Dreaming of a New 'Toy'?

Do your homework before you buy.

The hum of motorcycles, boats, ATVs and recreational vehicles is a sure sign spring has arrived. If you're in the market for just such a "toy," be sure you have a thorough understanding of what it offers before laying down your hard-earned money.

Things you'll want to consider include safety, physical condition, accessories, looks, performance and cost.

While there are many good online resources to consult, don't overlook the advice of family, friends, co-workers and neighbors who've already purchased a similar product.

Properly researching your purchase will improve the odds of finding a dream machine that also fits with reality.

man wearing life vest driving a bass boat

Don't Just Dive Into Boat Ownership ...

Before buying a boat, ask yourself these important questions, which will help with your final decision:

  • How many people will use the craft? This will impact the size you need.
  • For what will you use the boat? You'll want to find a vessel suited to your pursuits (water skiing, fishing, etc.).
  • Where will you operate the boat? Not all boats are built for all types of water bodies.
  • How much will it cost to buy and maintain? Remember, you'll need to pay for insurance, registration and instruction course fees.

When you find a vessel that interests you, test it before buying. Discover Boating suggests that before making an offer, you uncoil the ropes; open the hatch; and check the steering, engine, lights and heater.

RV on road with mountains in background

A Range of Recreational Vehicle (RV) Choices

RV ownership has reached record levels (approximately 8.9 million households), according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.

Before you add yourself to that statistic, consider the following.

Try before you buy. If you've never traveled in an RV, it's valuable to test different models before making one a permanent part of your life. Rent, borrow a friend's or visit an RV show.

Focus on features. There are thousands of gadgets and gizmos that can make life fun and convenient in an RV. Evaluate which devices are vital for your needs.

Determine your budget. Don't forget there are many expenses associated with owning an RV, including accessories, insurance and operating costs.

motorcyclists on mountain road

Get on the Road to Finding the Best Motorcycle

The loudest, fastest, most powerful motorcycle is usually the one that turns heads. But is it the best option for you?

Start off slow. Don't buy a bike with more performance than you can handle. Learn how to ride and gain experience on a slower bike. You can upgrade to a faster cycle once you have some mileage under your belt.

Where you ride matters. Before you purchase, consider how often you'll use your bike, what type of traffic you'll ride in and how long your trips will be.

Does it fit? Consider your body type to ensure the cycle size is right. Some models are made specifically for women and smaller riders. You should be able to put both feet flat on the ground when the bike is upright. Take the cycle for a spin to try it out for size and comfort.

Consider the cost. Your budget will help determine if you should go the new or used route. If you are considering a pre-owned cycle, read this safety checklist compiled by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

ATV rider on mountain road

Explore ATV Off-road Options

Like motorcycles, all terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not toys. The high speed, powerful vehicles can be a force to be reckoned with, so choosing the right one is vital to your safety and riding enjoyment.

The same tips for choosing a motorcycle apply to buying an ATV.

If you decide to purchase a used one, follow the ATV Safety Institute Pre-ride Inspection Checklist.

Safety First

The power behind most recreational vehicles is a huge draw to riders. But it can also mean danger if the operator doesn't have the proper training or equipment to ride safely. Know these rules of the road before revving your engine.

Motorcycles - Take a training or refresher course. Wear protective attire, including a helmet, eye protection, shoes, gloves, long sleeves and pants. Watch road surfaces for hazards like potholes, oil slicks, puddles and uneven surfaces.

Boats - Wear a life jacket at all times. Check the weather before you head out. Keep an emergency kit on board. Share your float plan with someone who will remain on land.

RVs - Keep an eye on your blind spots before you maneuver in traffic. Watch the traffic ahead so you have time to brake for hazards. Make sure weight is distributed evenly in the vehicle and heavy items are secured.

ATVs - Always wear safety gear. Never carry a passenger unless the vehicle is specially-designed for two. Children should never operate an adult-sized ATV.

For more vehicle safety tips, visit the American Family Learning Center on amfam.com.

These recommendations were developed using generally accepted safety standards.