Boat buyers want to end up with good, serviceable craft that fits their needs at a price they feel is fair. The definition of "good," however, is open to debate. Buyers' tastes range from those who want a luxury boat or yacht to others who simply want to be on-water at the lowest price. There are boats for all of them, just as there are Mercedes and BMWs for the luxury car set and Hyundais for the value crew, and all manner of choices in between.
To get a feel for the price of a boat, new or used, visit the pricing guides. On-line guides ask users to enter the brand, model, year, and, if prompted, details about power, options and accessories. Price advice will generally give a range from low to high and may also provide variations as to region of country or use in fresh or salt water. If the buyer is considering several brands of boats with the same lengths and about the same power and options, the pricing guides may help in identifying those that sell at a premium or discount in the marketplace. If a brand or model isn't readily available, enter another brand and model with similar specifications to get a "ballpark" price.
Understand that these online guides are just that: large databases of prices collected from the marketplace. In some cases, the prices may seem comparatively high, or low, which should encourage the shopper to gain more details about the brand, condition and location of the boat, and possibly the vitality and reputation of the builder. The guides are excellent starting points and, if the price range appears about right, suggests the seller is pricing fairly.
For used boats, additional publications and websites that feature thousands of classified ads for boats for sale allow the same price comparison and often show photographs. For popular brands, these guides are useful, especially in locating boats that may be close to home. Other sites, and a number of boating magazines, also provide "boat tests," where an editor has been aboard and operated the craft, made notes about the layout and features, and usually run some standard tests regarding performance, fuel usage, range, etc. If all of this research points in the same positive direction, the boat in question will probably fit the buyer's needs and represents a fair value. If questions are raised in the research routine, then they should be answered before any money changes hands or contracts signed. If answers don't stack up, find a different boat.
Depending on the price and sophistication of a boat being considered for purchase, industry professionals, organizations and others can serve as qualified information sources:
- Marine dealers and brokers: Shop dealers to find out what they say about competing brands. They'll want to sell what they represent, but can add perspective when choosing a brand.
- Boating organizations: National and regional consumer boating organizations and boat clubs have varying degrees of buying advice, on line, in print and word-of mouth.
- Check boating publications and web sites for boat tests and advertisements (and check the archives for more tests over time). What are they saying about the brand and model; how is the brand portrayed in the ads (best buy, best built, best quality, etc?).
- Other owners and friends: Ask for names of other owners to call to inquire about the brand, selling dealer or broker, service capability, warranty experience.
- Certification: Every boat sold in the U.S. must meet basic U.S. Coast Guard standards. Some builders choose to go beyond the basics and Certify their products. Find out if brands are "certified," by whom, and specifically what it included or covered by the certification.
- Marine Surveyors: Larger craft, especially pre-owned, are often "surveyed" as to condition (and sometimes on price) with an accompanying detailed report. If the buyer considers the boat investment significant, a surveyor may be a good idea.
-Marine lenders and insurance agents: Lenders don't want to make bad loans and insurers seek to limit product risk, so ask both (in person or on-line) in advance of purchase if they want the buyer as a client and boat in their files.