Online Boat Buying

George Day (big guy at MQ and Blue Water Sailing) asked me to comment on a new website that went up last week. It is essentially an online retailer of new boats (mainly smaller motor boats). The salient point is that they are showing dealer cost as well as retail cost, etc. In one regard, it seems to be pushing the whole idea of transparency another step. I do hear from many first time buyers that they already know everything from reading stuff online, so they only care about the bottom line. Therein lies the danger.

Internet information is not gospel. A clever writer can absolutely manipulate an office sailor into thinking all sorts of crazy stuff. A printed dealer cost gives the impression that dealers are making a fortune and their margins are excessive. The real danger is that online readers will think, “Well, I know what he paid for the boat….I’ll offer him a few bucks more than that, but why should I pay his markup?”

Maybe you shouldn’t. But that dealer paid to get the boat to his shop, and he set the boat up. Hopefully, he made sure you didn’t buy a totally inappropriate boat, and he will hopefully be there when something goes wrong. In our country, and in most western civilization-type countries, making a living perpetuates the system. Squeezing the dealer out has nothing but negative consequences.

Think about the car business. Does anyone really think those lame dealer invoices that we get shown have anything to do with reality? So, won’t this just become another shell game? I know my associate, Phil Berman, will tell you pretty much exactly what a new yacht costs, he is very fair about it. But I don’t believe online, faceless retailing of boats will serve anyone well in the end.

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