Buyer's Guide

August 10, 2015

The Best Time to Buy a Boat

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What’s the best time of year to buy a boat? This is a question we hear often, and there is no one right answer; you can find bargains and get a good deal at any time of year. However, the off-season (fall and winter) is when it’s really a buyer’s market. Conversely, spring and early summer are the best time to sell.

In fall and winter, boat dealerships want to clear out their unsold stock to make room for the next year’s models. This is when buyers looking for a deal should be shopping around. This time of year also coincides with the boat shows and expos, where you can find most of the builders and dealers under one roof in direct, head-to-head competition.

Two options
So consumers looking to buy a boat at the best possible time have two options: visit dealerships in the fall (October, November, December), or visit a boat show during the winter (January, February, March).

Visit a dealer in the fall
There are several reasons why fall is the right time to start shopping at boat dealerships. First of all, fall is when you start seeing big discounts and deep price cuts. Dealers offer substantial reductions on both new and used boats to avoid the financial burden of carrying the stock through the winter. Also, clearing out their stock makes room in the showroom and lets them order new models from the manufacturers they carry.

Dealer discounts aren’t the only reason for buying in the fall. In addition to advantageous prices, a buyer who already owns a boat can trade it in and often avoid storage fees. You can also use the off-season to have the equipment and accessories you want installed and get delivery in time for the start of the boating season.

Boat show season
The great thing about boat shows is that they bring together most of the major boat builders and the dealers that carry their wares. Exhibitors take the opportunity to show off the new models and display the most popular boats in their lineups. Visitors can see the actual, life-size boats in one place. Also present are inboard and outboard motor manufacturers, distributors of marine equipment and accessories, and providers of a wide range of boating-related services. Boat shows are also social events where thousands of boaters from far and wide gather each year to talk boats and dream of their next purchase.

For consumers contemplating a purchase, boat shows are an ideal opportunity to see and compare a huge assortment of models. You can’t beat the selection!

Also, since most of the major boating industry players and providers of goods and services are at the boat expos, consumers can get all the information they need to plan for the next boating season in one location. You can find out about insurance, financing, watercraft registration, licenses, marinas, home ports, lock schedules, other relevant timetables and other matters of interest.

Better prices and terms
As a rule, prices, financing and terms of sale are better during boat show season. The healthy competition between dealers prompts them to offer substantial discounts on the previous year’s models and attractive specials to spur sales of their new models.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your visit to a dealer or boat show.

Be prepared
Before going to the show, take a few minutes for Internet research. Find out about the brands and models that interest you and meet your needs, and take down the names of the local dealerships that represent those brands. Prepare a list of standard questions to ask so that you will be able to compare the different brands of boats and motors.

Naturally, price will be a central point in your comparisons. You can expect the asking price to be 5% to 10% below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price or the prices posted on the Internet. You can find the builders’ and dealers’ websites by simply googling their names.

Have a strategy and a game plan

Choose a good day to visit and speak to a representative. The expo’s first few days are usually the best time to get a rep’s full attention.

— First go see the models that you are interested in;

— Ask for a brochure or take photos;

— Write down the prices and discounts;

— Don’t focus exclusively on price! You also need to consider the craft’s quality and other factors such as service and warranty.

Note that specials often remain in effect for a week or two after the boat show.

Meet a dealer and make an appointment
The quality of the dealership is an important part of the quality package. Good dealers know their product, clearly explain the warranty and provide excellent customer service. During your visit to the boat show, talk to a dealer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Dealers and their sales reps are competent professionals who can answer your questions and give you objective advice.

Unless you are absolutely sure of your purchase decision, do not make an impulse buy on your first visit. It is better to make an appointment with the dealer you want to do business with. That will give you time to consider your decision and give you a chance to get to know the dealer.

The bottom line
The off-season is definitely the best time of year for boat-shopping. In the fall, boat dealers are trying to reduce their inventory and are prepared to lower their prices and offer attractive terms.

Boat show season is also a good time to buy. With the wide selection of models on display, the competition between exhibitors and the broad range of services on offer, consumers get more choice, ready access to all the information they need, and very attractive prices and terms. To get the most out of the shows, smart consumers should prepare for their visit in advance and clearly define their needs.

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