Oct 12, 2023
By Sean Horsfall
It seems natural to ask what the best time of year to buy a boat is. Most people used to buy boats in the spring. Smart buyers look at all the different seasons for opportunities and there are pros and cons to each season.
My very wise wife amazes me all the time by pulling gifts out of the closet the day before someone’s birthday, or clothes for the kids that are perfect for the season. I ask, “When did you get that?” Her answer is always the same: “I bought it when I saw the right thing for the right price.”
Why do we buy boats in the spring? Why do we buy convertibles then as well? We shop for down-hill ski equipment in the early winter, wakeboard and tubes in the summer, Christmas gifts in December, airplane tickets on a weekend when we have time just before the flight, and anniversary and birthday gifts the day before, or day of! For the record, the person I describe above is me to a tee!
All this makes sense, because we rationalize it in our minds that it is logical. Why pay for something before we need it? Right? Have you ever thought of what this type of behaviour costs us? The negative outcomes can be: over-spending, poor choices, and/or extra stress.
Economics is a science that runs on a few “laws” like supply and demand, scarcity, etc. The component that you lose on when you purchase during the commonly “peak” buying times is demand. When demand is at its highest, prices are higher. Conversely, they are lowest when demand is lowest.
Boats are no different at all. Dealers price them highest in the spring, and lowest in the fall and winter. Boat sales being as seasonal as they are, encourage marinas to boost cash flow during the quieter months by selling at a larger discount. They also face pressure from boat manufacturers to commit to next year’s boats which requires them to reduce their current inventory. Add in the availability of demo units (new with full warranty) and off lease/rentals, and you are guaranteed to save money.
All of this can mean smart savings for your new or used boat for the next season. How much? As much as 5-13% off what you would pay for the exact same boat next spring. Tack on any price increase that is likely to come from the manufacturer and you could see savings of 7.5 – 18%!
A common thought is by buying now, my costs go up (storage, interest on a loan, or lost interest on an investment). The only one that is likely true is the last one. What do I mean by that? If you are borrowing money to purchase a boat, the interest and principal are the same total amount whenever you buy. Therefore, by starting to pay earlier, you simply owe less later and recoup that money when you sell, trade, or eventually pay the boat off. It’s “six of one, half a dozen of another”. The storage part will likely be covered by your dealer/marina until spring if you ask.
If you are a cash buyer (money coming from an investment, etc.), you may be giving up some revenue for the months that you are buying your boat in advance of when you were thinking of doing it. If your investments are netting you after tax return that exceed 20% or more, then your argument for waiting for spring could be a valid one. Perhaps you could be my financial advisor in your spare time also!
So you see, why wait? You can make mistakes, be stressed out as “time is ticking”, and pay the premium of waiting until spring. You have time to make the right choices, pick a great boat, and honestly get better service from your dealer as they are not run off their feet with the spring rush. Get to the front of the line; buy in the fall and winter. Have more choices, pay less money, and get more value for your boating dollar. The only downside is the wait until next spring may feel longer than usual!