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June 23, 2013

Wanna Buy My Boat?

If a pre-owned boat is your only option, here's how to score the best deal without getting burned.

Purchase Order

So now you've got the money figured out. You're still not ready for "Let's Make a Deal." Have you settled on a style of boat? What type of fishing will you be doing most of the time? If the float plan calls for hardcore buddy trips, then a center console is the way to go. Factor in the family unit and you'll be thankful for that cuddy cabin and shade. Narrow your choices beforehand to maintain focus.

Now comes the window shopping, or, more accurately, the pre-screening, as in "computer screen." The Internet is an excellent source of pre-owned boat information (see "Cyber Lot" at right for a list of websites). But be careful. The software programs that automatically calculate dollar values based on included features can be very misleading.

"The prices that boats are really selling for is the magical question," Thomas explains. "Many found online are overinflated because features like power tilt and trim and live wells boost the formula price when in actuality, many of those features are standard on today's models. Buyers want to sell at retail prices and buy again at wholesale, but the real dollar amounts typically shake out at ten to 12 percent less than the asking price.

"Boat dealerships are becoming more like the automotive industry," Thomas says. "Our profit margin is less on new boats so we can establish client relationships and gain service business. We make up the difference on pre-owned. For example, if I allow $10,000 on a trade-in, that boat will actually be worth five grand and

I'll take five grand off the new-boat profit. I'll then sell that trade-in to someone else for $7,995."