Thomas says MarineMax, the largest boating retailer in the country, has reduced the asking price of boats to the value price mark, based on supply and demand. Buyers are still welcome to negotiate, he says, but his remaining 2007 models, for example, have already been lowered to the invoice price. Incentives won't be as generous as they have been in the past, Thomas also says.
"It's definitely a buyer's market out there," he explains. "But if you plan on going to a show when it opens to scout out a deal and then come back the last day to make the buy, you're probably going to be out of luck. Shop early and lock in the deal with a refundable deposit." Up to 95 percent of Thomas's sales are generated at shows.
Thomas also warns the current credit crunch has triggered tighter loan guidelines. Banks are not necessarily charging higher rates for boat loans, but they are requiring larger down payments. Don't be surprised if you're asked to produce personal financial statements for the last three years, proof of income and a credit history. The "sign-and-drive" policies of the past have tightened considerably, Thomas explains.
"We can't control the cost of gas or a barrel of oil," Thomas says. "But boating as a sport is still very affordable. If a typical family gives up dinner out at a nice restaurant and a movie once a month, they'd save enough to make a boat payment. Boats get the kids outdoors fishing and let you have fun with the whole family. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."
Ft. Lauderdale International Boat ShowOctober 30-November 3, 2008
104th New York National Boat Show December 13-21, 2008
Miami International Boat Show February 12-16, 2009