Unlike cars and other mass produced vehicles boats require a lot of start-up capital to even make it off the the drawing board. Couple this with the fact they only tend to be sold during the summer months and it isn’t really surprising that boats are sold with much higher margins. The only exception would be down south, closer to the equator where it’s pretty warm all year round and boats sell more readily.
Margins can be made even greater still by the fact that boats are a luxury item, really only available to the most privileged in society.
The upshot however is that it’s possible to get a really good deal on a boat. Sure, boat brokers need to make a decent living, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with negotiating to get the best possible price on a major purchase like a boat.
There are a number of things you can try to try and get the best deal possible:
Take Your Search Countrywide
As I mentioned above the warmer regions of the USA boats more boats are sold all year round, so you’re likely to get a better deal in the South, California, or the Gulf Coast because brokers and dealerships can afford to sell their boats for a more reasonable price than their northern competitors.
Where you can get caught out however is in shipping costs. A 40’ yacht isn’t the easiest thing to transport by road, and the cost to do so will reflect this, up to $2 a mile by some accounts.
Suffice to say, if you possibly can it’s worth making your way home by sea, plus if you do, what a great way to break in a new boat!
Having said that there are some great advantages to working with a broker local to you, chief of which is that you’ll be able to maintain your relationship with them far more easily. Choosing a local dealer who is well respected in the trade will ensure you get the best service possible whenever you need it.
Time Your Search Accordingly
The seasonality of boat sales up north means that dealerships typically sell at inflated prices during the summer to compensate for the winter lull. However it also means you can get deals in winter and fall when the dealerships and private sellers are trying their hardest to make sales.
With private sellers in particular, buying off season is good because you’ll buying at a time when the owner is paying for the upkeep of the boat but not getting any use out of it. Subconsciously the boat will feel like a burden to them at this time of year, so they’ll be more willing to shift it for a reduced price.
One Previous Owner Is Best
Just like cars, boats age and depreciate in value drastically over time, and although a lot of owners are inclined to keep hold of their boat for years or even decades, if you can spot those rare opportunities on the market for a boat that is less than 10 years old it could be a deal worth having.
I say less than 10 years old because boats that are older than this tend to start falling behind either in terms of wear and tear, or components that are dated. For example electronics equipment is a fast moving market, so if you want the latest tech on board you’ll need to factor in the cost of replacing it on a boat of more than 10 years old. From a maintenance perspective engines, paint work, teak decking and plumbing can all deteriorate over time, so this all needs to be enquired about and scrutinised before you think about making an offer.
If you are willing to entertain the idea of a second hand boat, then here’s a tip: don’t look at new boats first, or you will be overly (and possibly unfairly) critical of the more superficial imperfections of a second hand boat. Instead try exhausting your assessment of the second hand market first, and if you don’t find anything that fits your needs then, and only then start investigating the brand new market.
Pit One Broker Against Another
If you’re not shy about getting the best deal you can then this can be a really great way to go about it.
If you can find a like for like boat for sale (or as arguably close to it as possible) but the more expensive one takes your fancy just that little bit more, then there’s absolutely no harm in explaining your predicament to the dealer and seeing if they are prepared to sell to you for a better price.
If you make the point to the dealer selling the more expensive option that you are more than prepared to go for the other option instead that gives you a great bargaining chip. If the boats are exactly the same then you can even get the dealers to negotiate directly with one another providing they are both eager to make the sale. Leave them to negotiate the best deal and simply hand over the check when they are done!
If you aren’t entirely comfortable with holding dealerships to ‘ransom’ in this way, just remember this is actually expected, and the salespeople who work in dealerships are more than acquainted with the business of negotiation, and they relish the idea
Visit Boat Shows
Boat shows are a great place to get exposure to all things boat related, whether you’re having conversations with industry experts or checking out boats up close, there’s a lot to be learned. They’re also great places to get deals on new boats. When you think about it having that many dealers in a relatively small area all vying for the contents of your wallet means they’re open to negotiation if they want to be the ones to get the sale, so you should capitalise on this if you can.
Never Buy on Impulse
Buying a boat is a big deal, probably the second biggest purchase most people make besides their homes, and when you’re parting with that much dough the last thing you should be doing is doing it on a whim.
It is of course rule one of the salespersons rulebook to snare people when they first set eyes on a boat, and to make it their business to capitalize on whatever it is that has caught your fancy to the point where you’ll blindly hand over your credit card.
This is of course a mistake and could lead to make a decision you later regret. It’s far better to make your position clear from the outset when you walk into the dealership so that you can avoid the hard sell and actually glean a few honest opinions from the salespeople instead. Plus if you let them know you’re doing the rounds at various dealerships they’ll know that you’re trying to get a good deal.
It’s also important to make sure you’ve had a look at as many boats as possible before you make your decision, for the simple fact that you might change your mind as you go.
Make Sure Nothing is Missing
With the second hand market in particular it’s very much buyer beware as far as checking that a boat is in fine fettle. Whilst you can never be absolutely sure, it’s best to go over the boat with a fine toothed comb to make sure nothing critical is absent.
It’s not just the tangible stuff you should be looking for either, you also want to know what the full ‘package’ supplied with the dealership includes, and in turn what it is worth.
Incidentally this is where things can get misleading, a price difference of a couple of grand on the same boat at two different dealerships might leave you thinking your decision of which to buy has been made for you, however closer inspection might well reveal exactly why there is a difference in price.
Look out for things such as:
- Sales Tax. This varies between states so for example you might see the same boat sold at a dealership in California and Oregon for the same list price, but with California having around 7% sales tax compared to 0% in Oregon, there’s a significant additional cost to be aware of in the case of the boat in CA
- Hidden fees such as ‘processing’ or ‘administration’ fees. These could be several hundred dollars, and might only be sprung on you at the last minute, so it’s worth asking about them before you disappear too far down the sales funnel!
- Some dealerships include winterising packages, perhaps for just one or two years, or even for the duration of your ownership of the boat. This aim of this sort of long term good will is to keep you as a customer when the time comes that you want to trade your boat in for something bigger, but regardless there’s a big saving to be had with yearly services/winterising running into hundreds of dollars, so it could well be something that tips the scales in favour of one dealer over another who does not offer it.
Include a Gift Card in Your Negotiations
If you’re buying from a boat dealership that includes a chandlery that stocks consumables such as batteries, toilet chemicals and other items not included with your new boat, then it’s worth seeing if you can get a store gift card thrown into the price to seal the deal for you. This isn’t expensive for the store because they’ll have already marked up the price on the items anyway, and if it gets them a big sale they’ll be more than happy to oblige.