You found her! The perfect boat … the one you have spent months looking for. You have visited her several times, already envisioning the little additions and alterations that will make her your boat. Maybe you are already planning your first trip together.
But first you have to settle on the price. There are two pieces of negotiating advice that everyone – EVERYONE – who has bought a boat will give you right now:
● Don’t fall in love (though it may already be too late), and
● Be prepared to walk away (even if you have already fallen in love).
What! Walk away from your dream vessel? Yes, walk away. It is a buyer’s market when it comes to boats – there are more boats listed than can possibly sell. Even if you have already fallen in love with a boat, you won’t be happy with it for long if your enthusiasm allows you to exceed your budget – especially if you have to make post-purchase repairs. As hard as it can be to walk away from the “perfect” boat, you must be prepared to do it if the seller won’t meet your price. I promise you that for every boat you walk away from, you will find another one – or three – that you can be just as happy with. Here are a few other negotiating tips to keep in mind.
Buying a new boat will allow you to avoid the pitfall of, as the saying goes, “buying someone else’s problems” but you may not have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to negotiating the price. You can, however, ask for extras. Maybe the dealer can sweeten the deal by throwing in life jackets, an EPIRB, foul-weather gear or sailing lessons. Does the boat dealer sell dinghies? Outboard motors? If you buy a new sailboat, dinghy and outboard all at the same time, will the dealer give you a discount? You never know until you ask.
A note about “boat show specials” … They really do exist. But be wary of a special “deal” that is only valid until the end of the day. A reputable dealer’s boat show price will be valid from 15 to 30 days after the boat show ends. If the salesman tells you that you have to sign now to get that price, don’t just walk away … run! (Unless, of course, you have just negotiated for a whole lot of extra goodies that make the offer too good to pass up.)
No boat is perfect, and used ones are less so than new ones. However, you can get great deals on used boats if you have the patience to look at a lot of boats and do your homework. When we finally found the used power boat we wanted to make an offer on, she did not look like much of a deal. She was in bad shape and had been for sale for a long time. The offer we tendered was thousands of dollars below the asking price. The owner countered with a number that wasn’t much lower than the original asking price. We countered with an amount that was barely higher than our original offer, and attached a list of repairs and the estimated cost to complete them. Each repair (and item to be replaced) was listed with the cost AND the reputable source where we found the information (i.e., West Marine and Boat US catalogues, quotes from local boat yards). The combined new offer and total on the repair/replacement list equaled the seller’s counter-offer. The seller was not happy, but that was our final offer. Ten days after we walked away, the seller accepted our offer. (Lest you think we robbed the seller, our first yard bill was double the cost of the boat.)
Watch out for sellers who tell you how much they paid for the boat, or what it cost when it was new. While that can be an interesting bit of trivia, the price the seller paid usually has little relevance when negotiating a deal, especially if the seller overpaid. His mistake is not your concern; getting the best deal on the boat is.
Sometimes, your best bet is to put all of your cards on the table. When I decided to buy a small race boat, I found a used Prindle 19 at a pretty fair price. I knew the seller personally; he had kept the boat in good condition and he was honest about the tired sails. However, fair as the asking price was, I could not meet it – but I really wanted that boat. I told the seller exactly how much money I had to spend, adding that I intended to race her and that I would take good care of her, and asked him to think it over. He accepted my offer, and even threw in a few rigging and beach-cat-sailing lessons. When I had to sell the Prindle, I did the same – sold it to someone who really wanted it and who promised she would use it.
It’s time to fix your top dollar in your head, review our Top Surfing Spots for more negotiating tips, and get out there and make your best deal. Good luck!
Next month: How to Buy Your Boat
Top Surfing Spots
www.bucvalu.com/index.cfm: BUCValu Consumer is a free service for current and/or prospective boat owners to use to help determine the value of a particular boat. Click on the ‘Search for Boat Values’ link on the left. You have to wade through at least one sales pitch (to upgrade your service), but then you will hit hard information about the boat in question. You can also or various BUC’s Used Boat Price Guides – very handy to have in your boating library.
www.dcu.org/streetwise/boat-rv/boat-price.html: Tips on finding bargains on new and used boats, negotiating to get what you want, and pitfalls to avoid – like making certain that your trailer matches your boat. Includes links to must-read articles; one in particular entitled “How to Avoid Purchasing a Stolen Boat”.
http://dbw.ca.gov/Pubs/UsedBoat/index.htm: This California site contains a nutshell version of this Boat Buying Guide. Their best piece of advice is to pre-qualify for a boat loan, if you plan to borrow, so that you know exactly how much money you have to spend.
ww.bizoprefund.com/public/department6.cfm: An interesting website that has nothing to do with boats and everything to do with the art of getting what you want. Well worth the read, even if you think your negotiating skills are sharp. Of course, they would like to you buy Roger Dawson’s book, but the website contains solid information about negotiating – it is worth reading … and maybe even buying the book.
Boat Buying Tutorial
Guide Tips for Buying a Boat
J. Summer Westman took an in-depth study into How To Buy a Boat. I think it is a tour that each of us in the Marine Industry needs a refresher every now and then – especially before you buy or sell your next boat. These same lessons are valuable for sail boats or power boats.
- Part 1 – How will I use my boat?
- Part 2 – What do I really want
- Top Five Buying Tips for Boat Insurance
- Tips on What to Consider When Buying Boat Insurance
- Why does Boat Insurance Cost So Much?
- Steps to Follow When Buying Boat Insurance
- Part 6 – The Budget: Slip Fees and Hurricane Storage
- Part 7 – The Budget: Maintenance Fees and Other Costs
- Part 8 – How to Find Your Boat
- Part 9 – The Art of Negotiation
- Part 10 – Brokers, Lawyers and Contracts! Oh My!
- Part 11 – Survey and Sea Trial
- Part 12 – Transporting your Boat
Here is a handy list of Boat Brokers in the Caribbean