7 Truths of New Boat Pricing and Used Boat Trade Values

Posted By Sean Horsfall On February 17, 2014

cost MSRP deal

We hear questions like this all the time:

  • "Am I getting a good deal?"
  • "When is the best time to buy?"
  • "Am I getting a fair value for my trade"?
  • "Are boat shows really the least expensive prices of the year?"

They are all legitimate inquires, and to be honest - can be tough to answer. Pricing across the boating industry is variable to say the least. Here are some pricing absolute truths that hopefully help you understand the lingo and evaluate your quote:

  1. Dealers are allowed to charge as much or little as they want for any boat, or any option. The only "rules" that most manufacturers have is that dealers are only allowed to advertise MSRP online.
  2. MSRP (Manufacturer Suggest Retail Price) is set by the brand, is different for each boat manufacturer, and usually well above the market selling price. Some brands have nationally advertised "one price" deals though. We have also seen a few rare occurrences where MSRP is lower price than a dealer needs to sell a boat at in their market.MSRP defention
  3. Exchange Rate, and how a dealer handles foreign exchange purchases, is possibly the biggest difference between them. Ask the dealer how they do it.
  4. "Back end" money from OEMs (paid by the manufacturer directly to the dealer at the time of sale - sometimes called hold backs) are very rare in the marine industry (when compared to the automotive and power sports industries where they are common and often substantial). You cannot count on the dealer being able to earn money in this way.
  5. Boat Show "discounts" maybe partially funded from the manufacturer, or may not. Some dealers may add to them, and will "choose" the level and timing of discounts they offer. Pricing is largely a function of proximity to the boating season and inventory levels. If it is hot, and there are not many boats left in inventory, the any price discounting will be minimal. If it is cold and snowy, and there are lots of boats available, the potential for discounts is higher.
  6. Trade Valuation is another large variable. If a dealer is giving you a price that seems very generous, they may be getting extra for the boat you are purchasing. Conversely, if they are giving you a value that you feel is low, they may be giving you a great price on your new boat. The most important number is the difference. Remember that dealers have access to what boats actually sold for versus what people are "asking" for them online. There can be a huge difference.
  7. The automotive industry measures its inventory on "days" and the marine industry measures it in "years". What does that mean for you? Just that boat dealers cannot afford to cut pricing to near the same level and survive. If they say they can't meet a low value you offer, they likely mean it.

Ultimately the differences are so significant between dealers and brands, that the only way you will be protected is by selecting a dealer who is ethical, and transparent.  Good dealers are part of industry groups (like Boating Ontario Dealers, or NMMA Five Star Certification) that have training requirements, and a code of conduct.

In Eastern Ontario / Southern Quebec, the general rule of thumb is that the Boat Show season is the last time that year to get the boat you want with any possible discount before the season starts winding down in August. By then however, there may be very little left to choose from.

Ask questions, and make sure you are comfortable with the answers. Judge the character, and ask for recommendations from friends, or look for online reviews.