By Kelly King and Brian Wilson
Although purchasing a boat, new or used, will never be a matter to take lightly or to rush through, the popularity of the Internet has made researching the buying process easier than ever, putting information about pricing, the best brokers, dealers and industry professionals at one\’s fingertips.
The Internet gives prospective boat buyers instant access to boatloads of information, including detailed specifications, location, and photos of both the interior and exterior of the boat. Many websites even provide virtual tours. Consumers searching for the best deal on the market, can access the listings of multiple dealers and brokers to research the most competitive pricing. The Internet also provides links to organizations and resources designed to inform and protect the consumer, such as the Yacht Brokers Association of America and NADA Value Guides.
Once a consumer has narrowed down his ideal boat to a few choices, he can browse brokered, new, and private party listings on a variety of online sites. The newly launched YachtTraderOnline.com specializes in the brokered large boat market while BoatTraderOnline.com features a wider variety of boats including those for sale by owner or through dealers. Other choices for boat shoppers include Marine Source, BucNet, Boats.com, and Yacht Council.
While researching, prospective buyers should also to consider whether to use a broker or to purchase through a dealer or private party. The web can also help buyers weigh the pros and cons of purchasing through each of these avenues.
In addition to the wide variety of classified advertising websites online, most dealers and brokers have their own websites, enabling online shoppers to explore their entire inventory and become familiar with their personality and priorities.
Like any form of classified advertising, advertising on the Internet should be viewed with common-sense caution. Lurking behind some websites may be an unscrupulous seller. However, by following a few simple rules, a boat buyer can enjoy a safe buying experience. Buyers should E-mail and call the seller. If the phone number listed is not accurate, take care to verify the seller actually possesses the item. Make down payments with credit cards, as charges can often be disputed with card providers should something go wrong. Be careful sending money orders, cashiers checks, or wire transfers unless the item is already in possession, verified to be exactly what was agreed upon, or listed by a certified or licensed broker or dealer. Using a respected and reputable escrow company may also be helpful. Buyers can always contact the Better Business Bureau or a Yacht Brokers Association with questions or concerns.
Being well-informed is critical to feeling comfortable with a boat-buying decision. This is where the Internet is so helpful. Boat buyers can spend as little or as much time as desired in the research process, but the bottom line is the Internet makes the information available and easy to find. The fact that buyers are not restricted to reviewing local boats, but can review boats from all over improves the chance of finding the best deal. A process that once took months or years, can now take a few hours or days. And regardless of whether the buyer is a novice or an expert, there is something to be said for being able to peruse listings in slippers over a cup of coffee before a the brokerage or dealership has even opened its doors.