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Boat Shows – Buying season

A backlog of unsold 2008 and 2009 boats offers the show shopper a rare opportunity, dealers say

Consumers can expect unprecedented deals at this fall’s boat shows — particularly on leftover 2008 and 2009 models, manufacturers and dealers say.

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“Prices have never been lower, frankly,” says Jim Krueger, vice president of operations for Mainship Corp., of Millville, N.J. “Dealers are carrying the high financing costs for the boats, so rather than paying the financing company, they’re passing those savings along to the customer.”

But when that inventory is gone, the bargain prices will be, too. “Dealers cannot continue to sell boats at these prices and stay in business,” says Krueger. “So these boats that are in the field, now is the time to grab them.”

Consumers should realize that prices have hit rock bottom, says Clute C. Ely, president of Boatworks Yacht Sales in Rowayton, Conn., a dealership for Grand Banks, Jupiter, Blue Star, Cabo and Hatteras. “Probably the most difficult thing for the potential buyer today is not to get greedy,” says Ely. “You might be saying, ‘Oh, that was the lowest price I’ve seen for the boat I want, so I have to beat that.’ That’s just not going to be true. Prices cannot go down forever.”

The best strategy, he says, is to be open, and don’t try to play games with salespeople. “People smell blood in the water and try to skirt around the edges. You’re not going to get anywhere with that,” he says.

Ely will have several yachts at the Newport, R.I., Norwalk, Conn., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., shows, including the 2009 Cabo 40 Zeus with joystick helm control. “That boat can do amazing things,” says Ely. His dealership will also have a leftover 54-foot Hatteras sportfisherman on display. “Someone is going to get an extraordinary deal on that one,” he says.

Once manufacturers begin producing more new models, prices will go up somewhat because costs for raw materials, utilities and insurance continue to rise, says Peter Frederiksen, director of communications for Viking Yachts, of New Gretna, N.J. “Once the existing inventory is picked over, you may not be able to get the boat you want at the same price,” says Frederiksen. “Basically, today’s sale will appear like a bargain tomorrow.” (Viking will introduce the 76 Convertible at the Fort Lauderdale show.)

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The Tampa Boat Show (Sept. 11-13) and the Newport International Boat Show (Sept. 17-20) start the fall season, followed by the Norwalk International In-Water Boat Show (Sept. 24-27), the U.S. Powerboat Show in Annapolis (Oct. 15-18), and the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (Oct. 29 - Nov. 2).

There will be fewer new boats this fall compared to previous years, but well-known builders such as Grady-White, Boston Whaler, Mainship and Sabre will make their presence felt on the show circuit with new models.

Grady-White, of Greenville, N.C., comes to the plate with its largest boat ever — a 36-foot, 7-inch center console powered with either twin or triple Yamaha 350-hp 4-strokes. Like many other big center consoles, the Grady houses a berth, galley and head in the console.

Edgewater, Fla.-based Boston Whaler also has built its largest boat yet, the 370 Outrage, an offshore center console with aggressive deadrise and a plethora of thoughtful design features. “We wanted a very comfortable boat with roominess, accommodations and performance,” says Ron Berman, vice president of product development and engineering for the Brunswick Saltwater Group, Whaler’s parent company. “We started at 36 feet, but to fit all the things we wanted we stretched it to 37.”

Mainship expects to have its new 35 Trawler at the Annapolis show, says Krueger. The 35 rides the same hull as the company’s 34 Trawler, but the builder has rearranged the interior to make room for a second stateroom. The galley has also been moved up to the saloon deck.

Another Zeus-powered boat will be exhibited: the Sabre 40 Sedan, a two-stateroom, New England-style yacht that cruises at 26 mph. And the Back Cove 37, which debuted earlier this year at the Miami International Boat Show, will also be on display this fall. The 37 is the largest model yet for Back Cove, of Rockland, Maine, and its first offering with two staterooms.

Another New England builder, Hunt Yachts of Portsmouth, R.I., will have its 52-footer in the water. Hunt has already sold and delivered two of the yachts, which are built with lightweight materials for optimal performance. The design is a product of C. Raymond Hunt and Associates.

“I tell people you’re getting pilot boat and Coast Guard-boat performance in your recreational yacht,” says Hunt Yachts president Peter Van Lancker. “It will take you at speeds in seas you don’t want to be in.”

See related articles:

- Boat shows - If you can afford it, you can buy it

- Boat Shows - New sailboat models

- Boat shows - Power or sail: Used prices are low, but for how long?

- Boat shows - Powerboat models

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue.