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Do you want to peruse dozens of boats in one place? Boat shows let you inspect products up close with a boat dealer standing by to answer questions. Of course, you can also shop online and have the craft shipped to you without leaving your home. So, is buying a boat at a show a good decision when other options are available?

Pros of buying a boat at a boat show

Seeing a boat in person can tell you many things that photos don’t always convey. It’s easier to visualize how you’ll store the craft when it’s right in front of you. Boat dealers also usually allow you to climb inside and explore the interior. 

In addition, going to a boat show also allows you to connect with numerous specialists, including the competitors of your favorite brands. Of course, because they’re also probably trying to sell their boats, take any advice you receive with a grain of salt. 

Furthermore, you can score exclusive deals at boat shows. Dealers often slash their prices for these events and might even be willing to negotiate the final price. It’s also not uncommon to find promotional offers on extra warranty options, additional gear, or accessories at boat shows.

Cons of buying a boat at a boat show

Most crafts at these exhibitions are only the base models. You might wait several months for delivery after customizing your boat. Additionally, a made-to-order boat is usually more expensive than a used model. Remember that dealers typically don’t showcase used models at boat shows.

And like car dealers, boat dealers might pressure shoppers to buy a boat before leaving the show.

Even more troubling, there’s usually no way to test-drive a boat before committing to buying it. 

How to shop smart at a boat show

If the idea of a boat show sounds too appealing to miss, remember that these events happen only at certain times of the year. According to Barletta Boats, most boat shows happen between January and March. That gives buyers time to secure their watercraft before boating season begins in late April.

Once you know when to go, shopping at a boat show is almost no different from shopping for a new car. Think about how much you’re willing to spend, the size of the boat you want, and the names of trusted boat manufacturers. Boat Trader, Boat Magazine, and even J.D. Power have buying guides to help you make informed decisions. 

Ideally, you also want to buy from a local boat dealer with a good reputation. That way, you can take your boat to the local service department for tune-ups. Bring at least $500 to $1,000 for a deposit, depending on the size of the craft you want to purchase.

Overall, buying a boat at an exhibition can be an enjoyable experience. However, if you’re only in the market for a used boat that can be delivered quickly, you could probably skip the show. 


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