So you're thinking about buying a boat? The first thing we want to say is congratulations—because your entire lifestyle is about to change for the better in a big, big way. But as you daydream about the wind blowing through your hair and the cool spray flying through the air, another little voice in your head may be whispering words of caution about the boat buying process. A boat is a substantial investment, so this is perfectly natural. And we’re here to help answer that voice by making sure you enter the process fully educated about all of the ins and outs of buying a boat. We want you to feel 100-percent confident in your decisions as you join the boating world, and to that end, we’ve put together this list of 10 questions you should ask your boat dealer—no matter what sort of boat you’re purchasing or when you’re getting it. So be sure to ask:
1. Are you a Certified Dealer?
Not all boat dealerships are Certified, and those that are have entered a voluntary Marine Industry Certification program in which they demonstrate to third-party reviewers a commitment to meet or exceed high standards for customer service, employee satisfaction, facilities, and business practices. Certified Dealerships undergo an audit of their business, and then continuous education to understand the best ways to serve their customers. They also pledge to abide by the Marine Industry Consumer Commitment to provide fair and equal treatment to all of their customers. We’re listing this question first because it’s probably the most important one to ask. You can find state-by-state listings of Certified dealers
2. Do you service everything you sell, and/or have service relationships with other nearby businesses?
Most dealerships service the boats, motors, and trailers that they sell, but not all do. Fortunately, however, dealerships that can’t service one part of a package or another often have established relationships with nearby businesses that do. This isn’t uncommon because there are some mechanics who specialize in one brand of outboard or another, some technicians who specialize in gel coat repairs or structural repairs but not vise-versa, and in some cases special state certifications may be necessary to service trailers (which often have different legal requirements since they’re regulated by on-road motor vehicle administrations).
3. Is your service staff certified by the manufacturers of the products they work on?
This won’t always be the case, because not all manufacturers certify technicians to work on their products in specific. But many do, and you can take an extra measure of confidence in the dealership’s service abilities if they have techs who have gone through manufacturer-specific training and certification.
4. Will you help me learn about my new boat?
When your boat gets delivered, many dealerships will be willing to hand you off to a knowledgeable staffer who’s familiar with the boat, for an hour or two of instruction out on the water. This can be an invaluable experience even for skilled boaters, since every different boat model has its own unique systems.
5. Can you help me arrange financing?
Boat Financing is obviously a big part of the buying experience, for most boat buyers. And fortunately, dealerships can usually assist you with getting all arrangements in order. In fact, it’s in their interest to help with financing since it’s the simplest way for them to make sure the boat-buying process goes smoothly and quickly. And the majority of the boat buyers out there do end up financing through the dealership they buy from.
6. Can you help me arrange registration?
Registering a boat is a different process from state to state, and the vast majority of the dealerships out there are familiar with the regulations and paperwork that will be necessary for the state you live in. But there are some situations, such as crossing state lines when making a purchase, that can throw a monkey wrench into this part of the process. Be sure to ask ahead of time, so figuring out how to register a boat doesn't become an unexpected problem.
7. Can I have a couple of references?
It’s always a good idea to speak with a few people who have already gone through the boat buying experience with a dealer you’re thinking about buying from, to get some second opinions. It’s true that these days most people look at reviews online, and while these can be useful, they should also be taken with a grain of salt as there will always be some unreasonable people with an ax to grind, and others who sing praises with a bias. When it comes to unbiased opinions nothing beats speaking first-hand with other people who have already gone down the very same road. And any reputable dealership that establishes solid relationships with their customers should have no problem providing you with all the references you want.
8. Will you come to my dock or marina to service the boat?
Not all dealerships can offer mobile service and those that do usually charge a premium for it. But finding a dealership that does offer it can save you a lot of time and headache down the road, so the availability of mobile service should be considered a huge perk.
9. Is your dealership involved with the community?
The answer you hear may not directly affect your purchase, but it does give you some insight into the type of organization you’ll be dealing with, and what sorts of priorities its leadership promotes.
10. What’s your favorite boat, and your favorite place to go boating?
Okay, that may sound like an odd question to ask, but it’s an important one. The vast majority of the people in the boating business are boaters themselves. They love boats, they love boating, and they love introducing new people to the boating life. Dealers and salespeople who fall into this category are more likely to go out on a limb to help you in any way they can, because they don’t just want you to be a happy customer—they truly want you to be a happy boater. Added perk: you might just find out about some cool new spot to visit, or hear about a fishing hotspot you didn’t know of before.
Are these all the questions you should ask your boat dealer? Heck no—you should feel free to ask them about anything that pops into your head! But be sure to keep these 10 questions in mind. Because if you pick the right boat and the right boat dealer, your lifestyle is about to become a whole lot better.
See Working With a Boat Dealer, for more insight into the buying process