It’s boat show season and a great time to shop for a boat.
It doesn’t matter what your price range is, whether you're looking for your first boat, a replacement boat or even a used boat, visiting these shows where multiple dealers are on hand is a great time and place to research what’s available.
For example, you can learn a lot about pricing by seeing different models like Nitro, Ranger and Triton boats sitting side by side where you can compare features.
But here’s a piece of advice – do a little homework on the internet before hitting the shows. You can visit dealer websites to see what models they offer, perhaps special pricing, and have an idea what you’re looking for before you get there.
Once you get to the show, you likely will have a price in mind that you’re willing to pay and will see many tantalizing “show special” prices that might fit that budget.
However, don’t let that pricing totally influence your buying decision without looking closely at the accessories provided on the boat. Many show special package boats are adequately accessorized, but with minimum standards.
Electronics and trolling motors are two major factors to consider. For example, the show boat may have a 12- or 24-volt trolling motor that will do an adequate job, but will you be fishing in a situation that requires more?
Most package boats come with value-priced electronics with smaller screens. Will that be adequate?
I mention this because it’s better to upgrade at the time of the purchase than wait a year later. Some anglers are willing to wait and see how it works for them, but my advice is to upgrade at the time of the purchase instead of waiting.
Back when I was selling boats at my brother’s store, I can’t tell you how many times buyers came in a year later wishing they had upgraded at the time of the purchase.
If you do it now, you will only pay the price difference. If you wait to upgrade, you will be paying the full price for the new equipment and have to re-sell your original equipment for a lot less money.
Batteries are another consideration. Most packaged boats come with 27 series deep cycle batteries. If you use a trolling motor a lot, or in current or wind, those batteries may not hold up for a day of fishing. Upgrading to series 31s will cost a little more and add weight, but they are worth it for the hardcore angler.
And don’t forget the trailer. If the boat comes with a single axle and you plan to do a lot of trailering or fishing regional tournaments, a tandem axle is not only better for towing but safer. If you blow a tire on the road, you can still tow until you get into a safe area to change the tire. You can’t do that with a single axle trailer.
It’s also a good time to think about other accessories, such as a hydraulic jack plate, boat cover, alarm system and anything else that would be considered a major purchase and one the dealer can install correctly.
A good place to shop accessories beforehand is at T-H Marine that offers just about everything under the sun that a fishing boat owner might want on his or her rig. You can install some of the smaller stuff yourself, but I recommend letting the dealer do larger items for peace of mind and a place to fall back on if something doesn’t work properly.
And while you’re at it, shop insurance once you have a rig in mind. Give your insurance company specs on the boat you are considering so you will know what it will cost you.
Buying a boat is a great experience and one you will remember for a long time. Just do your homework, get the most you can get within your budget, and you’ll be a happy angler for years to come.
And remember, it’s all about the attitude!