If you are in the market for a boat — no matter what type it is — chances are you are bound to find one at the 59th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Having so many boats together in one place makes it easier to compare and contrast different models. In addition, some manufacturers and dealers will offer special boat show deals and discounts to entice you to commit to a purchase while you are in their booth.
If you are considering financing your boat purchase this year, you’re in luck. Interest rates for boat loans are still very low, according to industry experts.
“This is the lowest they’ve been in 30 years. I think rock bottom was 18 to 20 months ago, but they haven’t significantly increased since then,” said Kimberly Madigan, loan officer at Newcoast Financial Services, a finance company that specializes in boats, recreational vehicles and aircraft.
“The economy is strong,” she added. “The longer people wait, the more money your boat is going to cost.”
With the recent global financial crisis receding, more financial institutions are now looking to lend money to boat buyers. “The credit criteria has loosened a tiny bit,” Madigan said.
Today, the typical boat loan is for 20 years, with a fixed rate loan and 20 percent down. However, she reported that buyers who are purchasing a new boat and are qualified might be able to put down less than 20 percent.
If you are serious about buying a boat at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Madigan recommends applying for a “boat loan shopping pre-approval” at least three ahead of the show. “They are good for six months and it doesn’t cost you a cent,” she said.
Shoppers who already have several boats in mind typically get a loan pre-approved for the most expensive one, since it’s possible to change the vessel on the pre-approval form several times, she said.
“If you are talking to a broker or salesman and you have a pre-approval, they know that this person is serious,” Madigan added.
Shop around for boat insurance
Whether you are buying a new boat or one that’s “new to you,” the purchase price, sales tax and monthly interest rate are not the only financial considerations you will need to keep in mind. Once you own the vessel, you also will need to pay for its insurance.
Due to the large number of insurance claims made on boats damaged in the United States and Caribbean during the active 2017 hurricane season, boat insurance rates are on the rise, and industry experts predict they are only going to get higher. Because of this, it’s wise sure to get several insurance quotes for your boat purchase and be sure to read the fine print on each policy.
“Unlike homeowner and automobile insurance, there are no standard clauses for policies insuring yachts (27 feet or longer). Yacht insurance terms and conditions are not regulated by state authorities, and every insurance company provides different coverages and exclusions,” insurance expert Cary Wiener, president of Pantaenius America Ltd., said in an article in the Chicago Yacht Club’s Blinker magazine. “Even if the key phrases seem similar, a careful reading of what they actually cover, or exclude, will reveal important differences.”
When it comes to shopping for a boat at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, it pays to do your homework in advance, both in terms of getting pre-qualified for a loan and understanding the insurance market. Then, once you’ve made the purchase, you can head out on the water in your new boat with the peace of mind of knowing you’ve made the best possible deal.