With COVID seemingly still rampant, attendance at Boat Shows is expected to be at an all time high.

Tips For Making The Most Of A Boat Show

1. Dress comfortably. You’ll walk miles, so comfortable slip-on shoes are best for getting on and off a lot of boats. Most dealers ask that you remove shoes before boarding. Wear loose-fitting clothes, avoid dangling jewelry, pack light, and bring water, a hat, and sunscreen — and a mask.

2. Attendance cost. Tickets typically range from $12 to $35, depending on the venue. Most shows host a “VIP Day” before the show opens. These special-admission tickets are a bit more expensive but often well worth it. Crowds are lighter and have more serious buyers. You’ll get more attention from dealers on these days, as well as unhurried tours of the boats.

3. Security. Especially at the big Florida boat shows, expect a screening at the entrance. Your bags will likely be scanned and/or inspected. Lines back up during the opening rush, so leave plenty of time if you have appointments scheduled.

4. Getting around. Most boat shows divide boats by category — day boats, cruisers, fishing, sailing, sport, and so on. Every show will have a guide with a detailed floor/dock-layout map. Larger shows have free apps for the specific show.

5. Electronics. Take pictures of your boat and navigation station so the salesperson will have an idea what you’re looking for and your installation. If you plan on fitting, say, a new chartplotter into a spare spot on your dash, take a few dimensions along so you’ll know if the unit you’re considering will fit.

6. Homework. A productive show starts at home. With attendance expected to be at an all time high, narrow the list of boats you’re most interested in. All shows provide a list of exhibitors and (often free) seminars on their websites. Before you go, dig into the manufacturers’ websites to learn boat details. Make a list of questions about the design priorities and accessories you’re most interested in, including specifics on warranties, servicing options, and any training options.

7. Getting the best deal. “Special boat show price” signs are seen at every show, and the discounted price can be significant. Dealers offer that price “while the show lasts.” But the reality is they want to sell boats, so they’ll hold that price for serious buyers who are ready to move. As a further show-only incentive, many dealers will include significant “packages” of products you’ll need anyway, which could include gear such as electronics, dock lines, life jackets, or extended warranties or service contracts.