In Boat Buying

Top 5 Tips For 1st Time Boat Buyers Before Walking into A Dealership

You’re ready. It’s finally going to happen. Your family is joining the boating lifestyle! With the excitement building, there are a few things to consider before stepping into a dealership. From new jargon to boat types, here’s a helpful list of five tips to upgrade your boating IQ from eager newbie to a seasoned boat buyer.

Tip #1 – Do Your Research

With so many different boat types and brands available it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  To avoid the head spin and to figure out what type of boat can really “get it done” for you, we suggest making a simple list of each type like, Bay, Center Console, Offshore, and their uses. From there, it’s incredibly important to be realistic and honest as to how and where you”ll use your boat the most. Once decided, you’ll then want to establish a range for the boat size (footage) you want and your total budget.

Move forward with a boat type, you’ll want to begin comparing individual models and their standard feature sets while keeping a close watch on upgrades or premium enhancements. Doing this will make certain that your apples-to-apples comparisons are realistic. Equally important, while doing your homework, be sure to note any lingo you might not understand and ALWAYS seek clarification.  Doing this will add a few wrinkles to your boating vocabulary and knowledge and empower you to confidentially ask questions while being able to fully understand the dealer’s answers.

Expert Advice: Boat type, size, and price, make up the key decision factors for approximately 90% of all Sea Born buyers.

Tip #2 – Manage Expectations

The boat industry is very small and segmented at just one-tenth the size of automotive which is a real consideration with respect to available inventory. Understanding this limitation, in order to get your dream boat on the water, you’ll want to get it on the assembly line as early as possible. The biggest reason, most boats are built by the manufacturer almost entirely from hand. Unlike a Toyota Camry, boat builders aren’t turning out hundreds of thousands of models a year. Translated that means, when possible, purchase an in-stock model versus a factory order or be prepared to wait.

As to build time, boat dealerships buy their new inventory directly from the manufacturer and under normal circumstances the average Sea Born takes 6-8 weeks from the time production begins to delivery. A warning here: Given recent and ongoing supply chain issues, dealerships and boat buyers have come to expect much longer wait times. Where the exact causes are plentiful, the marine industry has struggled to keep up with ongoing shortages of raw materials and outboard motors.

Considering all the factors, you should expect buying a boat to be much different than a car purchase, especially serviceability and ongoing maintenance. Put plainly, boat owners who only consider price and then purchase outside of their local market will cheer as they save a few dollars but may also jeer as service from their local dealer is more difficult than expected. The reason for this is simple, during the busiest times of year, a dealership may have work orders spanning five-plus weeks out. Where dealers are always willing to assist, you’ll have to take a place in line at the service and parts counter and then wait your turn.

Expert Advice: Avoid playing dealership A against dealership B on price. Instead, build a good relationship with your local dealer and don’t be afraid to negotiate. Always consider local service as a huge part of the “Total Cost of Ownership” that can’t always be factored into the sales contract. Remember this prior to driving two states away to purchase a vessel at a discount.

Tip #3 – Ask the Right Questions

After you have found the boat you want, pencil out of ALL YOUR questions for the sales rep. This will keep you on track and allow you to get the right information needed before you make a final decision.

A few examples:

  • What are the terms of warranty?
  • What’s covered?
  • What is not covered?
  • How long is the vessel under warranty?
  • Does the dealer provide extended warranty?
  • Should I contact the manufacturer?
  • What kinds of service is common for this boat?
  • What’s the process for replacement parts or warranty replacement of parts?
  • What the dealership’s relationship with the manufacturer?
  • How long has the dealership represented the manufacturer?
  • How responsive has the manufacturer been to handle situations that may happen their boats?

As you continue through the process, don’t feel bad about adding additional questions or seeking clarification.


Tip #4 – Get It in Writing

This should be obvious, but many times verbal promises can be forgotten or misunderstood. Save yourself some time and headache by making sure everything that is discussed makes its way to the purchase agreement before you sign it. From a future discount on services to a good cleaning, don’t let the details disappear. One more time for good measure here, GET IT IN WRITING.


Tip #5 – Understand the True Cost of Boat Ownership

As the phrase goes, “The two best days of a boater’s life is the day they buy a boat. The second, the day they sell it”. Having heard this, before stepping foot in a dealership consider all of the costs of ownership such as:

  • Cost of the boat itself
  • Insurance
  • Storage (Garage, Driveway, Lift, etc.)
  • Cost of Maintenance – Engine, Cleaning, Winterization, Time
  • Fuel
  • Fishing Gear & Baits
  • Safety Equipment
  • Sporting Gear – Drink cooler, ropes, inner-tubes, wake boards, etc.
  • Anchor, anchor line, anchor chain, dock lines, etc.
  • Digital Gadgets and subscription services to make boating easier