|In-Water Boat Show|
1. Research vessel types ahead of time and be fairly certain what type you're looking for. Unlike cars, boats come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and functions. Choosing your vessel type will depend on your estimated usage, where you'll be boating, and what your budget is. Knowing ahead of time that you want an express cruiser versus a flybridge will help you consider all of the details when comparing two or more models. Otherwise, this can all get overwhelming fast!
2. Go online and check out the show guide ahead of time. Pick out the boat types, manufacturers, dealers and brokers ahead of time so you can be more targeted the day you arrive. With so much eye candy, it's easy to get distracted. Having a plan can help you stay focused and on task.
3. Spend lots of time talking to the dealers on your short list. Not all dealers are created equal; some are more committed to the customer experience, while others are large enough to pass along discounts. Some offer continuing service, while others may not. What kind of relationship do you want to have with your dealer? In addition, you can tell by speaking with dealers what their true niche is in the market. Some are experts in the 15-20ft range, while others have superior knowledge in the 40-50ft range.
4. Plan to spend the entire day - use the first part to tour the boats and take notes. Then, go have a snack somewhere quiet and review what you've seen. Boats have a tendency to blend together after you've seen enough of them, and you'll end up remembering something you'll want to go back and see for yourself. In addition, take pictures - these will be helpful when you and your spouse are arguing over which boat had what feature!
5. Once you've narrowed down some choices and dealers, speak to the dealers again, asking specific questions about rebates, warranties, delivery dates, service, training, and other value-added services. Ask each to give you a final deal, and be open and honest about which other boats you're considering. If three out of four dealers each have the same positive reaction to one of the models you're considering, ask why. Is that model built stronger? Does it have a better long-term reputation? Is it rarely in for service? Dig deeper here.
6. Call your favorite insurance agent or agency and quote out each model before you make a decision. Some boats are very cheap to insure, while others not so much. If you see wide discrepancies, take these figures back to the dealers and seek justification or an explanation.
7. Do one more calculation, not just of the boat's price but also of the repercussions of the decision - what are the new costs of winter storage and maintenance, a summer slip, fuel, dock fees, etc? When you're finally confident, go back to the dealer and do the deal!
Boat shows really are a fantastic place to purchase a vessel. Because dealers risk carrying inventory all winter long (at a large cost to them!), they are ready and willing to give substantial discounts to boaters who will take vessels off their hands. Discounts can be anywhere from a few thousand to a hundred thousand or more! Dealers clear out their inventory and boaters get great vessels for cheaper - it's a win-win.
What experiences have you had at a boat show? Share them below!