Boat Shows

Now is the time to take advantage of the winter Boat Shows to research and shop for your nautical accessories, as well as your new boat. What should you know about a Boat Show?

This is one of hundreds of topics that Doug covers in his “Buy a Boat With Confidence” book.

Here are a few things to consider to get you started:

  1. Dress for “go” not for “show”
  2. Wear comfortable clothing
  3. Leave your heavy coats in your vehicle or cloakroom. Shoes should be clean deck shoes (empty the treads first), runners or sandals that slip off easily. Many exhibitors will expect you to take off your shoes to board the boats
  4. Be sure to take plenty of notes for later review to eliminate boats merging in your mind.
  5. Pick up brochures and business cards for later follow-up
  6. Ask lots of questions
  7. Compare products
  8. Look for a boat that FITS you and your family

View New Products

Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to view hundreds of NEW boats and accessories on display with knowledgeable salespeople to answer your questions. The 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.


The exhibitor who pays for the space could be a Manufacturer, a Distributor, a Marina/Dealer, a Broker, a Supplier, an Individual or a combination of these. If a Boat Manufacturer is renting the space, it may 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. 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.

Learn all you can from all the people you talk to. 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.


Once you’re in the 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.

Ask Questions

Ask your questions and insist on trying out a boat’s physical attributes (e.g. sit at the helm, sit on the toilet, lay on the bed etc. Is it ergonomically designed for you or someone with totally different dimensions?) Salespeople will take you seriously–not mistake you for a “Hull Thumper” (a term similar to “Tire Kicker” in the Car Industry to identify an unknowledgeable buyer).

Remember that no question is a dumb question. 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.

Ask what equipment is included in the Boat Show special.

Used Boat

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

If 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. Usually this inspection and appraisal of your trade will be done after the Show closes unless the boat is nearby.


Buying a new or used boat at a Boat Show is a simpler process if you have financing pre-approved for comparison to Boat Show financing specials.

Other Displays

Shop & research the many displays of accessories, trailers, dinghies, gifts, clothing, etc. at the Boat Shows and talk to factory reps and knowledgeable staff.

Enjoy the Shows

Enjoy the Shows, they are there for you and all the exhibitors are prepared with product, information and knowledge–all in one place. Go with your questions, a note pad and a good pair of walking shoes.

For more information on Doug’s book, click here. With ~400 pages of information, you are sure to find many tips to help you buy right and save money.

Doug Dawson


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