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6 Questions to Ask Your Boat Dealer

Here’s what first-time boat buyers should ask in order to choose the boat that’s best for them.

Gear & Tech
6 Questions to Ask Your Boat Dealer

While many first-time boat buyers start by researching their new-boat purchase online, working with a dealer can be a crucial part of the process. In addition to seeing the features and amenities of the boat models on your list in person at the dealership, having a dialogue with your dealer can help to make sure you purchase the right boat to fulfill your needs.

According to Joseph Smith, director of sales and finance at Berkeley Outdoors, a Mercury Authorized Dealer in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, an experienced boat dealer will start by asking you a series of questions.

“They will ask, ‘How often will you use the boat?’ ‘What body of water will you be using it on?’ ‘Will you be using it for fishing, or taking the family out, or both?’” Smith said. Your answers to these questions can help the salesperson to narrow down the list of boat models that are right for you.

Once you’ve found a couple of boats you want to examine more closely, it’s your turn to ask the questions. Here is a list of things any well-prepared first-time boat buyer should ask the dealer.

  1. “How does the boat perform with this engine package?” Be sure to ask not only about the top speed, but also about acceleration (hole shot) and fuel economy. If you are going to be loading the boat with people and gear, you may want to consider moving up to a more powerful engine or engines. “Make sure you are getting enough horsepower to meet your expectations,” Smith said.
  2. “What new technology comes with this boat?” Today’s boats are often equipped with innovative products and systems that help to make operating a boat easier and more intuitive. As an example, Smith gives the Mercury VesselView Mobile® system, which connects your smartphone or tablet with your Mercury engine management system. “I think it can make the ownership experience that much more enjoyable knowing what’s going on with the engine,” he said.

    Another example is the Mercury Active Trim system, which uses changes in GPS speed to adjust trim on compatible outboards and drives automatically. It takes the guesswork out of trimming the drive for new boaters, and even more-experienced boaters can benefit from the resulting performance and fuel economy.
  3. What options are available?” Boats on display in a dealer’s showroom frequently are loaded with upgrade equipment, such as a higher-horsepower engine, hard top, extended sunshade, marine audio system, lighting and electronics, so customers can see everything that’s available. Make sure to ask your dealer what is included in the base price and what comes at an additional cost. Then review the list of options to see which options make sense for your area and the type of boating you plan to enjoy. “Don’t just focus on price. What you really want to ask is, ‘What is right for my needs?’” Smith said.
  4. “What maintenance is required?” It’s important to learn about everything that is involved in ownership once you take your new boat home. How much maintenance does the engine need, and will you feel comfortable doing it yourself? How often will you need to bring the boat back to the dealership for service? “Ask your dealer to introduce you to the service department team, and get to know everyone at the dealership,” Smith recommended.
  5. “What are the warranties?” Many boats come with a limited one-year warranty, but some manufacturers offer much longer coverage periods. For example, Tracker Boats, one of the brands offered by Berkeley Outdoors, has a five-year bow-to-stern warranty.

    Typically, the engine also will have a separate warranty from the boat. Mercury outboards owned for recreational use come with a three-year limited warranty and the marine industry’s only three-year corrosion warranty.
  6. “Where are the local fishing and boating hot spots?” While not every dealer can tell you where the bass are biting, most of them are extremely knowledgeable about the boating facilities and services in the area, including the boat ramps, marinas, waterside restaurants, fishing guides, etc. If your dealer can’t answer all your questions, it’s a good bet he or she will be able to refer you to someone who can.

Your boat dealer is there to answer your questions, so ask away until you are satisfied. The answers will help you to make the right decision about which boat and engine to purchase, so you can get started enjoying your time on the water.

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