A new year brings many things, including the start of boat show season throughout North America. Boat shows are a lot of fun and they can be great places to pick up incredible deals on everything from accessories to yachts. But with so many distractions and exciting attractions, it’s important to have a good game plan and to stick with it in order to make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals.

How you shop at a boat shop depends on whether you’re going there to buy something specific, or if you’re just trolling for deals. In either case, the best place to begin is by visiting the boat show’s official website.

Start Online

The boat show’s website can be your best tool for organizing a show visit, by letting you pre-plan everything. You can confirm the show hours, and often, pre-buy your tickets at a discounted price. This doesn’t just save you a few bucks, it lets you bypass the lines and saves you time on-site.

If you’re going to the show to buy a boat, you can check the exhibitor list to see which manufacturers will be there, then find their booth locations on the show map. Many larger boat shows will also have a Products & Services listing, which organizes products together by category. If you want to see all of the pontoon boats at the show, for example, you’ll find all the exhibitors who have them listed together in one place. This makes planning a snap.

Do a bit of online research, read boat reviews, and you should be able to narrow your search down to three or four possibilities. Now it’s time to head to the show.

Shop and Compare

Boat shows let you compare a number of different boats side-by-side, under the same roof, so they’re perfect for helping you decide which one to buy. By pre-planning your visit, now you can go visit the manufacturers that interest you the most, and see how their products compare. Climb aboard and check out the seats – are they as comfortable as they look? When you sit at the helm, can you reach everything you need, or do you need to stretch? Or is it too tight for your comfort? Some boats have sliding helm seats that let you adjust your driving position just like you can in a car, while others don’t. This is the time to find out first-hand how everything fits and feels.

With your prospective purchases all so close at hand, it’s easy to compare the fit and finish of each, the different standard features and options, and get a sense of which boat is right for you.

It’s All Under One Roof

Not really looking for a new boat this time? The process is exactly the same if you’re looking for accessories, like a new GPS, some new rain gear, or even just new fenders and dock lines.

Apart from being great places to find new boats and gear, boat shows are also incredible spots to find boat services – and again, to compare them side-by-side. Whether you’re looking for boat insurance, financing for a boat loan, yacht club memberships, winter storage or mechanical services, chances are you’ll find local suppliers at the show who are all offering deals.

Grab A Show Guide

If there’s one thing you do when you go to a boat show, make sure you grab a copy of the official show guide, and bring it home. Show guides include a ton of great information that can be helpful throughout the year, normally including the full exhibitor list with contact information. So six months from now when you’d like to get two more of those lifejackets that were such a good buy, you can find that dealer who sold them to you, so they match the others. Best of all, because the show guide is printed on paper, you can tuck it into your boat’s glove box so it’s always close at hand and available whether you have internet access or not – which can be a good thing if you have a breakdown on the water and need to remember the company that offered towing services!

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