Thinking about buying a boat? Here are some helpful tips:
Shop all the peripherals—insurance, financing, ramp fees, wet slip storage, mechanical, and property taxes so you are aware of the "running costs."
If the dealer quotes a gallon per hour fuel consumption figure for a boat at cruise speed, take two-thirds of that, multiply it by the number of hours you think you'll run the boat, and you have a pretty good idea of how many gallons you'll buy over a season.
Match the boat to the usage—if you plan to boat on a high-traffic lake or tidal water get one of the better brands.
When comparing warranties find out who owns the boat company—a lifetime warranty from a small builder means less than a 5-year warranty from a large builder.
Buy your boat from a local dealer. Although in theory boat warranties are like car warranties, the practical matter is that in the heavy season a boat dealer is hard pressed keeping its own customers happy. Trying to butt into the schedule with a boat purchased elsewhere isn't going to happen.
While we're on the subject—when you buy a boat you enter into a close relationship with your dealer. Be at least as careful who you buy from as what you buy. Talk to customers on the docks and ask whether the yard gives priority to boats that don't run even if it's not a money-making repair for the dealer. If you're not getting warm and fuzzy, walk away.
If two dealers for the same identical brand are way apart on price (say 10%-15%) and the higher priced dealer has a good reputation, you may assume that the lower priced dealer is a bad business person or will not service the product. It's not worth the savings.
In selecting a boat size and type think hard about how, where, and who will use it, and why you want a boat. Balance cost against convenience and availability of going out on the boat.
If you are putting less than 10% down on a boat, you will have to come up with money when you sell it. It's OK to do that but don't whine to the dealer if you get down the road and don't have the down payment you should have used in the beginning.
REMEMBER: boating is a fun, relaxing, and enjoyable pursuit to which no other pastime compares. Find a way that you will have the most excuses to use the boat, buy it smart, and you'll never regret it.
BROUGHT UP BY MANY PROSPECTS: if you're the kind of person who gravitates toward hard negotiating you should seek out that type of salesperson. Ditto if you don't like that type of negotiation. My style assumes that since you want a relaxation sport, you want to start relaxing and having fun while you're looking. I have people come in who walk away from me because they want a hard negotiation. On the other hand I have people who sign an agreement with me saying "thank you for making it so painless." It's your choice.
You can get a good deal at the boat show. However, this is also the time when salespeople can be their most unscrupulous and get away most easily with distorting the truth about other brands. A visit to the dealership after handing over a refundable deposit to hold the boat ensures that you will know if the dealer makes you warm and fuzzy. Remember: you will have a closer relationship with a boat dealer than your car dealer.
USED BOATS: how much you can borrow against a boat tips you off on how much the boat is worth. Ask an independent bank to determine this and if there's a discrepancy ask the dealer why (sometimes the bank's wrong too).