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Buying at a Boat Show

Shopping a boat show efficiently requires a good plan. Use these tips to make the most of your experience.

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Shop for a Dealer. As you shop for a boat, you can also shop for a dealer, since representatives will be at the show. The relationship you have with a dealer could be a long and rewarding one, so use the boat show to make connections with professionals you want to go the distance with. You may not know the specific model you want yet, but chances are you have expectations for service. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) encourages consumers to buy from Marine Industry Certified Dealers. You can a list of those in your area at www.discoverboating.com.

Research Warranties. Investigate the warranty on every boat you are considering. Make note if a warranty is transferable, since this could be advantageous if you decide to sell the boat a few years down the line. Find out what the warranty covers (engine, hull, components, accessories, etc.) and ask about the service you’ll receive if a component fails. It can’t hurt to do some follow-up research here. For instance, ask the manufacturer or dealer for references; those boat owners can share with you the experiences they had with advertised warranties.

Talk Money. Don’t shy away from talking price with a dealer, even if you’re not quite ready to buy. If you have the conversation now, you’ll have a more accurate picture of what the boat will cost you, and even how much a dealer is willing to work with you on price. You’ll also notice that show specials are advertised at these major events. Often, they’re designed to encourage you to buy at the show. It’s worth asking the dealer if he would honor that price after the show.

About those boat show specials, conventional boat buying wisdom says the best deals can be found at boat shows, but that’s not always the case, according to some dealers. Certain dealerships will encourage buyers to visit them at the showroom following the show. The reason: Dealers pay big bucks to exhibit at shows, and to recoup those costs, they sometimes have to tack on dollars to the show price. One exception to this rule may be the last day of the show, when dealers may be more willing to cut prices and save themselves the effort and expense of transporting a boat back to the showroom. Or, the dealer may want to recoup some of its show costs on that final day.

Don’t Buy on Impulse. Unless you have thoroughly done your homework and are certain you are getting the best deal, it’s probably wise to refrain from making a purchase on your first day at a show. Give yourself some time to think about a possible purchase. There’s no correct amount of time it should take to shop for a boat. For some, one or two afternoons are all they need. It takes others several years. The right time for you to buy a boat is when you’re ready.

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