Boat Show Opportunities

Great Opportunity

Boat shows are often a great opportunity to get special deals, rebates, and incentives on new boats, accessories, trailers, dinghies, gifts, clothing, knick-knacks, electronics and more—all kinds of “stuff” for your boat. But (and there is usually a “but”), Boat Shows can be confusing, overwhelming, and intimidating, unless you know how a Boat Show is put together and go prepared.

What is a Boat Show?

Show Organizers organize and advertise Boat Shows. The purpose is to bring together companies with marine products and services, and provide an environment, under one roof or in one harbour, where they can “Show and Sell” to you.

Boat shows occur all around the world and can serve as an excellent boat buying resource for comparing different models and brands. Boat shows also allow you to communicate directly with both dealers and manufacturers.

Shows also promote boating knowledge, safety and protecting the environment today for tomorrow’s boaters. You’ll find many other exhibits and seminars, where you can learn all this and more.

Who Will You Talk To?

The exhibitor who pays for the space could be a Manufacturer, a Distributor, a Marina/Dealer, a Broker, a Supplier, or a combination of these. If a Boat Manufacturer is renting the space, it will have Factory Representatives working the booth, as well as marina salespeople representing the various Marinas/Dealers, who are franchised to sell that brand. Each of these marinas may have brought staff from their marinas to work the booth—the owner, salespeople, service staff, family or friends to help out.


Take advantage of the fantastic opportunity at Boat Shows to view hundreds of NEW boats and other products on display with knowledgeable people to answer your questions. Your plan should be to start with many offerings and narrow down to a short list, expending as little energy and travel time as possible—Boat Shows help you accomplish this.

There are lots of opportunities to explore and discover every type of boat. Once you’re in the Boat Show door, you are free to compare. It is easier to compare makes and models, because they are only a few minutes apart, rather than hours and miles apart. Buyers often walk back and forth across the aisle at Boat Shows many times, as they compare features and benefits.

Don’t Make the Biggest Boat Buying Mistake

Too many boaters buy the wrong boat and are sorely disappointed later. All this could be avoided with a little homework ahead of time.

A few examples:

  • The kids needed a head, but the bowrider didn’t have one.
  • The cottage taxi boat didn’t have a big enough motor and was too bulky for skiing at the cottage.
  • The guy who fell in love with and bought a narrow beam mid cabin cruiser, but it wasn’t roomy enough for his family of “large” people. It looked suitable to him at the Boat Show, but when his family was aboard, it was tippy and wouldn’t perform under the load. Worst of all, it turned out to be an “excuse me” boat. Every time they moved, they had to say “excuse me” because of the small space. We know families this has happened to and they had to cut their holiday short and buy a larger boat to suit them.
  • The bed was too short leaving the feet hanging over the end.
  • There wasn’t enough room for the knees when sitting on the head.

Don’t end up buying the wrong boat. It could you cost plenty to unload it during the first season.

Don’t waste valuable time buying a boat that doesn’t “FIT” your needs.

Do your homework first.

After reading “Buy a Boat With Confidence“, you will be confident to step into the booth and ask intelligent questions, rather than being too timid to leave the safety of the “Red Carpet” (aisle carpet) for fear of asking “Dumb Questions”. You will also know the type of boat that is right for you, before you get to the Show, and you can narrow down your list from many to several, so that you have a manageable list to research thoroughly.

Ask questions, compare, try them out and buy knowledgeably and buy the Right Boat for you and your Family at the right price.

Will your primary activity be waterskiing, day cruises, day sailing, fishing, overnight trips, weekend trips, week trips, longer cruises, cottage taxi, speed, or a combination? What will your secondary activities be? Do you want a boat for fishing but also want to go on overnight trips from time to time? Do you want a cottage taxi but still want to be able to take day long trips and ski at the cottage?

Take the time to identify your primary and secondary activities FIRST; then match up your planned activities with the right type of boat. See Boating Activities and Boat Types.

Ask Questions

Step into the booth and ask questions, and determine which type of boat is best for the activities you and your family want to participate in.

When you walk into the booth, you should see a list of marinas represented. You will be able to identify the people working the booth by reading their name tags or simply asking them their position.

Sometimes you will find that you are talking to a service technician, who may not be a great salesperson, but you can usually learn a lot. Their expertise is service (not sales) and can give you very detailed and technical answers—things you may not learn from a salesperson. Learn all you can from all the people you talk to. Don’t be too quick to discount someone’s knowledge just because they’re not “slick”.

Two decades ago, when I was dumped into a shark pit booth full of hungry salesmen, I donned a manufacturer’s ball cap and carried a chamois as I worked my post around a particular boat. I couldn’t believe how the boat buyers bypassed various salespeople and came directly to me for boat info and pricing. I appeared “non-threatening”. It turned out to be a “win-win” for me and for them. So don’t judge how much people may know by their appearance.

When talking with a sales rep, be honest about your level of boating knowledge and experience. Be straight and he/she will respond with a positive attitude and answer questions at the appropriate level.

Ask lots of questions like what equipment is included in the Boat Show special. The more you ask, the more the salesperson feels knowledgeable, and the more he’ll tell you, and the more you’ll learn. Ask the same questions of several reps at different booths. You’ll be surprised how much more you will learn.

Be sure to try out the boat’s physical attributes. Don’t just stand beside it and admire it, get aboard. For example, sit at the helm, sit on the toilet, lay on the bed etc. Is it ergonomically designed for you and your family or someone with totally different dimensions?

New Boats at Boat Shows

Buying a new boat at a Boat Show is a simpler process, if you have financing in order. Visit your friendly loans officer to determine how much you can spend on a boat, payments and interest. This is similar to pre-arranging a mortgage.

Once at the Boat Show, you’ll shop the boats in your price range. You will also be prepared to compare finance deals offered by several big banks—maybe even your bank.

When you are trading in your used boat, the salesperson will set a time to come and inspect your trade, so the deal won’t be finalized until then.

Used Boats at Boat Shows

If you are looking for a used boat, check with the Marinas, Brokers and Multiple Listing Services who are exhibiting and request specification sheets for boats of interest. Having all your questions answered and equipment lists to compare here can save you miles of driving, money and frustration later.


To get the most out of a Boat Show, go prepared. Knowing how much you can spend and what type of boat you are looking for will not only save you time, but will also save you a lot of money.

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