Anchor your boat search with trusted business; ask questions

Buying a boat is a significant investment. Before you go to a boat show or boat dealer take some time to plan what you want and need in a boat.

Why? Every year, BBB receives hundreds of complaints against boat dealers, marine sales and service and suppliers. Most complaints allege contract disputes and failure on the part of the business to give the agreed-upon services or products.

General Questions:

  • Determine how much money you have to spend on a boat and related costs (insurance, registration, required safety equipment, boat cover, accoutrements, storage, repairs, fuel, trailer, additional warranty, etc.).
  • Will you need financing? If so check with your local financial institution for financing rates. A boat dealer may also offer financing, comparison shop.
  • What kind of boating are you planning? Ocean, large lake, river or quiet lake? Sailing, paddling or motoring?
  • What are your plans for the boat? Will you be fishing, tubing, water-skiing, sailing or cruising? Will these activities need you to buy other equipment? At what cost?
  • Where will you keep the boat? Marina, on a trailer at home, rental storage area? What will the storage cost?
  • Are you required to take classes to get a license to drive the boat? How much is the license registration for the boat?
  • How much maintenance is required and will you have time to maintain the boat yourself or will you hire a company to do it. How much will the maintenance cost annually?
  • Make sure you know exactly what is included in the price of the boat. Make sure any extras are in writing. Get the delivery date in writing.
  • What is the manufacturer’s warranty and what does it cover? Will you need to buy warranties on other pieces of equipment in the boat?
  • Do you and your family know how to swim? If not, look into swimming lessons to be safe on the water.

Navigating a Boat Show

Research exhibitors ahead of time. Visit the boat show’s website to educate yourself on the various boat dealers and manufacturers who will be in attendance. This can help you choose which booths you’d like to visit and which exhibitors you’re most interested in meeting.

Ask the right questions. Before falling in love with a boat offered by a dealer, make sure the boat will cover your wants and needs. Find out what extras are included in the price and what other items you will need to buy.

Get All Promises in Writing. Be sure to document with whom you spoke and all verbal agreements (sale prices, add-ons, etc.) made or mentioned. Obtain a business card before you leave and set a time to follow-up after the show. Don’t be pressured to put down a large deposit for fear of losing out.

Research the boat dealer before signing a contract. Go to to see a company’s business review and any history of complaints. Make sure you look up the manufacturer of the boat as well.

Bring someone you trust. Bring someone with you who is not as emotionally or financially connected to you buying a boat. This person may give a different, yet helpful, perspective when talking with dealers or manufacturers.




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