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September 25, 2008

Smart Shopping

Score the best deal at the fall boat shows by following these insider tips.

My former economics professor was a big fan of free market guru Milton Friedman, and he often quoted him in class. The favorite line was "There's no such thing as a free lunch." While I believe that statement is true, I also don't think it hurts to take advantage of savings that develop during special circumstances. And this "perfect storm" of unusual market conditions - higher fuel prices, the credit fallout and manufacturing slowdown - certainly qualifies as special.

As a result, there are a lot of great boat deals now available. Buyers can take advantage of them by understanding the dealers' perspective and approaching the transaction with realistic expectations. Here's what several top sellers suggested to make your next boat purchase go smoothly.

"It's definitely not all doom and gloom out there; we're still selling boats and only have a few 2008 models left," says John Eskow with Comstock Yacht Sales and Marina in Brick, New Jersey. This family-owned, full-service dealership has been in business for 35 years. It carries Regulator, Pursuit and NauticStar as its fish boat lines. "The quality of the brands we sell obviously makes it easier. When the fish are biting, people are still buying boats to go out and catch them. Higher fuel prices haven't really affected us," Eskow says.

"Are we working harder to make a deal? Yes. But we're also getting more qualified buyers walking through the door as opposed to those just kicking tires. We have a very positive outlook."

Bill Gilbert, who owns Caribee Boat Sales and Marina in Islamorada, Florida, told me it's important for buyers to do their homework beforehand and be serious about buying if they expect to get a great deal.

"Know your budget and shop for boats in that price range," he advises. "Do your homework before the show so you'll be able to recognize a good deal like a close-out model. And once you negotiate your best price, be ready to complete the sale."