Boat shows are a great place to shop for boats, marine electronics and gear for one simple reason: Everything is right there, in one place, for you to compare and contrast. What’s more, marine retailers often offer discounted “boat show pricing” or throw in an extra accessory when you buy at the show. To find the boat show nearest you, check the handy “Boat Show Finder” on the Discover Boating website at www.discoverboating.com/boating/events.
In order to get the most out of your boat show experience, however, it pays to do your homework first. Once you’ve decided which show you’d like to attend, go to the show’s website, click on the Exhibitor List, and note the location of all the vendors you want to visit while you are there. Print out the map of the show and circle their locations so you can plan an efficient route around the show. If you are serious about buying a boat or a piece of high-end electronics, call those dealers in advance and make and an appointment to stop by their display during the show – they might even send you complimentary boat show tickets.
On the day of the show, be sure to wear comfortable shoes! Follow your route and try not to get distracted by all the other tempting boats, gear and accessories that surround you. There will be time to browse through them later. Spend some time talking to the dealers on your list to find out not only about the products you are interested in, but also about the level of customer service they offer. Your purchase should be the start of your relationship with the vendor, not the end.
Don’t buy anything in the morning; take a break at lunchtime to review the notes you’ve taken and the brochures you’ve collected. Then, when you are ready to make a purchase, ask the dealer if you can talk in semi-private, away from the constant traffic through the display. You want their full attention. What sort of incentive can they offer you to make the deal right here and now?
Then, have fun browsing the rest of the show, but don’t forget to save time to stop by the booth of your local Sea Tow operator and say hello. Boat shows are a good place to bargain-hunt, but Peace of Mind on the Water™ is….priceless.