In rising tide of boat sales, check shows for good buys


January 05, 1993|By PETER BAKER

Midwinter is not the time most of us think about boats. Those of us who own them have moth-balled them for the winter; many among us who covet them are paying off bills accrued during the holidays.

But the weeks between now and the end of February may represent a last chance to buy a new or used boat at a rock-bottom price.

In those weeks, of course, there are several boat shows in the region, including the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show here Feb. 6-14, and shows often are good opportunities to find good deals.

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, however, there is another factor at work in the boating market: After four years of decline, sales of boats and boating equipment are beginning to increase.

And as demand increases, of course, so do prices.

In the four years since sales of boats and related equipment peaked at $18 billion in 1988, the industry dropped off 45 percent to $10.3 billion last year. Last year's sales were off to $10.3 billion from $10.6 billion in 1991.

But last year also showed a 4 percent increase in sales of new boats last year over 1991, even though the dollar amount fell.

According to the NMMA, consumers have been going to smaller boats and sales companies have been dropping their prices.

For example, the average runabout with an outboard motor and trailer had an average retail price of $10,074 in 1991 and $9,965 last year. The average price of an inboard-outboard boat dropped to $16,525 from $17,711.

In the smaller boats, increased sales of inflatables, personal watercraft and canoes certainly contributed to a decrease in average price, but the desperation of dealers also must have produced some sweet bargains.

So, why rush off to buy a boat? The industry isn't going to rebound overnight, right?

But take the boat-buying process a step further and consider what the NMMA figures it will cost you per month to buy a boat after making a 20 percent down payment.

* Aluminum fishing boats -- average price range of $4,640 to $7,370, monthly payment from $123 to $196.

* Catamaran or small daysailor -- average price from $4,500 to $5,600, monthly payment of $118 to $149.

* Outboard runabout from 17 to 19 feet -- average price of $9,48to $16,110, monthly payment of $148 to $228.

Monthly payments, of course, will change as interest rates rise ofall -- and interest rates are very favorable right now.

Boat shows usually have lenders on hand, so that one can shofor financing at the same time one shops for a boat.

It is reasonable to expect that three- to five-year loans can be obtained on amounts from $5,000 to $10,000; five- to seven-year loans on $10,000 to $15,000; and 10 to 15 years on loans from $15,000 to $25,000.

Finding the right boat and the right loan is not a matter of chance.

Take the time to decide what the primary use of your family boat will be, aim for the best quality you can get within your price range and then shop for the financing.

Regional show dates

* Tomorrow-Sunday: Richmond Boat Show, Richmond (Va.) Centre, (804) 783-7300.

* Jan. 23-31: Philadelphia Boat Show, Civic Center, (215) 449-9910.

* Feb. 4-7: Sail Expo, Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center, (401) * Feb. 6-14: Chesapeake Bay Boat Show, Baltimore Convention Center, (215) 449-9910.

* Feb. 18-21: Valley Forge Boat Show, Valley Forge (Pa.) Convention Center, (215) 822-9037.

* Feb. 24-28: Washington Boat Show, Convention Center.

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