As I write this, August is winding down and though there are good boating days still ahead we all know the balmy breezes will end. Time to think “Boat Shows.”
For the ‘’tried and true” boater there is always a better boat and many pursue that idea with a passion. For future boaters there’s the excitement of exploring all options when it comes to family, fishing or the multi-purpose vessel of their dreams. What better place to explore your options than at a boat show where you can walk a multitude of decks, talk to sales professionals, search for the latest electronics and financing. You can even locate quality used boats and dockage at some of these shows. The question is “What is the right way to get the best out of boat show time”. Below are some great pointers.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before you walk through the entrance of any show it’s a good idea to have a strong inkling of what needs and options you are considering whether it be a boat itself or accessories such as radar, GPS units, fish/depth finders, marine radios, etc.
It helps to acquire knowledge by exploring boating magazines and brand websites to educate yourself and help narrow your search so that you can focus on the brands of interest. This cuts wasted wandering time and gets to the type of purchase you are most interested in. Of course there is nothing wrong with dawdling awhile looking at other type boats once you have established a clear direction for yourself.
For Long Islanders, the first big event is the Tobay Boat Show - Sept 30 - Oct 2. This is both an in and out of water show. Here you will meet all the important Long Island boat dealers plus a huge amount of electronic, insurance, financing and accessory vendors available within a reasonably close range of where your boating will take place. Buying local is a plus when it comes to any issues or servicing that may be required of a boat you choose. It helps that the vendor is familiar with your boating area. For less experienced boaters, he can fit you with the right vessel that suits your geographic area. For instance, most boat dealers on Long Island can service their product anywhere on the Island. So you see, when I say local, it’s a large area.
YOU CAN SPREAD OUT YOUR SEARCH
There are a multitude of shows you can attend beyond the one closest to you. Boat shows are always fun so if you don’t find the deal you want at one or at least developed a firm direction to a brand and dealer of your choice, there is always another show within reasonable travel distance. There’s the Javits Center in NYC-Jan 25-29, Providence R.I.-Feb 3-5, Hartford, Conn. Feb9-12, NJ. Boat Expo Feb 16-18 and if you feel lucky, the Atlantic City, N.J. show from March 1-5 might be in the cards for you.
All these are professional and exciting venues. They are worth traveling to in order to gain more perspective in your search. Certain shows may be slightly skewed to sail as opposed to power but there is always a good mix worth investigating.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
You should always travel light when you visit a boat show. However, that doesn’t mean you should go empty handed. If your interest is a center console, express cruiser, entry-level sail or a monster yacht, you can carry info you have researched on brands, price points and
accessories on your tablet, smart phone or even a pad. When you have your backup you become a better shopper. Especially keep any ads you have seen stating prices, deals, and incentives. These will come in handy when it comes down to talking turkey on how much you want to spend.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A VESSEL
All good salespersons believe the product they are selling is the best. If they don’t they shouldn’t be a sales professional. When you attend a show be prepared to hold yourself back from all the hype. Compare similar boats for quality, from the thickness and structure of the hull, access to the fuel tank, organization of the electrical system, quality of all aluminum and stainless steel, strength of deck, wind shields, port holes, canvas and vinyl, bolted through cleats, work space around engines (inboards and I/O’s) and pay attention to whether the boat is being offered under or over powered. Make sure you make your deal predicated upon a sea trial as the performance of the boat is of utmost importance. A poor performing boat is a bad investment. Even if you have been boating for years it is best to keep a checklist to refer to all these important points.
Now it’s time to walk the show and climb aboard boats that catch your interest. Keep in mind to dress as light as you can and to wear boat shoes or light bottom sneakers as you would on your own boat so as not to scuff the deck. It is prudent not to overload displayed boats so let the sales professionals guide you as to when you can climb aboard. If you have children with you (and they do love boat shows!) be gracious enough to monitor their behavior and know where they are at all times. Safety is paramount. Many times there are “give-a-ways” for kids and snack bars so you can make it a family event.
Once you are on board take a good look at all the features. You can take your time if you have some interest in considering the vessel for purchase but don’t hog the boat. It’s best if you disembark and discuss more detailed questions with the sales person on terra firma. This enables you to have private discussion and allows other potential customers a chance to board the boat.
If you are convinced that the boat is your “dream boat” then that may be the time to sit down and discuss a possible deal. Every brand has a few tables and chairs to accommodate you. Sometimes the deals are written up at the show where you may be interested in a “Show Special’’ or are able to work out the perfect deal right there. Sometimes the situation entails the exchange of business cards and phone numbers to set up a meeting after the show. You have to be adaptable to what you feel is prudent at the time.
DOING THE DEAL
There is a lot to consider when buying a boat, a new outboard to repower, or expensive electronics etc. Some products you may be able to pay cash for (Lucky you!), charge on your credit card or finance. For those bigger deals there are usually well-known banks and credit unions right at the show. You can also approach your own sources of credit to compare when it finally gets down to the time of closing. Many brands offer their own financing which may be a consideration but always remember to compare.
If you have done your homework, competitively shopped, and have trust in the vessel or product you can rest assured that visiting one or all of the shows helped you make the right decision. Springtime will be here in no time. The sales brochure you looked at in bed each night will be worn and wrinkled. The bay and ocean is out there waiting. Soon you will be feeling the rise of the bow and the wind in your face. Bon Voyage!