in the deepest waters, and complete with outriggers, towers, enormous livewells, bait freezers, and fish lockers… the perfect choice if your fantasies run to out-catching the guys on Wicked Tuna.

Water Sports

If your primary goal is to go water skiing and wake boarding or just enjoy the feel of flying across the water, you should be looking for a bowrider, the most popular runabout and sport boat, with a swim platform and seating aft as well as in the open bow up front. Similar is the deck boat, with even more seating capacity. If top speed is what you crave, there are high-performance boats, some that offer the most luxurious of amenities including air conditioning as well as thrills.

Overnight Cruising

Depending on the level of creature comfort you require, you can bunk down on just about any vessel except a car-topper, but you’d do well to consider the full-length bunks, cooking facilities, and indoor plumbing of a cabin cruiser. At the top end of the scale are motor yachts, of course, which, to qualify for the name, start at about 40 feet long and go from there.

Sailing

Sail boats come in sizes from eight to 80 feet and more, and in designs from the most simple sloop with two sails for day tripping to intricately rigged and outfitted yachts for trans-oceanic voyages. So if you know the least bit about them, you know there are too many designations of hull configuration, number and deployment of sails, and other details to go into here. For more info, this is a good place to start learning.