Should I Buy a Boat at a Boat Show?

Boat shows represent a major opportunity for dealers to make big sales and market their brand-name and products. Competition between dealers can be fierce at boat shows, leaving many opportunities for the savvy buyer to get a great deal on a new boat for your favorite lake house. Buying at a boat show isn’t always a home run and you should go in with plenty of research to avoid buying on an impulse.

Some of the most popular boat shows in the world give buyers an incredible opportunity to shop a huge number of boats in one place. Expositions such as the world-famous Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show held every year in late fall see as many as 1,500 boats with a net value of $4 billion on display. It’d be impossible for any buyer to see, experience, and investigate the number and range of boats on display at boat shows.

If you’re deciding between a new or used boat, it’s important to understand that most boat shows only show new vessels. Buying a boat brand-new allows you to avoid the apprehension that a used boat will surprise you with unexpected damage or some other baggage. On the other hand, the moment a boat is purchased it immediately loses anywhere from 25% to 33% of its value. New boats with unproven technology could potential prove to be a bust, while time-proven systems leave less uncertainty for the buyer.

Why You Should Buy a Boat at a Boat Show

The high-traffic nature of boat shows makes for a competitive environment for dealers. Buyers can take advantage of this sense of competition to score a great discount on a boat they’ve been eyeing.

There are often special “show-only” deals at exhibitions and are unavailable any other time. Dealers use a lot of resources to be at the boat show and might be more willing to negotiate on price or offer incentives like better a financing plan or warranty to close the sale.

At a boat show you can climb into the vessels to get an in-person experience of being aboard. Bring your family with you and allow them to explore the boats you’re interested in and get their input.

You can also get advice about boats you’re interested in from competitors. They’re more likely to point out flaws or drawbacks of the craft and give you a helpful outside perspective on the boat.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Boat at a Boat Show

There are great reasons to buy at a boat show, but also many reasons not to. The pressure from dealers to make an on-the-spot purchase to take advantage of show-only discounts or incentives can leave buyers worried about an impulse decision they’ll later regret. If this is something you’re apprehensive about, it’s best to attend boat shows with the goal of having a great time and learning more about boats.

You probably won’t be able to take the boat on a sea trial. That means you’ll be making a purchase without having the chance to test drive your new boat. While the salesperson’s description and the boat’s specs paint a detailed picture, they don’t make up for the lack of a sea trial. If you subscribe to the notion that you should never buy a boat without a test drive, you shouldn’t buy a boat at a boat show.

There’s a vast number of boats available for purchase at boat shows, but they’re mostly new boats. Before you make a purchase at a boat show, keep in mind that a similar used boat might be available for a better deal. Or you could buy a more upmarket used boat for the same price as a new boat at a boat show, even with the deep discounts.

Another drawback to buying a new boat at a boat show is the length of time it can take to have your purchase delivered. If you’re buying a new model or request for upgrades to the base model, it can take as much as a few months to have your boat delivered. That’s a long time to wait to drive your new boat for the first time.

Also check out this article on “How to get the best deal at a boat show“.

Posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”

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