Tis the Season for Boat Shows!

The  boating season is just around the corner and marine businesses are all displaying at Boat Shows to show you their new products.

Between now and summer is the time to take advantage of the winter Boat Shows to research and shop for your new boat and your nautical accessories. Some of you have already had an opportunity to attend a Show and there are many more planned across Canada, United States and Europe.

Manufacturers, Distributors, Suppliers, Dealers and Marinas are there to show you their products. It is a fantastic opportunity to view hundreds of NEW boats and accessories on display with knowledgeable salespeople to answer all your questions. Doing your research and shopping at a Boat Show can save you valuable time and energy–so take advantage.

Dress for “go” not for “show”

Wear comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes. Leave your heavy coats etc in your vehicle or cloakroom. Be prepared to take off your shoes to board the boats. Take a note pad and camera to keep track of details. Too often, one boat blends in with another and it is difficult to remember when you get home. Pick up brochures and business cards, and be sure to ask lots of questions.

Be Prepared

Go to the Shows prepared. Do your homework first!

Involve your family in discussions about what you all want to do with your boat, where you will all be boating, what activities you all want to participate in. Knowing these needs and wants will help you choose the right type of boat to look at and research. It will also help the Salespeople know which boats to show you and also which boats would be a waste of your time and theirs.

There are at least 70 different types of boats. Narrowing down your selection before you get to the Show can save you valuable time.

Don’t be Confused

When you walk into a booth, it can be quite confusing. 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 or simply asking.

Learn all you can

Learn all you can from all the salespeople and other boaters that 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 Boat Show, 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. Walk back and forth across the aisle and compare features and benefits.

Ask Questions

Remember that no question is a dumb question and the exhibitors are there to help you. The more you ask, the more you’ll learn. The salesperson will take you seriously–not mistake you for a “Hull Thumper”–a term similar to “Tire Kicker” in the automotive industry. Ask the same questions of several reps at different booths. You’ll be surprised at how much you will learn.

Ask your questions and insist on trying out a boat’s physical attributes. Sit at the Helm. Sit on the toilet. Lay on the bunks.

Is it ergonomically designed for you or someone with totally different dimensions?

Ask what equipment is included in the Boat Show Special.

Used Boat Shopping

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

If you are trading in your used boat, go prepared. Take a photo and your own spec sheet. The salesperson will set a time to come and inspect your trade. Usually this inspection and appraisal of your trade will be done after the Show closes. Most trade-in deals can’t be finalized at the Show, but you can at least put in an offer and not miss out.

Shopping for Toys

Take measurements of your dash, if shopping for electronics and the sizes and weights of family members, if you are shopping for pfds or clothing.

Taking the right information to the Show will help you to ask intelligent questions and make more knowledgeable comparisons of features, benefits and price before buying. Take a summary of what you want and need to ask.

Shop and research the many displays of accessories, trailers, dinghies, gifts, clothing, etc. at the Boat Shows and talk to factory reps and knowledgeable staff. Inspect, feel, touch and try out the electronics.

Unlike magazines and websites, the Boat Show exhibitors have actual products for touchy feely comparisons: for instance, readability of screens under bright lights (sun), actual size and feel. Make sure you are able to read the screen with your glasses and even more importantly, with your sunglasses. (Take your sunglasses with you to try them out).

You don’t want to get out on the water next summer to learn you can’t read the screen with your sunglasses. Maybe you need a pair of prescription sunglasses or a pair of big sunglasses you can wear over your readers! Whatever the case, now is the time to find out–not after you have purchased the expensive electronics.

Are the controls user-friendly? Is the software user friendly? Compare different manufacturers’ features and user friendliness.

Does it do what you need or more than you’ll ever need? You may want to drop down or jump up a model or two. If it doesn’t do all you need, keep looking.


If the electronics you are buying requires a technician to install it, and you are not the installer type, check out sources of installers at or near your boat before you actually buy the product.

Don’t find out later that the marina either won’t install it because you didn’t buy from him, or they don’t know how or who could install it.

Don’t get caught and have to keep your new electronic equipment in a locker, rather than on your dash.


Most electronics need to be repaired or adjusted as some point. Make sure the manufacturer has an easy and fast procedure for repair and/or adjustment. You don’t want to have to ship it away for 6-8 weeks during your boating season for repairs.

Read and compare warranties.

Physical Size

Only look at and research the instruments that will actually fit on your helm. There is no sense buying electronics that won’t fit your boat. A yacht sized radar isn’t going to fit on a bass boat, and conversely, a bass boat sized bracket mounted fish finder is going to look out of place on a yacht with all the other instruments flush mounted.

Is it really a good deal?

Even if it’s a good deal, it isn’t a good deal, if it doesn’t fit your boat. It also isn’t a good deal, if it doesn’t do what you need it to do. Go with dimensions and a good idea of what you want.


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, a camera and a good pair of walking shoes.

All this and much more is covered in “Buy a Boat With Confidence“. There is tons to know about buying a boat and/or electronics. These are only a few tips. Doug has documented 400 pages of boat buying information.

Prepare yourself with knowledge
Buy Right and Save Money

 Doug Dawson


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