Removing pre-owned fear

Who is more afraid of a pre-owned boat, the dealer or the customer?
It doesn’t make any difference. The fact that fear reigns over the used boat sale ought to have been setting off alarms for the marine industry for years. Thank you, Boating Industry magazine, for sounding those alarms in your June, 2006 issue with Liz Walz’ article, Lost and Found.
I was startled to read that many marine dealers refused to sell used boats and those who did regarded them as a necessary evil. I was surprised to read that from 70 to 90 percent of used boats are sold in driveways, not at a place of business. I was even more surprised to read that three out of four buyers of pre-owned boats were new to boating.
I believe this major blockage in the marine marketplace is bad for the future of our industry. How many people new to boating quit in disgust because they discovered their first boat didn’t work properly? Even worse, how many people were scared away by the transaction even before they got their first boat? Many young couples can’t afford a new boat but they can’t afford a used boat either if it’s not guaranteed in some way.
Boat buyers, especially first timers, shouldn’t have to buy a boat from a stranger in a driveway. The price might be right but they need assurances the boat is going to work and, if it doesn’t, that they can return it. The driveway seller won’t take it back for repair. Too many marine dealers won’t either. That’s not right.
There’s an old saw that says there is no such thing as a problem, just an opportunity for a solution. I took note of the pre-owned boat “problem” when I researched the marine industry. My decision to buy engine rebuilder PMC North America in 2005 was based in large part on the profit potential in rescuing thousands of boats with engine problems.
I see this as a prime opportunity for all segments of the marine industry — original equipment companies, financing arms, retailers, rebuilders, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and others to solve this issue once and for all. By doing so, we will secure the future of the boating industry.
I was encouraged to read of the solutions already being explored by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, finance companies and manufacturers.
Longer, transferable warranties from the engine manufacturers would help. Extended warranties resold to customers would help. GE is offering a program for dealers to help them floor-plan pre-owned boats.
I believe it will take all of these pieces and many others as well to make used boats into profitable sales opportunities. When I investigated the marine industry as a would-be entrepreneur it was clear to me what causes most of the fear in the used boat marketplace is the out-of-warranty engine. The seller in his driveway can’t give the buyer the assurance he needs that an engine will work correctly. In fact, the driveway seller may even be trying to unload a boat that is 100-percent guaranteed to produce buyer’s remorse.
This is why the pre-owned powerboat sale belongs with a marine dealer. The dealer’s shop technician can check out the pre-owned boat, certify it, and sell it. Guaranteeing the product for a limited time adds real value to the product. It’s the kind of assurance the buyer needs and for which most are willing to pay extra.
We believe we add real value to the PMC product for the dealer and the buyer by offering a one-year, no-fault warranty that starts when the end user takes ownership. We believe this also removes a major part of the marketplace fear that was, in my opinion, the main reason older boats would not sell at any price.
The marine industry has lost too many boaters to other recreational pursuits. Used boats — guaranteed and offered at an affordable price — can bring them back to boating.

[Edwin Barr became president of PMC North America, Largo, Fla., in October, 2005, following an 18-year career in information technology and project management in the banking and insurance industries.]

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