Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Brass Tacks of Boat Shows

February 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 


Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 11.50.08 AMBoat shows are lots of fun. They bring together shiny new vessels, intriguing gadgets you didn’t know you needed until you walked in the door (plus plenty of things you know you need), and lots of knowledgeable professionals ready to talk boating and sell you their goods and services.

If you’re just attending a show to see what’s new and perhaps check a few things off of your shopping list, you’ll have your expectations fulfilled at any boat show.  However, if you’re in the market to make a big-ticket purchase, you’ll be better prepared if you are informed before you start ambling up and down the show aisles.

Matt Howard, a yacht broker with United Yacht Sales, is a boat show pro with lots of tips for boaters (or looking-to-be boaters) to smoothly and effectively navigate a show.  He doesn’t advocate for impulse buying; rather, he urges attendees to first do some pre-planning. “Study the boat show layout before you go. Map out the boats and brands you want to see, and mark up the map so you know where to go,” says Howard.  “If you just wander the docks, you will become overwhelmed and unfocused.” Boat show Feb 16 2013 c

Pick up brochures for all the boats you’re interested in (and yes, that dream boat as well). Also snap a few photos of your own of the boats’ features you like best, as they may not be highlighted in the written material. Howard says that this is also the time to “become educated by asking the dealer rep lots of questions.” Your questions should demonstrate your interest and thirst for the best deal.  Howard suggests questions such as, “Why should I buy your brand instead of Brand X? How does your warranty stack up against Brand X? Brand X is offering a 20% discount on show sales, what are you offering? I’m a new boater. Do you offer free training and education as a part of the sale, and if so, for how long?” If applicable, hone in on something you think might be a sticking point, suggests Howard, such as asking, “I read in a forum that this boat is known for having difficult access to some of the machinery service points. Can you show me?’

Don’t feel as if you’re wasting the salesperson’s time; this back-and-forth should be an expected part of the buying process. In fact, says Howard, “Be relentless and make that rep work for the sale.” As you conclude your conversation, ask for the rep or broker’s business card. Don’t just drop the card into your overflowing shopping bag, however. Take Howard’s advice and write a note on the back. The note should let you recall the conversation later; he says they might be as descriptive as, “Showed me Sea Ray 340— nice boat; high pressure;” “Didn’t know much about the boat;” or, “Wow, Matt was awesome.”

The same process applies if you’re looking for a previously-owned boat (some shows are focused on new vessels only, while others also feature used-boat brokers).  Howard says that if you’re in the brokerage market, you should take some time before the show to “establish a relationship with a broker you trust, ask that broker to scan what is available, and arrange showings for the boats you want to see.” That way, your broker can contact the listing broker, make appointments, and, ideally, be there in person to show you the boat.” Based on his experience, Howard says buyers will find this more productive than “trying to get the attention of a harried listing broker trying to deal with multiple people on board at the same time.” If you haven’t had the time to do your homework before the show, however, don’t be deterred. “Spend time at brokerage booths and peruse their listings; if you don’t see something you want, ask if there are listings for what you do want,” instructs Howard, who notes that “the broker working the booth should go out of his or her way to find what you are looking for.” Should you encounter him at the United Yacht Sales booth, Howard says he would discuss your needs and desires, and then use his iPad to immediately access worldwide listings.

Boat show (2)

Unless you have a wallet full of cash, financing a boat is another area in which you don’t want to be pressured into making an uninformed decision.  Howard counsels would-be buyers to make arrangements ahead of time for a pre-approved boat loan, but then “see if the dealer financing will beat your terms.”

Some experienced boat show shoppers swear they always get the best deals on the first day of a show, while others advise that the best deals are obtained just before the exhibitors have to pack up and leave. Austin Frye, a veteran of many a boat show, says that the last day might be best if you’re willing to buy the floor model. “Some dealers just want to get rid of that particular boat quickly— this way they can get something different from the manufacturer. Also, the longer it sits in their possession, the more chance something can happen to the boat, so they’re willing to give better prices on the show demo boats.” He advises buyers to request that the dealer “fix anything that may need touching up on these boats since they see a high amount of traffic.”

Timing isn’t that crucial from Howard’s perspective, as he finds that bona fide buyers and motivated sellers can come to a mutually-beneficial agreement no matter the day or hour.  “The dealers want to come away with sales and have a pricing strategy set for the show,” Howard notes, “So any day should be as good as another. However, you will see more bright eyes and bushy tails from reps and brokers on the first morning of the show than on the last morning, after they have been on their feet for 12 hours a day for three days straight.”

webPlus_web_green1Negotiating at the boat show and more

Matt Howard, a yacht broker with United Yacht Sales www.unitedyacht.com/matthoward.html , answers a couple of questions on boat show buying.

Q. Does it ever pay to visit a dealer before a show and ask for the “boat show price”? What about re-visiting the dealer after the show ends — can you expect the price quoted at the show to be honored?

A. It’s worth a shot. Be persistent. A dealer will (or at least should) realize that someone who makes repeat visits is serious and not a tire kicker. How much leeway a dealer has on pricing will depend on that dealership and its owner’s aggressiveness. A buyer should not be afraid to negotiate. If the pricing on the boat is firm, then ask for a deep discount on a trailer, or on scheduled maintenance, etc.

Q. Does it matter if you’re looking at used boats instead of new? Should you still be looking to buy at a boat show?

A. It’s difficult to argue that it makes more sense to buy new than used because of the depreciation involved, but this is personality-driven and must be handled on an individual basis. Boat shows are great places to do homework and research since there are so many boats in one place at one time.

Just as new boat dealers are looking to sell at a show, so are brokerage firms. Brokers may have boats at the show or will have booths with their listings displayed. They are just as eager to sell at a show as the new boat dealers. Buyers have a distinct advantage in the brokerage market over new boats because room to negotiate from the asking price on a brokerage boat is at the seller’s sole discretion. His or her broker will give him advice, but in the end it’s up to the seller who may be in a hurry to sell for a variety of reasons and may work with a low offer. New boat dealers don’t have this flexibility.


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