The information below I copied/pasted from another forum. I am the author of the original posts on that forum and posted this in October, 2003. This thread and another I will post on Negotiating Tips For A Lower Interest Rate have been 'sticky' threads, remaining at the top of the page and have gotten almost 128,000 page views in that 10 years.
I hope that TF members can use some of the information in here to help them make a better purchase on their next boat.
BTW, here's a link to that other forum if you want to go over there and read the comments posted by that forum's members.....
"This is a long post, but there’s a lot of tricks in here to save $$$$$. If you're in the market for a new boat I hope this helps you out.
It’s boat buying season, so here are some tips that might help you save a few bucks on the purchase of your new “loved one”……that you will later spend on fuel, upgrades, electronics, etc. These suggestions come from my 10+ years as a manager in one of Washington’s largest RV sales companies. I’ve seen just about every buying technique tried by inexperienced people and guess what...they usually end up paying too much.
First, before you ever get serious about buying a boat, it’s important that you determine your needs. And that doesn’t necessarily mean what “lights your fire” at this particular time. For example if you have young kids, be sure to plan for when they’re teenagers with long legs and bigger bodies and are bringing their friends along to go boating. Look at several sizes of boats (not necessarily brands at this point) and try to visualize the amount of room you will need for bodies, skis, tubes, towels, cooler, life jackets, etc.
I say this because when I first started looking for my last boat I was thinking of an 18’ bowrider with an 8’ beam. When I sat in one, I realized that it wouldn’t fit our needs in just a couple of years…not enough interior room or storage room. A boat is a long term purchase and it’s very expensive to have to trade it off in just a few years because it doesn’t suit your needs.
Once you have decided on a size range and type of boat (trawler, sedan bridge, etc.) that suits your needs, start looking online at manufacturer’s sites to see which brands you like. Most of us don’t know enough about how these things are built to be able to adequately judge construction so rely on the reputation of the brand and ask others who own them.
Once you’ve settled on a couple of brands, start looking for dealers, and they don’t necessarily have to be in your area. With the internet it’s easy to find the names of boat dealers a couple of states away who carry the brands you are looking for. Even if you don’t buy from them, they can be used as a bargaining tool when you’re negotiating with your local dealer.
If you have a trade-in, get a realistic evaluation of what it is worth. Check NADA.com and some of the other used boat sites (Yachtworld.com for example) to see what boats of your type are listed for. Keep in mind that if you see your old boat listed for around $10,000 on several internet sites, your dealer can’t give you this much for your boat. He has to make a profit when he sells it.
People with a trade-in get too hung up on what their trade is worth and what the dealer is offering them for it. Believe me when I say that the dealer is good at juggling numbers. If he offers you $8,000 for your trade and you insist on $10,000 he’ll just up the price of the new boat to compensate and you'll never see it. He's much more experienced at negotiating than you are. Also keep in mind that the dealer that takes your old boat in trade has certain costs involved with getting it ready for sale. It’s easy for a dealer to have $1,000 in actual “hard costs” to prep and repair your boat before it hits his showroom. And don’t forget that the dealer has to make a profit on your trade when he sells it. If you think you can do better than what he’s offering, keep your boat and sell it yourself. There's an idea on this below.
If you have a trade-in, the only number you should be concerned with in the negotiating process is the difference between what the new boat costs and what your trade is worth. It doesn’t matter if you deal in “retail dollars” or “wholesale dollars” the lower you can make that difference number the better off you will be. This is the only number you should be negotiating on. Don’t let a dealer try to shift your attention to interest rates or payment amounts because he’s often trying to distract you from what you’re paying.
Dealers often use a “Four Square” technique to keep you distracted and off balance. When they try this, simply tell them that the only figure you’re interested in is the difference cost. As the difference amount comes down your payment will come down.
If you have an outstanding loan on your trade you MUST know if the balance is greater than the Actual Cash Value (ACV) to the dealer. If your boat is worth $8,000 to him and you owe $11,000, you have to understand that this $3,000 deficit is not going to go away. The deficit is called “Negative Equity” and unless you pay that down in cash, it is going to be included in the loan you get when you buy the new boat…and that raises your monthly payment.
If you think you can sell your trade yourself and do better than what the dealer is offering you, strike a deal with him that allows you 30 days to either (a) sell your boat and bring him the value he was offering in cash (plus any tax difference) or; (b) bring him your boat and give it to him at his value that he offered at the time of negotiations. This lets you strike a deal today for the new boat at agreed-upon pricing and allows you the chance to sell your boat and keep any additional profit you might make on it. A dealer should be willing to do this if he wants to sell you his new boat.
If you don’t have a trade or decide you can do better selling your trade yourself you should be negotiating with the dealer on the amount of profit he needs to make above and beyond his total invoice cost.
Here it can get tricky. It’s my understanding that boat dealers are much like RV dealers. They get an invoice price from the factory at one price point. Then, as their order volume increases they get additional discounts (rebates) off that invoice price. This means that if a dealer is a large dealer and he shows you the manufacturer’s invoice you may still not be seeing what he actually paid for that boat. There’s no way that I know of to find the absolute end price that was paid.
I would start by asking the dealer what he thinks is a reasonable profit to make on the boat you’re buying. Let him know if you’ll be financing the boat through his dealership so he knows that he can afford to give up some profit on the sale because he’ll make some profit on the financing. I think it’s reasonable for a dealer to make a decent profit on his boats. He doesn’t deal in the volume that car dealers do so he has to make more on each boat. What you don’t want to have happen is to have him joke with his staff (after you’ve hitched up and driven away) about you being a “Laydown”. That means you paid waaaaaaaaaaay too much. They love Laydowns.
If you have shopped on the internet and found other dealers who carry the type of boat you want, play them against each other. Dealers hate to lose a sale to a competing brand or to a dealer who sells the same brand he does. Don’t be afraid to walk out of one dealership and go to another. If he doesn’t call you back you’ll know that you’ve hit the lowest price he’ll do to make the sale. Just don't be unreasonable in your expectations.
When you are negotiating, it’s probably a good idea to include in your purchase all the things you’ll need to have fun with your boat...dock lines, pfd’s, flares, water hoses, etc. If you can get the dealer to “throw them in” he probably will discount those items below what you would pay if you were to just walk in and buy them. If the dealer has a long-term maintenance program for winterizing, get that too if you think you’ll be keeping the boat for more than just a few years.
There, sorry it's so long. I'd be interested in knowing if this helps anyone with their boat buying process.