While many people dream of purchasing a new boat, very few people look forward to the back-and-forth haggling process associated with buying one. Talking a sales professional down in price is about as exciting as a root canal. For some people, it causes just as much discomfort too. However, it is a necessary process if you hope to get the best deal on your new boat.
Negotiating a great rate for your next vessel can put thousands of dollars back into your pocket – but navigating salesmen, dealerships and purchasing a new boat can be intimidating. You’ve got to work hard to keep yourself and your needs in mind.
You don’t want to miss out on this guide of thirteen clever ways you can make sure to get a great deal on your next boat!
Never Buy on a First Visit
The first time you visit a boat dealership should be all about getting a feel for the lay of the land. You want to find a salesperson whom you can work with and browse through their entire inventory of boats. Consider any sales promotions they might be offering, do a little bit of research on the brands they carry and get some price comparisons. You may find that you want an entirely different boat than what you originally thought before you shopped the dealerships.
Sales personnel love to get you to commit to a particular make and model on your first visit. They count on the fact that you are already there and are ready to make a purchase. In their minds, a salesperson’s whole job is centered around getting you to act on your impulses.
If you want to get a great deal on a new boat, make it clear that you aren’t about to make a purchase from the very beginning. Let them know that you are visiting every dealership in the local area to get the best deal for your boat. This opens up room for discussion on price and keeps some hungry salesmen at bay for a while.
Establishing your intent to shop around can make negotiations feel more relaxed, but it is more important than that. Because you have already committed not to make a purchase today, you have some vital time to go home, sleep on it, and compare prices on similar makes and models the following day.
When you do go home, make sure you use this time to research your boat online. Call around to other dealerships in your state to see what they charge and what all is included for that price. This type of direct comparison gives you the ultimate leverage when negotiating a stellar deal on a new boat.
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Don’t Shop Locally
We hear all the time that we need to support small local businesses to build up our economy. However, you may need to do just the opposite if you want to get the best possible deal on a brand-new boat. Expand your search radius to 100 miles or more from your home so that you can get the rock-bottom price you have been searching for on your next boat.
Depending on where your boat is manufactured, freight costs may be lower in certain parts of the country. These costs are factored into the overall price of your boat when they arrive at the dealership near you. As a result, you may find a better deal by searching for boats that are closer to a manufacturing hub that did not need to be shipped quite as far. You could potentially save thousands of dollars with this one savvy move.
Keep in mind that you may be responsible for shipping charges to get the boat to you. Alternatively, you could pack up your truck and go for a little road trip to bring your new baby home.
The bottom line is that you should always do your homework when it comes to what the boat will cost in other parts of the country. This information is essential when it comes to haggling with your salesperson. You may even be able to convince your local rep to match the price you find at a dealership just a few miles up the street.
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Dealership vs. Dealership
Many people can tell that the dealership they favor has more wiggle room in their price, but they need some leverage to chisel down the price tag. Because you are shopping at multiple locations throughout your state (and possibly even beyond), you want to take advantage of how effective it can be to pit one dealership against another.
Here is how it works: You head out to the first dealership to discuss a particular make and model. Maybe they carry the exact brand that you are looking for, or perhaps they show you something remarkably similar. Throughout the afternoon, you bicker back and forth with them until the price is to your liking.
Once you have that piece of paper in hand, you head to the second dealership. Tell them what you were quoted and all of the pertinent details of that sale. Don’t be afraid to let salesmen know that you have money ready and waiting to buy a boat today if they can do better on the price.
Nine times out of ten, a salesperson will suddenly be able to match the price from the other dealership or even go slightly lower in an attempt to secure your sale.
Many people resent this method of negotiating with the dealership because they feel that it is tacky to quarrel over dollars this way. However, leveraging an excellent deal at one dealership against another dealership’s offer could potentially save you thousands of dollars. When it comes to negotiating your way to a cheaper boat, don’t be shy!
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Keep Trade-In Value Separate
Once you settle on a particular boat, your sales representative will likely ask you more questions about your current boat. They may want to nail down the particulars about what you have and give you an immediate estimate of its value. Of course, this trade-in value gets factored into what you will owe on your new boat. With the trade-in value handy, the actual purchase price of your new boat seems significantly less.
This is precisely the mind trick that your sales rep is hoping will happen. Suddenly, that new boat seems much more affordable because you have shaved thousands of dollars off of the out-of-pocket cost.
The best way to get a good deal on a new boat is to refrain from muddying the waters. Negotiate the price on your new boat first until you are delighted with the result. Once you achieve this monumental feat, then you can discuss the potential trade-in value of your current boat.
Keeping these transactions separate makes it crystal clear what you are paying and what you are receiving. You may find that they aren’t willing to give you fair market value for your old boat when all is said and done. Selling it privately may be the better option if you can afford to hold onto it for a little while and spring for your new boat at the same time.
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Don’t Lowball Your Sales Rep
While getting a good deal on your new boat is essential, you should also have a little bit of respect for your sales rep and the dealership. After all, they have to make a living too. You can get a good deal and make sure that your salesperson gets paid without unnecessarily padding his wallet with fat stacks of cash.
Consider the manufacturer’s suggested retail price on the new boat that you are considering. Throughout the industry, the typical markup on a boat is about thirty percent. Keep in mind that this does not include the company’s overhead, which hovers right around twenty percent. There may not be as much wiggle room in the price of a new boat as you initially imagined there to be.
Throw out an offer than feels reasonable given those numbers. Remember that it is worth it to pay a fair price for your boat and to be viewed as a valued customer, mainly if you will use the dealership to service your boat and maintain your warranty.
In the end, negotiating with a reasonable number in mind can help you to build a much more positive relationship with your sales rep. It can save you from significant disappointment, and it can even shorten the amount of time you spend at the dealership haggling over the cost of your new boat. It’s a win all the way around.
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Discounts for Ordered Boats
Do you want a good deal on a boat that your dealership doesn’t keep in their inventory? Asking for an ordered boat may be another clever maneuver that can score you some small savings. Think of it this way: if the boat isn’t taking up space in the showroom, it doesn’t really cost your dealership any money.
Boatbuilders often give dealerships a discount if they have no floor-planning loan system in place. The dealer ultimately gets a discount when a boat is ordered without this system in place, so you should too. Keep in mind that this may not be the savings that are going to blow your mind, but every penny adds up when purchasing a new boat!
Expect to receive a discount of around five percent for an ordered boat. Remember that this boat is going to have to be ordered. You will have to wait a little while longer to receive your vessel, but it could be worth it for the cost savings.
Time the Seasons Just Right
Is there a right and a wrong time to purchase a boat? According to many experts and experienced sales professionals, there is a prime season for boat shopping. However, the exact time of year that is best for your shopping excursion likely depends on your geographic area.
For the majority of people, you can find the best deals on boats when you shop in the late fall and early winter months. Fewer people are interested in getting out on the water, and sales drop off significantly. In addition, dealers are looking to move inventory during these key times and are willing to let “outdated” models go for a lower price. The old year’s models are being marked down as the new models begin to roll in.
Not to mention, their sales are likely down during these off-season months. Sales professionals (and their managers) are more open to extending price breaks just in hopes of making a simple sale during these slow seasons. After all, they still have bills to pay year-round even though boating season lasts for only a few months.
If you live in warmer or more temperate climates, the seasonal changes may not affect you as greatly. Business is likely to be slower during the winter months when fewer people are on the water, but it won’t have as big of an impact as it does for someone who lives in a more northern region.
Attend Local Boat Shows
If you are in the market for a new boat but aren’t sure exactly what you want yet, attending a local or regional boat show is a great idea. This allows you to see multiple makes and models all in one convenient location. You can do a great deal of market research without extensive traveling and shopping at multiple dealerships.
Not only can you see a wide variety of boats, but you also find spectacular deals at boat shows. Many of the most popular models will have steep discounts. If you already know exactly what you are looking for, then attending a boat show may be the moment you have been waiting for to sign on that dotted line for a new seaworthy vessel.
Of course, you may want just to get an idea of the number on that brand-new boat you have had your eye on. Go home and sleep on it for a few nights before you decide to pull the trigger. Many dealerships will tell you that they cannot match the price from the boat show, but they may get pretty close if you press hard enough. After all, if they were able to drop it so low just a few days ago, why not do the same right now?
Boat shows go on throughout the year, so keep your ears open for the next one in your area. During winter, you often see more boat shows in the southern part of the United States. Springtime may bring more shows to the northern states that are just beginning to open up for spring sailing.
Hire a Professional
Do you hate the idea of haggling over a price sticker? The idea of discussing money makes some people extremely uncomfortable, but it’s the only way to ensure a good deal on your next boat. Some people hate the negotiating process so much that they turn to a professional to broker their next deal on a new boat.
If you are considering an extremely expensive boat, you deserve to get the absolute rock-bottom price on it. A broker knows the ins and outs of the industry. They are familiar with the specifics on the boat you are interested in (or they will quickly familiarize themselves with it). They have a history of working with various dealerships and boat manufacturers to ensure the best deals for their clients.
When it comes to boat shopping, what you need is a network. You need someone who is going to perform market research, build rapport with sales professionals, and be absolutely ruthless about getting you the best deal.
While you will pay some small fee to a broker for this service, it is a great way to get the best deal while saving yourself the aggravation of negotiating a deal. You may even be able to avoid setting foot in a dealership altogether.
Come Prepared with Cash
Everyone wants to rest assured that they have a paycheck coming to them. The truth is that your sales rep at the dealership needs your money and a few other good sales to put food on his table at the end of the month. The money you spend on the boat goes directly to his paycheck and helps to cover the overhead costs of the dealership. The best way to get a good deal is the old-fashioned way: show up with cash in hand.
When you tell them that you are looking to make a purchase in the immediate future, you need to let them know that you are a serious buyer. Financing the boat may require more time and let in a little room for uncertainty. On the other hand, cash is king and honestly does speak volumes to your sales professional.
Don’t feel pressured into paying for the boat in full unless that has been your plan all along. Most professional negotiators recommend putting down a serious chunk of change on your boat, though. Consider paying at least ten thousand dollars toward the overall cost of the boat.
Another tip is to arrange for financing through a marine lender in advance instead of waiting for the dealership to arrange something with one of the big banks. You are bound to get more favorable financing terms when you compare marine lenders against one another. Financing a boat is a little bit tricky, so you will want to seek out places that specialize in this category.
Don’t Fall in Love
When you see the boat of your dreams, it is easy to fall head over heels in love with your new seaworthy vessel. You love everything about it from the shape of the hull to the fancy electronics. Unfortunately, this means that you may lose some clarity and sacrifice a great deal of money for a boat that doesn’t meet your needs. Make sure that you specifically outline what you need in a boat before you head out to the dealership.
Take this list with you and share it with the sales rep who greets you. While you may have one specific make and model in mind, the dealership may present a new option that suits you better. Keep an open mind, but beware of some of the shady tactics that dealerships sometimes use to offload their less-than-stellar inventory.
First, you might encounter a dealership where an entire line of boats is heavily discounted. If every model from that manufacturer has a sale sticker, it should raise a few red flags for you. It likely means that they are dropping that brand.
That means that you will have a difficult time getting your boat serviced in the future if they no longer stock the parts or offer repair services. Make sure to call the manufacturer and check whether that dealership is a long-time partner or whether they are hosting that sale to get rid of their inventory.
Second, make sure that you don’t fall in love with a boat that significantly exceeds your actual needs. It isn’t uncommon to find a salesperson who will show you a boat with a more powerful engine, more seating, or extra frills that you don’t truly need or want. Falling in love with a boat happens swiftly if you aren’t diligent about sticking with your needs and wants.
It is a salesperson’s job to get you to buy a boat. It is even better if they can convince you to purchase a boat that costs more money. If you find your sales rep trying any of these tactics on you, be smart enough to walk away from the deal. Try another dealership or come back on a different day to work with someone else.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
When you settle into the office chair to begin the negotiating process, many potential buyers start to feel trapped. They are uncomfortable with the entire notion of haggling, and they don’t know or how to extricate themselves from the situation. Remember that this process is relatively simple and can only have one of three outcomes:
- The salesperson can accept your offer.
- The salesperson can decline your offer.
- The salesperson can issue you a counteroffer.
People often build up the negotiating process to be something scary, but it boils down to those three components. Spend a little time with your sales rep going back and forth about the price of the boat. When you feel like you are stuck spinning your wheels with the conversation and you have reached an impasse, be prepared to walk away from the table completely.
If you came in prepared to pay for the boat and don’t get the deal that you were expecting, it is perfectly acceptable for you to rise and walk out. This bold statement may even be just the factor that you needed to push you over the edge and into the deal of your dreams.
If you have to walk away, make sure to follow up with the dealership the following day. Ask them if they have had some time to consider your final offer. Waiting an extra day for your salesperson to mull over your offer could work like a charm. Sometimes, you may just find yourself back in the office on your own terms!
Skip Buying a New Model
Are you sure that you really need a brand-new boat? Many people find that they can be just as happy with a boat that has very few hours and miles on it. An extremely lightly used model may meet all your criteria and score you substantial savings.
There is never any shortage of used boats. People trade them in or sell them back to the dealership daily. They may have wanted to upgrade to the latest and greatest model. Perhaps they are downsizing or switching to a different type of boat altogether. Some people sell their boats because they just don’t spend enough time on the water to warrant paying for the maintenance and upkeep on a vessel.
If you are experienced with purchasing boats, foregoing a new model may make more sense for you financially. Keep in mind that you will need to inspect the boat for any signs of wear and tear or areas that will need immediate repair. A dealership is unlikely to advertise these items, so it is up to you to do your homework.
Before you go this route, get a feel for what a slightly used boat should cost by searching the internet for deals in your area. Compare prices at different dealerships or use Craigslist to do a bit of research. You may just be able to save thousands of dollars over the purchase of a brand-new boat.
Confidently Make a Purchase
When you decide to move forward with buying a boat, you need to feel confident that you got the best possible deal. These strategies should help you to gain the traction you need to lower that price tag to a more reasonable amount.
Be sure to hone your haggling skills and prepare yourself with as much knowledge as possible before you head out to the local dealerships!
Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.