Cleveland Boat Show is the place for deals


For potential boat buyers, there are five good reasons to get serious about turning dreams into reality. The five reasons are all about the Mid-American Boat Show, commonly known as the Cleveland Boat Show, the buying season’s first and best place and time to sign on the line.

The five reasons are the five days of the show, starting Jan. 12. This boat show used to be a full 10-day affair but current economics and shopping habits have brought about a more intense schedule of five days that includes just one weekend.

But really, is the Cleveland show the best place for deal making? You betcha, say dealers who have traditionally depended on the Mid-American to kick their season off by closing multiple sales during the mid-winter event.

Buying opportunity

The Cleveland Boat Show has long been known as a consumer show, or more accurately, a buying opportunity for serious shoppers.

Just hype or is it true? Understand that boat dealers attended manufacturers’ meetings held months ago, gatherings where dealers are offered special incentives if they order a solid inventory of the coming year models.

Incentives to the dealers include discounts, rebates for the early shows, extended warranties, accessories, and more, all intended to encourage orders and in turn, attract buyers.

Special incentives

In effect, this pre-order by dealers brings with it plenty of goodies for first of the year buyers. You guessed it; the Cleveland show is all about the first of the year buyers who know a good deal when they see it.

But come on, isn’t it just as likely that a determined buyer will be able to negotiate the same deal, maybe better, at a later date?

Maybe, but don’t count on it, because things like true factory rebates usually come with a cutoff date and some come with the amount on a descending scale. That means that a $2,000 rebate may shrink to $1,500 the following month and even less in another month.

So can specials such as extended warranties, which may or may not be still available. And don’t forget that discounted price the dealers received for first pre-ordered boats.

Most dealers will discount the retail sale price accordingly, but they may not be able to repeat it on boats ordered later. All this comes together at the Cleveland show and that’s why this particular show is the region’s top consumer sale for boat shoppers.

Tips for the prospective buyer:

  • If you intend to trade your old boat in on a new model, bring recent pictures of the exterior and interior. If you don’t bring pictures don’t expect anything but the lowest wholesale offer.
  • If you think you can do better by selling your used boat, ask your dealer if you can try to sell the boat and just pay him the amount he has offered you. If successful, you might pocket the difference or use it to pay your loan down.
  • But keep in mind that trade-ins lower the amount of sales tax owed so trading can hold an advantage far above the price offered by a dealer. Remember to ask about freight and set-up costs; they can be significant.

Boat delivery

Ask too, about how your new boat will be delivered. Will you simply hook up and leave the dealership or will you be taking delivery on-the-water orientation?

You need to be prepared to pay for your new boat. Ask about financing deals and check with your credit union or favorite bank ahead of time. You may find a better financing deal and have pre-approval in your pocket.

Do some other homework before the show such as learning your vehicle’s towing ability, which is listed in your owner’s manual or call your dealer. And don’t forget to measure the size of your garage or other storage facility.

Lastly, set a pick-up date for your new boat before you leave the show. It will make spring happen sooner.

If you find that you just can’t handle the payments on a new boat, ask your dealer if he or she has a similar new “non-current” model in stock or a solid, and warrantied used craft.

And finally, if you’ve settled on a shiny new boat, don’t delay the purchase. Pull the trigger and get ready to start your boating season as soon as possible. Be aware that top dealers can get you a great interest rate and a friendly payment schedule.

And ask about delaying the first payment for a few months. When it comes to paying the right amount for the right boat it never gets easier than this week at the Cleveland Boat Show.

I’ll be at the show all five days. I’d like to meet you.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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