Boat Buying Tips

Bowrider Boats and Pontoon Boats – How to Make the Right Choice!

Boat Buying Tips from Huntsville Marine!

  • Are you searching for a new bowrider boat, pontoon boat or fishing boat?
  • Are you searching for the best value, best quality and best price on your new boat?
  • Do you plan to visit the 2016 Toronto Boat Show?
  • Have you been visiting your local boat dealerships or browsing new and used boats on their websites?

If you have answered “YES” to any of these questions, Boater’s Chat Boat Buying Tips can help!

Visiting local boat dealers or the Toronto Boat Show can be frustrating. There is a lot of confusing information. A lot of marketing spin.

I recently heard that just over 50% of new car buyers make their purchase without going to a dealership. They are tired of salespeople and always hearing that their car is best. It makes sense. There is a boatload of available auto comparisons, independent reviews, and crash test data available on the web to make an informed decision.

The lack of detailed, non-lifestyle information makes making an informed boat buying decision a problem.

  • What type of boat am I looking for? A Bowrider Boat? A Fishing Boat, or a Pontoon Boat?
  • Who are the best boat builders?
  • Which boat is right for my family?

Considering that this boat purchase is going to be with the family most likely for a significant number of years…boats are not changed as often as cars….more like a house…just a couple in a lifetime!

Boat buying can be an emotional decision. That is why boat builders add so many graphics on the hull and extra gadgets and gauges that are not necessary but look impressive. I call this flash!

Bowrider and Pontoon Boat Manufacturer Rankings!

Let’s rip the band aid right off the wound! Boat retailers including myself sell a particular boat line for a reason! MONEY! What do all of the boat dealers want? PROFIT! That should not be a surprise. There seems to be a correlation between hot boat lines and quality which is good for both the buyer and seller.

Dealers do not like boat warranty repairs. In the marine business we do not make warranty dollars like in the automotive business.

Q: If as a dealer I do not have a hot boat line…how do I get one?

A: You can’t as it takes years in most cases.

Q: Why is that?

A: Because some other dealer in the trading area already has it all sewed up.

Huntsville Marine is in an excellent position as we have 5 hot boat lines that dealerships want!

Campion, Crestliner, Cypress Cay, Escape, Larson and Monterey. We sell these brands for a reason and we stand behind them 100%. It is my decision at this facility which boat lines we provide to Muskoka and Ontario boaters.

Do I think that some brands represent more value and quality for the dollar? Absolutely! I have had the pleasure to attended and examine boat accessories and new boats including bowriders, cruisers, fishing boats and pontoon boats at a substantial number of boat shows and manufacturer events over my 30 years of operating Huntsville Marine.

In order to make a good decision there is a key fact that must be understood with regards to boats and pricing. All boat builders of any size essentially have the same costs for the same material! If this is so, then brand X cannot be less than brand Y if it has the same build material list. Dealer to dealer, brand to brand boat markup to retail is again essentially the same. Competitive advantage on pricing only really exists in boats due to reductions in the quality and quantity of the build materials utilized. At the Toronto Boat Show or in an ad, the dealer or the boat builder is going to show the lowest stripped pricing in order to get your attention. Potentially under-powered boats is the norm as the right motor adds cost. For example, take a look at the Legend catalog.

Listed below is my criteria to be represented by Huntsville Marine. We are fortunate is that we have been able to choose our boat brands….not all retailers are so fortunate as certain brands may already be spoken for in a particular trading area. Take a moment and do your own list as to just what you want in your next boat.

Remember you are most likely going to have this boat for a while.

1. Quality, Quality and More Quality

Each Time and All The Time. I do not like warranty and warranty problems cause unnecessary time for both of us to get rectified. Boaters do not want their boat laid up for warranty repairs on sunny days….very low warranty rates particularly with such items as gel coat cracking other fiberglass hull issues and interior vinyl problems. Fiberglass issues such as cracking, crazing, blistering or osmosis are due primarily to the type of resin system utilizing during construction, the strength of the interior stringer support system and the length of time the boat is left to cure in the mold. Vinyl issues are due to the type and quality of thread used in combination with the quality of vinyl such as thickness, built in UV radiation protection, the type of vinyl backing, colour and the supporting structures.

2. Outstanding Customer Warranty and Support.

If we need to do warranty repair, it must be a no hassle policy for our customer. The boat builder must provide our customers with a very strong and long term warranty period. The company must have the personnel and parts to back up their expressed warranty. We will constantly monitor the amount of warranty required for a boat line and if we deem this level unacceptable…they will be gone. Many boats claim to have long warranty periods for the hull…that’s great if there is in fact a builder that stands behind it! A warranty is only as good as what the boat builder actually will do in case of a defect.

3. Best Family Bowrider Boats in the 16 to 25 Foot Category

Huntsville Marine specializes in these boat sizes as they are the right size for most inland waters. Models must be up to date in styling with boater friendly features plus offer superior value for the dollar versus competitive models that our customer or prospect would consider. Consistent buyer quality must be equal to or greater than what this boat builder offers on their larger boats in their model lineup. A purchase of an 18′ bowrider to one of our customers is just as important to that family as to some other family purchasing as 30′ cruiser.

4. The Boat Manufacturer Must be a Top 8 Market Recognized Company.

This is very important as this presents our customers the opportunity to purchase superior value boats that consistently hold their value over time due to high perceived and actual long term construction quality. Companies that have attained this level have proven historical build quality with superior boating features, value and high boat owner customer satisfaction levels.

5. High Visual Appeal.

If the product does not look good no matter how well it is built, boat buyers will not want to purchase it. One must realize that each of us have different tastes and visual likes, our information is historical built over 30 years on real information from our customers.

The Top Eight Fiberglass Bowrider Boats

Here is my top eight fiberglass runabout manufacturers list. This list or ranking is independent of my criteria for representation by Huntsville Marine. This is a list that most marine operators removing their represented boat linage out of the equation would agree on.

The ranking is not in any order for the top eight just shows who would most likely belong. Members of the list are:

  • Boston Whaler
  • Campion
  • Chaparral
  • Cobalt
  • Grady White
  • Monterey
  • Regal
  • Sea-Ray

Why do we not carry some of these lines? Model mix would be one reason. Regal starts at 19 feet so this is a problem for our surrounding smaller lakes plus their 19 foot boat traditionally is not the same build schedule as their larger models. Plus low speed planning can be an issue.

The value versus cost relationship for Cobalt does not work for me plus some of the recent information I have seen…appears to be slipping. There was an interesting comparison put out a couple of years ago by a Sea-Ray dealer who purchased a Cobalt took it apart and compared it to a similar Sea-Ray. Interesting reading if you get a chance to see it. I do hear and have seen the commonly discussed gel coat fading issues with Cobalt particularly with black gel and the rear areas. Cobalt really has only one dealer in Ontario….no competition…retail pricing for me does not represent the actual value. Just my opinion.

All boat builders pay essentially the same price for their engines…show me the thousands in difference in the build quality of a Cobalt over a Monterey or Campion. Campion Boats are Canadian made and rival the quality, fit and finish of Cobalt at thousands less! Sea-Ray can make a great boat…but some of their small boats may come out of the Bayliner plant (Bayray) with just an upgraded interior.

Chaparral has some nice stuff but this company can have some very high pricing with the Pride Group and different lower construction techniques in the small H2O bowrider segment. Monterey Boats was started by the Marshal family out of Chaparral boats over 25 years ago. With Monterey we get the high level of quality we want with a privately owned financially stable company with the same build quality throughout. Chaparral is a publicly traded company which must maintain certain profit levels to maintain stock pricing. Chaparral is retail controlled by the Pride Marine Group in Ontario and pricing is most definitely high versus competitive boats. Campion is a truly Canadian designed and built Boat Company out Of Kelowna BC. Campion is very high quality with the use of Kevlar in the hulls like Cobalt and Regal with in gel graphics (no tape or decals).

Mid-Level Boat Builders

In the 2011 model year Huntsville Marine parted business dealings with Four Winns boats. Quality wise we had some good years and some not so good years. With the bankruptcy in 2008 and the new ownership in 2010 (Platinum Equity) by a hedge fund company we were no longer a good match. At Huntsville Marine we feel private family ownership or strong non hedge fund ownership provides maximum value in the short and long term to our clients. Platinum Equity has now sold Glastron, Wellcraft and Four Winns to Bennteau Sailboats. Glastron is being re positioned to be below Four Winns as a price/value offer (less for less). Who would our mid-level builders be? Crownline, Glastron, StarCraft, Rinker and Larson. My bottom of the pile builder right now is still the same and it is Tahoe. Tahoe/tracker also are my pick as the most overpriced for what is actually received. Legend fits in here too on the aluminum side…way too much flash not enough substance.

I have added a section farther down which after requests is representative of where many of the more well-known boat manufactures rank in general opinion.

The Top Welded Aluminum Boat

  • Crestliner Boats *Huntsville Marine is the largest dealer of this product in central Ontario.

The Top Rated Pontoon Boats

The Top Riveted Aluminum Boats

  • Lund
  • Princecraft

The Top Fiberglass Fishing Boat High End Price

  • Ranger

Best Value Rated Fiberglass Fishing Boat

  • Stratos Boats

Top Non-Custom Boat Trailer

  • E Z Loader