Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Boat Show Shopping Tips

October 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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There’s something about a boat show that puts a spring in our step (in any season). Maybe it’s the eye-popping glint of new vessels, the fun of acquiring a new gadget we didn’t even know existed, or the chance to talk about accessories, upgrades, and destinations with an abundance of knowledgeable professionals. Chances are it’s all those things and more.

While climbing aboard gleaming boats and trying out timesaving gizmos is thoroughly enjoyable, boat shows can be overwhelming to serious shoppers. Just as it’s unwise to impetuously buy a house or car, buying a boat should be approached with the same thoughtfulness. Our tips will help you navigate the show aisles and leave with the deal that makes you happy.


Before the Show

What do you want? There’s no one boat that fits everyone’s idea of boating. Think about what you enjoy when you go out on the water — bouncing, gliding, cruising from port to port, or relaxing with kids, friends, and dogs. Different pleasures require corresponding types of boats, so compile a list of the features you must have in any boat you’ll buy.

Who else has a say? Share that list with your partner, spouse, and family if the boating lifestyle involves them as well. They’ll tell you what you forgot as well as the features they can’t live without. The revised list will help you focus on the type, size, and amenities you seek in your new vessel.

Tobay Beach Boat Show September 2014 dLook in your wallet. Factor in all the costs of in-season and off-season ownership, including operating, insuring, transporting, maintaining, and storing to see how much boat you can comfortably afford. Remember that boating is about enjoying time on the water, not drowning in debt. If you have a stressful life, working a second job to pay for a boat eliminates time to relax.

Preview the show exhibitors. Visit the boat show website’s list of manufacturers and dealers. You may discover a vendor you didn’t know sold boats that fit your criteria and eliminate those who don’t.

Research vendors and brands online. Read and compare features, then search for reviews on sites such as boat owner forums. Take praise and trashing with a big grain of salt, but also look for trends. Is there a dealer that gets raves time and again? Do boatloads of owners complain about handling or service issues with a specific boat model?

Secure financing. Unless you’re a cash buyer, talk to a financial institution or reputable vessel finance company about a pre-approved boat loan. Bring the terms offered when you go to the show and compare to any special dealer financing.

Map out your show route. Mapping your route is the best way to make sure you don’t miss a display.


Show Time

Take a look. Approach every display and brokerage booth with an open mind. Keep walking if what you spot (price or lines) displeases you, but if you see something that looks better live than it did on the web, add it to your options.

Step aboard. If you love the price and the look but find the bunk is too short for your legs, the stairs are too dangerous for toddlers, the galley is designed for gymnasts, or the head is only for acrobats, cross that model off your list.

Share. Talk to the salesperson. Detail your budget, your main reasons for buying a boat, and the must-haves on your list.

Mary at NorwalkListen. If the boat you describe has a starting price $20,000 over your budget, or you hear that the bells and whistles you desire aren’t available, move along or adjust your expectations by jettisoning upgrades and add-ons until the price matches your budget.

Details, please. There are no silly questions — if you need or want to know anything, now’s the time to ask. What makes your boat superior to others in this price range? How does the warranty stack up against [competitive brand]? What’s included in the price and what’s an after-market installation? Is the outboard engine shown included? Are winter covers included? Can I get free training and education as a part of the sale?

What’s your protection? Peruse the warranty from the manufacturer and anything further the dealer offers. (If buying a previously used boat, ask about any written guarantee.)

Resist insistence. If you’re not prepared to buy at that moment, take a snapshot of the boat, grab a brochure, and ask for a business card. Write down what you discussed before you walk away. Tip from a boat broker: If you visited a vendor in the first day or two and couldn’t afford what you wanted, try calling or stopping back in during the show’s waning hours — the effort may yield a more favorable response.



Check out the boat. If you bought a boat, make it final subject to a sea trial (and a survey if previously owned).

Shore up the details. Obtain insurance coverage and arrange for a berth for your new boat!




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