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Three ways to help first time boaters overcome buying jitters

By Jim Jabaay

With the continued need to grow our industry and bring first-time buyers into the market, according to Grow Boating, the biggest surprise for first-time buyers are the hidden costs with boating ownership.

To those familiar with boating, these are expected, but a first-time buyer is ready for the experience of boating and is not aware of the full cost of ownership or even the cost of gas to operate the boat.  It is critical for both OEMs and dealers to educate new boaters about these boat ownership costs. 

Below are three ways to not only make these "hidden costs" more transparent, but provide value and guidance along the way.  

Maintenance program. Include a three-year maintenance program in the purchase price of the boat. New boaters don't understand that boats need to be winterized and serviced annually. Offering a full maintenance program within a monthly payment will ensure your dealership service revenue, and a happy repeat customer that isn't wary of the costs because it has been included. For example, BMW has provided a similar program and has done a tremendous job of leveraging this on all new vehicle purchases.  

Accessories credit with purchase. New boaters are often not aware that they need essential boat accessories. They often forget that they need ropes, towables, life jackets, flare guns, etc. Offering a credit in the purchase for future accessories can help ease the concern around another cost and provide a safer and more enjoyable boating experience.

Partnership with storage and trailer hitch installs. New boat owners aren’t usually placing priority on where they need to keep their boat stored; they are just focused on getting out on the water as soon as they can. Partner with a local storage facility for a place to refer to new boat owners for options where to store their boat. Also, partner with your local U-Haul or dealership for trailer hitch installations. This could become a revenue source and a referral network as well!

Working together and including more education and resources to first-time boat buyers will help us get rid of the stigma that the best day to own a boat is the day you sell it.  

What other ideas have you used in your dealership to help first buyers?

Jim Jabaay is the vice president of LotVantage, a digital marketing company for dealerships and original equipment manufacturers. LotVantage specializes in posting dealer inventory to Craigslist, eBay and driving engagement on social media on behalf of their customers. Visit lotvantage.com or call 1-888-569-3865.

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