A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

How much is that boat?

Ask the Average Joe walking down the street if he can afford to buy a boat and he’s likely to say, “No.” Boats, he may say, are a luxury item only to be enjoyed by the rich and famous, not the average, middle-class American.

He may not know that boats, like cars, may be financed. Put some money down and make a monthly payment, like most Americans do on the cars they own. Joe knows he can do this with a car because of all the ads he sees that tell him this – on the radio, in the newspaper, on television or the Internet.

Auto dealers regularly advertise their financing specials, and for this amount down and this amount a month, Joe can be driving the car of his dreams.

The same can’t be said about boat dealers.

While they may advertise in industry publications, they don’t hawk their deals for the general public, and that’s a problem. It’s often said that the boat industry is 10-15 years behind the auto industry.

Here’s another case of that and it’s time to play catch up. The Grow Boating ads, which sell the “boating lifestyle,” are a great start; but if Average Joe doesn’t even know he can afford to boat, they won’t do much good.

Beth Rosenberg
Staff writer
Soundings Trade Only


11 comments on “How much is that boat?

  1. Chris

    It is even more striking at a sailboat show–there was only one or two sailboats for sale in the entire Annapolis boat show that showed pricing…I think that is a huge stumbling block, particularly for new boaters who might be interested in becoming sailors, but just can’t figure out what it is going to cost to start boating. It gives the perception that “if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.”

  2. Wiulson Wright

    And car dealers also advertise how many miles per gallon and other performance particulars letting prospctive buyers know what it might cost to operate theiir new boat.

    Some car dealers and or lenders also write auto inurance into the purchase package…do boat dealers ?

    Car dealers also do a better job of advertising new car waranties

  3. Spike Haible

    We all know the price of a boat or car is a moving object, but it’s always good to see what the dealer expectation is right up front, so I agree that putting the price on a sign and showing some payment options is a good, straight-ahead business practice. It’s no fun going to boat shows, looking at boats, but having no idea what they would cost to buy. The sales pitch for product and price shouldn’t be part of a game, even though I recognize the sales person’s need to engage the customer so he/she won’t just look at price and walk away. Show them the boat, show them the price, and show them the possibilities for payments–all at the same time. Help the customer see what’s possible right up front. One thing I’ve learned about people is that you can never tell how much money they’ve got to spend, so treat them all the same. That old coot in the dog-eared Texaco hat looking at the latest 50-footer just may be a millionaire.

  4. Tim

    I marvel at how many used [and new]boat brokers do not put the price of the boat they are selling in their display ads. Do they think they have something so unique that the buyers are just going to flood them with phone calls. Most buyers, I would guess, want to have a ballpark idea of what a boat is listed for BEFORE they talk to a salesperson. If the script is written well to describe the boat, the price will enhance it to prompt a buyer to call. Real estate, furniture,motorhomes, appliances,whatever…..don’t you want to have an idea of the price when you are looking to purchase? Why is purchasing a boat any different? One thing is certain, if the price is on the product and they still call, chances are you have a “live” one and you are in the ballpark on your ask. If no calls,you probably are not.

  5. Bill

    Mr Boat Show Dealer, Would you rather have 10 salesmen all competing and all trying for that 20% commission or would you rather have 3 salesmen willing to take a 5% commission because they are able to sell more boats at lower prices? If you are the dealer with the low no-hassel price I am buying from you.

  6. JIM

    I am amazed by some of these comments. Of course we need to have prices on boats; but we certainly do not need to become the car business. Think about what you are saying. The day the car dealers introduced rebates is the day they started to fail; and now Ford, Gm and Chrysler-the one time big three-are operating in the red.
    Behind the car business by years? We should concern ourselves with avoiding their mistakes and learn to hold a margin. 5%–are you out of your mind? We are seasonal in most areas and we don’t do the volume the car dealers do. We don’t rust. We don’t get in head-on collisions and our buyers don’t have to own a boat in order to make a living in most cases. THINK for crying out loud.
    Broker boats at 10% because it’s easy that way? Buy the broker boats right and resell them at 20 or 25% or more!! Make me an offer is the weakest sales pitch that was ever, ever created- bar none!!!
    This is America, capitalism works! Follow the car dealers and you will lose, just like many of them have. Learn to make a margin and hold several percentage points on finance and win. Forget the auto industry and work to make our industry a winner. Quit giving product away–jewelers don’t do it and neither does anyone else that wants to succeed. Profit is not a dirty word for crying out loud.
    Our friend Lee from Chrysler said “lead, follow, or get out of the way” Chrysler operated at a profit with him—which way will the boat sales industry go? It’s up to us.

  7. Chris

    Jim, aside from Bill’s comments, please dont equate ‘discounting’ for ‘pricing’. Would it hurt to put a realistic price and operating cost breakdown on a boat? I don’t think so. People want to make decisions, informed decisions if possible, in a very quick amount of time.

    No, boat dealers aren’t car dealers. In many instances it takes weeks, if not months to make a boat sale, and generally not at a show. I don’t really think boat shows are for ‘serious’ boaters/buyers as much as they are for non-boaters and casual boaters.

    Boating in general faces many hurdles–available time, access, etc. We shouldn’t make it more difficult for someone considering becoming a boater by making it impossible to judge the apparent cost of a boat. Give them some info, enough to feel comfortable to talk to a sales agent. I think shows should strive to be great ambassadors of boating, and make shows as inviting as possible. We have a great pass-time, and it bothers me that in many instances show dealers, particularly sailboat dealers, come off as being exclusionary in general or just down right rude to people who just want a little information.

  8. Kevin

    I agree the price of boats are being pushed and pushed, here in the midwest lots of tourney Pro style walleye boats are are pushing 70K loaded up with a 250 outboard and a 9.9 kicker. Yes 70K for a walleye boat you heard right you can’t even sleep in it, no bathroom, it’s just for getting to the fish fast in rough water and loaded with fishing goodies, if there are people who will buy them they will make them,.

  9. Jim Burroughs

    I agree Chris that boat buyers need to make informed decisions on price–not to mention boat quality and dealer quality. A boat show is a great place to do just that assuming the dealer puts on a quality display with trained and informed salespeople manning the display. Great dealers always put pricing and payment information on signage at their displays.
    Trust me, I well know the difference between discounting and pricing after 30 plus years of retailing both cars and boats.
    Dealers worth their salt go out of their way to provide the utmost in information and facts to their potential buyers, especially at a show. We just completed two major shows and sold a number of boats at each one; business is good.
    My point was simply to learn from the car business’ mistakes and not to become them.

  10. Bob

    There are points on multiple perspectives. Automobiles are necessary in everyday living. Boats are luxury items, regardless if it’s a 14 foot aluminum with a 9.9 on it, or a 105 ft mega yacht.

    There are two consumer mindsets. The mindset that shops price, and the mindset that shops for the total package, which includes service after the sale. What is the “perceived value” the consumer is getting? The boat dealer must show a value to the consumer as to why they should buy from them. As a consumer, what’s in it for me AFTER THE SALE? If I don’t care about service, and it’s all about price, then it’s all about shopping the net for the best price. You get what you pay for.

    I want service. I want to be taken care of. I want my boat in proper working fashion during these short midwest boating seasons. The dealer that gives me a competitive price on the product, and delivers the service, and takes care of me after the sale, that dealer not only gets the future business, but gets my referral.

    It is unbelievable to see a 14 foot aluminum boat with 9.9 on the back with a value made trailer going for 10k. It’s unbelievable to see that previous mentioned walleye boat going for 70k.

    A good sale price is what someone is willing to pay, and feel good about the deal.

    Quote base models with competitive pricing, and then do the add ons. I know a dealer in Atlanta that trains his sales reps to sell every possible add on accessory to the boat when they write up the order. They average $1200 of general marine accessories with every boat sold. That’s solid 35-40% margin on sales that the mass merchants would have otherwise received.

    Sell the total package, and deliver it. Be competitive. There is no sin in making a profit. If you can turn boats and make good margin and not give away the farm, do it.

    Price is based on regional economic impact. If unemployment is high in your area, don’t expect to sell a lot of boats at high margin.

    In summary, it is not cut and dried. It is not black and white. You should sell your product to mirror the economy of your selling area. Make every dollar you can.


    Another possibly overlooked factor here is price from manufacturer to dealer. If it’s just too much to start with no matter what you do as a retailer you are doomed to eventual failure.
    My niche now is primarily parts sales, all I do is keep the old stuff running. Here is an example of IMHO usurious overpricing. A small die cast aluminum shifter yoke used in many late great US built popular brand outboard gearcases was $5.40 in 1982. Last years’ price was $45.95. It is now listed at $94.95. This sort of predatory pricing will soon drive any remaining service customers to another recreational persuit, no matter what the level of service expertise of your dealership may be!

    lets see – at the same ratio a $5000.00 boat in 1982 would now be around $88,000.00 today. Are these numbers realistic??

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