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Buying a boat

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  • Buying a boat

    Please forgive me if this is received as the wrong type of question to be asked on this website.  It's a bit out of left field I know, so i'll take the opportunity to throw el Jefe himself under the bus for showing off pics of his new boat a couple years ago.   

    For the past year I've been diligently searching for a used boat, but I have a very specific type and size of boat I want to get.  I actually have it narrowed down to 2 specific models by 2 different boat makers which has resulted in a nearly net zero return in my search.  A couple boats meeting the criteria have sporadically popped up, but they were so close to new that they resulted in a price nearly matching a new boat.  Which is making me realize I may have to splurge on a brand new boat which doesn't sit so well with me, but I'm really set on buying this specific type of boat to match mine and my families needs/wants.

    So my question is basically, does anyone have any advice on how to get the best deal when trying to deal with a dealer for a new boat?  I guess I could try the same approach as I have done in the past when buying a new car (which was emailing like 10 different dealers and seeing who would give me the best price for the specific car/options I wanted), but i'm not sure that this will necessarily work since most of these boat dealers don't even have this new boat in stock and would probably have to be built to order.

    Any suggestions, personal experience or other words of wisdom greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Two happiest moments of a boat owner:

    1.  When you buy it

    2.  When you sell it   


    That said, we helped my BIL buy one in the past -- definitely comps with large scale brokers and likes of BassProShop.  You have the 4 total models to deal with --- find the largest brokers for them and send out Request For Offers - RFOs.


    • #3
      I bought a boat at Costco once.  It was a sea ray from a local dealership


      • #4
        Laws of supply and demand are always in play. Sounds like there's a supply problem. You can wait, haggle, or just buy. If it makes you happy though, go for it. Everybody has something they spend money on


        • #5
          Check your personal finances. If you're meeting your personal finance goals, do something that makes you happy. If this is it, go for it!


          In regards to your actual question about buying a boat, I have no idea! Hope this helps!


          • #6
            I've been casually looking at boats recently. Often wintertime boatshows have some of the better pricing on new boats. Often~35% off MSRP.

            For example, 2017 Cobalt 200 (fancy pants bowrider) MSRP 63k, boat show price 39,990.

            Apparently November/December are the slowest sales months for boat sales and you may be able to get the best deal and have the most negotiating leverage at this time of year.

            I've heard hiring a marine surveyor to handle the transaction and inspection can save you from ownership headaches when buying a used boat. (No personal experience)


            • #7
              Well, I've got a little experience, having bought two in the last 7 years.

              The best deal will be used, but you may not be able to get what you want. A starter boat is a great idea. That way you won't feel badly when you beat it up, realize it isn't exactly what you want etc. Easier to pay cash for it too.

              But if you really know what you're doing (I didn't when I bought my first boat) then maybe you can skip the starter boat.

              We were a bit forced to buy a brand new boat with the second one as there was a major design feature that simply couldn't be found on a used boat at that time and that we were set on having (and wisely too.) But it allowed us to get exactly what we want and know all of the boat's problems from the beginning. Boats are much more individual that way than cars. One Corolla or Sequoia is pretty much like another one; not the same with boats. So if you can afford it, I wouldn't feel a bit bad about buying a new one. Yes, it will depreciate like crazy. Yes, you will throw money at it hand over fist. Know this going in. If you can afford it, enjoy it and don't feel bad.

              So if you're buying new, you probably can't pit one dealership against another. You're stuck with the one assigned to your area. The best time to buy is October-November. The second best time to buy is the boat show at the end of Jan beginning of Feb. The worst time to buy is memorial day weekend.

              Expect a discount between 8% and 20% off MSRP on a brand new one. If you're buying the 2017 model in October 2017, maybe 20%. If you're buying the 2018 model in May 2018, maybe 8%. If there are two different brands you would be equally happy with, then you've got better negotiating leverage to work one dealer against another. But if you're set on a specific model, you're kind of stuck.

              If you're buying used, there's a blue book. I'd just use that to know if you're getting a great deal. Again, best deal in October, worst deal in May.
              Helping those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street since 2011


              • #8
                I would wait a year - boats are the first to go when the economy starts tanking. I got to think at some point in the near future the chaos in the White House will create havoc and wha-la... cheap used boats


                • #9
                  Another is if the size of the boat is sufficiently large -- consider one with a bed, head and cooking element =  depreciation as second home.



                  • #10

                    I would wait a year – boats are the first to go when the economy starts tanking. I got to think at some point in the near future the chaos in the White House will create havoc and wha-la… cheap used boats
                    Click to expand...

                    So true.  2009 was an awesome time for boat deals.  We live on a lake.  In our area boats rarely go on sale.  They were over 40% off.  Having said that, if you can afford it, you may not want to miss out on the boating fun waiting for another recession.  We did get a great deal on our first deck boat years ago by buying a new boat that was a couple of years old that hadn't sold from their lot.  In our area anyway, if you can buy used from a private owner in late summer/early fall you can pick up some good deals also.


                    • #11
                      All very good info.

                      This is actually our second boat.  The first boat I bought used about 6 years ago, but ended up selling it last spring since our family had outgrown it.  And WCI you are correct, I "banged it up" quite a bit: gouges in the hull from trailering it, tearing off lower end unit while cruising at 30 mph, and tearing off the front trolling motor mount are some of the more memorable bumps and bruises.  Good times.  Fortunately I still made out pretty well, eventually selling it at only $700 less than I bought it for.

                      We have a boat show in the area in January so maybe will try and pit a couple boat dealers against each other.  In the meantime I'll keep a lookout for used ones and pray for the next great depression.   




                      • #12
                        I can perhaps help on this, to put into perspective my father deals alot with boats I have followed him in many of his deals, about 10 deals in 3 years, he did it for a living for a bit.

                        I am not really  familiar with US laws about this but there is a big thing in the European Union where boat taxes are zero between all borders, so all you pay is shipping. You might want to look for any small benefits like that and consider buying from far away because often you pay less - here is what I mean and this is completely for dummies (no offence, just want to simplify)

                        If you are at sea and wants to buy a boat be careful of where you buy the boat, if it was a lake boat, or used on a lake it will cost you quite some money depending on how good quality of a protection layering you want. Lake boats have less problems with algae and whatnot that sticks to your boat.

                        On the other hand, someone who made the mistake of buying a boat used for lakes will sell it cheap if he is on the seaside, these will come up more often than you think because people don't really think a lot of boat buying, they think you buy drive sell, and thats where you can save alot.

                        A healthy tip for any boatowner is buying a boat with less additional equipment, for example glasses and such minor detail, these will bump the price up significantly because the exact same glass "used" for boats will cost three times its "land" counterpart. It is a dumb marine thing and saving up on those can be huge.

                        The last tip I can give you is to contact anyone who is in a village or a smaller town, especially elderly, they don't see how big the market is and any calls will make their day, they are often easy "prey". This last one is a bit dirty and I am not sure if that sits well with the forum hopefully it is fine.


                        Thats stuff I can tell you, pretty basic but hope it helps.


                        • #13
                          One thing to consider is tax.  Some states tax boats differently than a car, for example.  In my state, if you buy a used boat, you don't pay sales tax.  Might be a substantial savings, and worth paying almost new price for a used boat.

                          As far as buying advice though, shop far and wide.  Be willing to travel 1,000+ miles and you may get a nice discount.


                          • #14
                            Michigan and Wisconsin are probably the best states to buy a boat. I have a used pontoon boat that I both got for $6k and that was 10 years ago. I can't tell you how much fun we have had as a family on that boat. But we use it maybe two weeks a year. Buy used. You're not going to use it enough to justify buying a new boat for 60 or 70k.


                            • #15
                              WCICON24 EarlyBird
                              Prices back in 2008 and 2009 were ridiculously low in San Diego.  Prices in Michigan were far lower still.  There was a serious opportunity for geographic arbitrage by buying a used boat in the Great Lakes and trucking or sailing it to Florida or Southern California.  Just make sure that the design you buy on a freshwater lake will work well in the Inter-coastal or in the open ocean.

                              Keep in mind that while the initial purchase price of a boat might be a bit lower or higher, you still are going to have to deal with slip fees and recurring maintenance costs.  There's more than a little truth to the phrase that "a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into".

                              Lucas, what's so special about these two models of boats that you need one of just these two?  Jim Dahle wants a wakeboat that goes fast and kicks off a pretty good sized wake.  Apparently this is a pretty recent innovation, so he was well served by buying a new boat.  What makes the boat that you're looking at buying unique?

                              I wouldn't wish for the next economic downturn too soon. That said, it things go sideways before long, then it might be a great time to buy a used boat.  Just watch out for the recurring costs.  It's a good idea to splurge a little on memorable one-time events.  Be careful about adding ongoing costs that you have to pay whether you use your boat or not in a given quarter or year.