Finding the Right Boat Dealer

A reputable dealership is likely to provide good service after a sale, whether you're buying used or new.

You have three choices when it comes to buying a used boat: private party, broker, or dealer. There are advantages to all three, and it’s ultimately up to you. However, if you’re focusing on dealers, here are a few tips to help you find a good one.

First, a boat dealer is someone who maintains an inventory, someone who stocks boats. Many dealers also offer service departments, and maintain ongoing relationships with the builders whose boats they offer. They have a physical presence and reputations that they need to protect to maintain a stable business in their communities.  So dealers often have a bit more at stake than brokers and consignment houses. This can translate into excellent after-sale followup and service.

“If you’re going to buy at the dealer level, you need to start with a reputable dealer,” said Scott Shogren of Pier 57 Marine in Gurnee, Ill.  “Even if the dealer you like doesn’t have the boat you want, you should still work with that person to find you what you’re looking for, because a dealer with a reputation is going to look out for his customers’ best interest.”

One thing you have to accept when you buy from a dealer is that you might have to pay a bit more for a given model. If price is the most important selling point to you, then maybe you should buy from a private party. Shogren said that customers who shop solely on price can be difficult to satisfy.

“The first thing a consumer should do is align themselves with somebody they’re comfortable with, somebody who can offer them all the resources they need, whether it’s financing, service, transportation,” Shogren said. “The second thing a consumer should do, when they do find the boat they want, they should not rely on the dealer to tell them what the boat may or may not need.”

That’s when you need to get an impartial surveyor, something we’ve covered in this blog before. The key is to find a dealer who is willing to address problems a surveyor might find or make appropriate price adjustments to compensate for repairs the buyer will have to make later.

Another advantage of buying from dealer is that you have a little bit of recourse with a dealer if you find something wrong. A  private party might not even even take your phone call. Think of it like buying a used car. If you buy a used car and you have a problem with it first day and you to go back to the dealer, chances are he’s going to do something. Even if he doesn’t pay for it, chances are he’s going to do something to help.

“I think it’s a dealer’s job to look after the best interests of the consumer,” Shogren said. “We work so much on referral and repeat business, and it’s because we treat people right the first time around.”

- Brett Becker

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