Rising costs worry some S. Florida dealers

MIAMI – Organizers of the South Florida Boat Show, which begins today at the Miami Beach Convention Center, are hoping rising fuel prices and insurance costs are not enough to keep boaters from attending the event and spending money, the Miami Herald reported in a story this morning.

The show runs through Monday and features 400 powerboats priced between $5,000 and $325,000. Nearly 125 exhibitors, including 87 boat lines, have signed up to participate and officials at Marine Industries Unlimited – which owns and produces the show – believe 20,000 people, about the same number as last year, will attend, according to the story.

However, with gas prices on the rise and the start of another hurricane season, boat dealers hope that buyers are still looking for a deal.

”I hear the middle-income buyers are taking a hit, but we’re going to see this weekend,” Donny Wetz, a salesman for Miami’s SeaVee Boats, which makes vessels ranging in length from 29 feet to 34 feet, told the newspaper.

Wetz said prospective buyers are concerned about the costs to insure boats against hurricane damage — those costs are up an estimated $500 from last year to more than $2,000. ”You can get insurance, but it’s tough — and expensive,” he said.

Phil Keeter, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America, told the Herald that last year’s hurricane season, coupled with predictions of another stormy season, may cause some buyers to be hesitant.

”You got some problems down in South Florida because of the damn hurricane season,” he said. ”There’s just a temporary setback due to the weather.” Keeter also noted that construction workers, roofers and others kept busy with hurricane repairs may have the money for a new boat — but not the time.

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