December is the BEST Month To Buy a New Boat - 12/16/2009

December is the best time to buy a new boat and get a great deal. In fact, if you’re looking for a bargain, between December 14 and the end of the year is the best time of all. In this “Special Section” we are featuring some of the most affordable well-constructed boats built in America today. Remember: It is the Best of Times (for Buyers), and the Worst of Times (for Sellers) – is the second half of December.

If you find a dealer showroom that is full of boats like this one, you have come to the right place. The dealer will be very glad to see you in December.

If you are like most boat buyers, chances are in December you are too distracted by gift-giving, family travel plans, office parties, and a host of other once-a-year complications to give boat-buying much of a thought.

The boating industry has long abhorred the month of December for just that reason. Historically, this is the month with the lowest new boat sales and as a result most builders do not even advertise in December, which, of course, helps fulfill the promise. Dealers, too, pull in their marketing horns, close their showrooms early, give sales staff time off for the holidays and generally try to reduce expenses that month, treating it as a lost cause – which, once again insures that it is.

This is a chart of the best dates in December to get a big discount on automobiles. The same concept holds true for boats.

Behind the Scenes

In December dealerships have their accountants going over their year-end books and – if they were lucky enough to make a small profit -- are trying to minimize their taxes by paying bills and blowing out non-current inventory to get it off their books. Dealers that have no taxes to pay – which unfortunately this year is far more likely -- are desperate for cash to meet their floor plan obligations, rent, payroll, and as a result are often willing to make a great deal for the consumer, just to make their financial ends meet.

All of this means that the last half of December is a perfect storm for the aggressive buyer. Ironically, most aggressive buyers don’t know that and figure they’ll wait until May or June when dealers will be “desperate” to sell unsold 2010 model year inventory. But the fact is, dealers are much more desperate in December to get rid of his 2009 models!

Model Year Date Forces Action

Long ago the boating industry followed the lead of the automobile industry and started introducing the new model year in August or September. That means this fall dealers have been selling both 2010 and 2009 models. Guess what? Those 2009 models turn into non-current pumpkins at the stroke of midnight Dec. 31st!

Every dealer in the country is motivated to get rid of 2009 models because on December 31st the perceived value of that boat drops! And some dealers still have 2008 models in inventory. How about that for a little dealer motivation!

Boats Don’t Change Much

In reality, the differences between model years can be subtle, and because 2009 was the worst year in recorded history for the boating business most boats have changed not at all. Many builders are simply reprinting their 2009 brochures changing only the date and a couple of pictures.

With only a few exceptions, the 2009 boat you buy will be the same as the 2010. The biggest difference, in fact, will come when you go to sell the boat, and then – all things being equal – a newer model should be worth more. Increasingly, however, buyers are becoming more savvy, and are paying more attention to engine hours and the overall condition of the boat than the model year.

Best Time for Small Boat Buying

Because large boats are more of a considered purchase and are more likely to be used in cooler months, their sales distribution is more even around the calendar. Small boats on the other hand, are used when the days are warm and summer is looming. In fact, the largest selling month for small boats is July.

The dealer knows that. When a buyer comes in and makes a reasonable offer on a small boat in December, the dealer is forced to think about a small profit now vs. sitting with the boat until June or July. Let the dealer make a little money, and you can probably get a great deal.

Sales Goal Bonuses and Rebates

There is something called an “Objective Bonus” that few boat buyers seem to know about, but which can be worth an extra discount. It’s a simple concept: The owner of the dealership sets targets for sales for each month and quarter. Sometimes the boat builder might do the same thing. If they sell a certain number of units by the end of the month or quarter, they get a bonus from the dealership or the boat builder.

If you time your purchase for the last few days before the calendar switches over, you might find yourself negotiating with a salesman or sales manager who knows he needs to sell just a few more boats to qualify for a big check – so he’s willing to take less from you in order to get one sale closer to his quota.

Buy on Saturday

The day of the week you go shopping can change the amount you’ll pay as well. In most weeks, the biggest discounts tend to fall on Saturdays. As the general quality of boats has improved across the board, dealers have become acutely aware of all the competition they face from other brands. They know that when boat shoppers leave the house intending to make a purchase, they generally do.

Some dealers tell us that if they don’t give customers enough of a discount to close the deal on Saturday, they will go down the road and buy somewhere else. “They’re shopping on Saturday when Mom and Dad have the time, and maybe the kids, too, and they intend to buy that day,” one dealer told us.

Buy on a Holiday

Look at the chart above showing when are the best days to get a bigger discount on a new car. The same holds true for boat buying: buy when you are the only game in town. On the days before holidays most people are wrapping gifts and getting ready for parties. If a boat dealership is open that day, chances are good that you will be one of its few shoppers. It could be your lucky day.