I sell this stuff and all of it is generally good however there are some things to consider. You mention support and I have to say that at least here in the U.S., Raymarine
support is a problem. If you can get through to someone they are good, but getting through is a real problem, especially at peak times such as 4 July, Mondays, etc. Again, the equipment is fine, but getting consistent support is problematic. I sold a gentleman well over $20K in equipment and it was like pulling teeth to get answers to a few questions.
is tremendous, and does allow for mixes of equipment manufacturers, e.g. a Raymarine
auto-pilot with a Simrad NS16 Chart plotter. The issue is again support. Both companies will do their best to assist but at some point (if the problem is complicated) they will often tell you that you need to talk to the other company. If possible, it is best to stick with one company for the majority of equipment. It's not always possible but one should try.
Simrad has a new CHIRP radar that is pretty good. They did a demo and it was able to pick out crab pot buoys in 20 feet or sometimes even less! It was pretty impressive.
With radar, it is best to keep it on a separate monitor
. Chart overlays tend to get confused and it is easier to lose a target. It's much like the same reason you keep the depth
finder on its own instrument; it sticks out and you don't lose sight if critical info due to information overload.
Simrad/B&G (same company; B&G is especially designed for sailing) is a good choice. They have very good equipment and offer a hybrid so you can have touch screen with buttons. Others are good too and I am also a fan of Garmin
Go to a store and play with all of it. See if you like the menus. See how easy it is to find things, change things, etc. People usually use only ten percent or so of what these things can do and you'll want to be able to easily find other things. It's no good to have advanced features if you never remember where they are.
Remember, the cost of purchase
is only half of the actual cost unless you are doing your own installation
. A ROUGH guide is that you will spend the same as your purchase
price to install it. Obviously, there are many variations to this, but if you budget an amount and come in less, you will be happy. If you budget only a little and Murphy is working hard, you will be upset. The same is true for the time to install it. If you are doing your own work, and the salesman/factory rep thinks it will take you a week to install it, budget two and allow a few extra days for each ten miles away from a store you are! If someone is doing the installation, and they say a week, allow for two. Even if it takes a week, you'll want time to do a shakedown cruise
or three, or five!
If you are buying
and electronic autopilot
, be sure to buy plenty of spares or even a second unit. The same is true for critical components. A second MFD/chart-plotter is good insurance
when you are 1,500 miles from anywhere. Also, be sure you have paper charts
and maintain situational awareness. This stuff can and WILL fail, often at the worst time. It may not be the unit. It may just be a fuse, or a wire, etc. but the result is the same.
Some stores sell extra protection. Sometimes these are good, sometimes they are not. Ask about the details. If it offers an exchange, then it may be worth it. An exchange allows, or should allow, you to get a replacement fairly quickly. An extended warranty means you have to ship it back and wait for it to be repaired. An exchange is just that. Now you're just down while it is being shipped, plus a day or so for re-installation.