What Should You Research Before Visiting a Boat Dealership?

Things to Know Before Going to a Boat Dealership

If you're thinking about buying a boat, it makes sense to visit a boat dealership in person. This way, you can see what types of vessels are available and make a more informed purchase. But before you set foot in a boat dealership, it's important to do some upfront research.

What pieces of information and knowledge do you need before visiting a dealership?

What You Should Know Going In

Long before you go to the dealership, you should research the following:

  • Your lifestyle and intentions. Hopefully, you won't need to resort to online searches to research this topic. Instead, you'll need to brainstorm with your friends and family members about your lifestyle and your intentions. The better you understand your goals and motivations, as well as the root causes of your search for a vessel, the better you'll be able to find a perfect fit for your needs. For example, if you're interested in adventurous motorsports or high speeds on the water, you'll need a very different vessel than if you're interested in quiet fishing trips by yourself. If you imagine lavish parties with all your friends and family on the sea, you'll need a much different vessel than if you're bringing along one other person at most.
  • Your budget. You'll also need to understand what your budget and personal financial limitations are. How much can you afford to pay for a boat payment on a monthly basis? How much of a loan can you qualify for? How much free cash do you have? Once you have a better understanding of your financial position, you'll be able to eliminate some options entirely.
  • Pros and cons of different types of boats. There are hundreds of types of boats out there, each with their own unique pros and cons. For example, aluminium fishing boats tend to be simple and easily accessible, but they also have minimal amenities and may produce a rougher experience on choppy waters. If you're familiar with a wide range of different types of boats before you set foot into a dealership, you'll be in a much better position to make the right choice.
  • Price points for different types of boats. You should also be familiar with general price points for different types of boats. What are these boats being listed for online? What are reasonable ranges you can expect? This way, if you find a great deal, or if you notice that the dealer is overcharging, you can be confident in moving forward with your decision.
  • Secondary costs of boat ownership. Spend some time researching the secondary costs of boat ownership, to make sure you're making a valid financial decision. In addition to monthly boat payments, you may be responsible for things like storage, insurance, fuel, supplies, and maintenance and upkeep. Depending on your situation, this could add hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros a month of additional expenses.
  • Alternative ways to purchase a boat. Are you committed to buying a boat from a dealership? Before visiting for the first time, make sure you understand alternative ways to purchase a boat. You can buy a boat from another consumer directly or use a boat broker or negotiate a deal with a private seller. Often, but not always, these options are advantageous over buying straight from the dealer.
  • Current market dynamics. You should also read up on current market dynamics. If demand is especially high and inventory is low, prices are going to be higher. If demand is especially low, and inventory is high, prices are going to be lower.

Important Questions to Ask at the Boat Dealership

Once you get to the boat dealership, your research can help you make a better decision. But you'll still need to ask some important questions before finalising anything.

  • Manufacturer relationships. Understand the relationship between this dealership and their primary manufacturers. How do these organisations support each other?
  • Warranties. Are there default warranties available for vessels purchased at this dealership? If so, what do they cover? Can they be extended?
  • Responsiveness and support. If you do have an issue with the boat, what kind of support are you going to get? Is there a straightforward process you can follow to get a response and a solution?
  • “Out the door” costs. Like with buying a car, your “out the door” price is likely going to be higher than sticker price (or your “final” negotiated price for the vessel). You may be required to pay for additional fees, taxes, and logistical expenses. Figure out what these are before you finalise the transaction.
  • Vessel conditions and prep work. How is each vessel prepared for sale? Does this dealership make an effort to make the vessel look like new?
  • Delivery and walkthrough. How are you going to arrange for delivery? And will there be a final walkthrough before the sale is closed?

Why Dealerships Aren’t Always the Best Place to Find a Boat

There are a few reasons why dealerships aren't always the best place to find a boat:

  • Inventory. Boat dealerships have limited inventory. Because these establishments only have so much physical space, they can only show so many vessels that are available for purchase. If you turn to the web, your options instantly multiply many times over.
  • Margins. Boat dealerships need to charge high margins to compensate them for the costs of running this type of operation. Accordingly, you can often find a better price by negotiating with a private seller.
  • The experience. Going to a dealership can be a hassle, especially if there's not a dealership near you, and you might have a better experience shopping for a boat on your own.

Shopping at a boat dealership can be a rewarding and informative experience, helping you better understand the vessels available for purchase and potentially leading you to score a great deal. But if you want to make an informed decision, you need to know everything that's out there; you can start by browsing all our new and used boats for sale where we showcase boats for sale by dealerships, brokers and private sellers all in one place.

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