It’s that time of the year. The dark, gloomy days of winter are getting the better of us. Will the ice ever thaw? Will the sun ever shine?
And then, at long last—a glimmer of hope! A ray of light! It’s boat show season!
Hopes and dreams and acres of boating delights will surround you at the boat show, but how can you make the most of your day? How do you achieve something more tangible than a few shiny brochures?
Go with a significant other, or a really good friend
Some boaters just can’t control themselves. They need to have a “person of reason” with them to successfully navigate the candy land that is a boat show. Take along someone who can keep a cool head amidst all that temptation. Discuss your true needs and budget before you go. Write it all down so you have a logic based plan to refer to while exploring. Yes, that shiny new bass boat looks great! But do you even like to fish?
Time really flies when you’re doing things you love. If you don’t attend until the afternoon, you’re not going to have enough time to see and do everything you want. If it’s a weekend boat show, try to attend both days. You’ll find some of the best bargains toward the end of the second day.
Learn a lot
There are so many opportunities at a boat show. There are demonstrations of gear you’ve always wanted to see and boats you’ve dreamed about. It’s a great chance to ask all the questions you have. There are usually several seminars and presentations to attend. Look online to see if the schedule for your show is listed. If it is, make a plan of all the things that interest you so you don’t miss anything.
Know your budget
If you plan on making a purchase, sit down ahead of time and get realistic about the dollars and cents. How much can you afford? You’re going to be tempted, but don’t stretch that figure. How much fun are you going to have on a boat you can’t pay for? Is having a financial argument with your life partner every month part of your boat dream? Didn’t think so.
Keep an open mind
You may think you know exactly the make and model you want, but this is your best opportunity to see what else is out there. Browse and talk to the salespeople. Check out that boat you’ve never read about. By actually boarding some boats that weren’t on your original wish list, you may find something that suits your needs better.
Narrow down the choices
If you’re boat shopping, picture yourself actually using the boat. Is the head too small to be practical? Can you actually cook in the galley? How hard is it to board? Is there enough room for your family? It may be pretty, but what is the actual workmanship like? Can you service the engine without being a contortionist? Is there a warranty, and if so, how good is it? Is there anything that will make the boat hard to handle, dock, or trailer?
Talk to the manufacturer’s representative
These are some of the most knowledgeable people at the boat show. Bring your detailed questions. Usually, they’re not selling, so they are a great resource and not under any quota pressure. Find out the pros and cons of the equipment you’re considering.
Find the right dealer
Don’t buy from the person trying to sell you something. Buy from the person trying to sell you the right something. Find someone who is knowledgeable and patient, and will spend the time necessary to find out what your needs actually are. You don’t want to invest a lot of hard earned money on something that ultimately doesn’t do what you need it to do.
There are no dumb questions
Boat shows exist to serve people just like you. That’s why they are there. Be honest about your skill level, and talk to the exhibitors. If you do happen to run across one that seems condescending (rare), just move on. You’ll find someone more than willing to help you wade into the wonderful world of boating around the next corner!