Determining a fair price to pay for a new boat can be a bit of a challenge because, unlike with automobiles, dealer invoice information is often not available. Plus, you might not be able to find the same model nearby from other dealers to compare prices. In this article, I provide some guidelines to help you asses how much off the MSRP for a new boat you might be able to achieve to help you negotiate your next boat purchase.

Types of New Boat Pricing

When shopping for a new boat online, you will likely see one of two types of prices from manufacturers and dealers: the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) or a Nationally Advertised Price (NAP). Knowing which type of price is shown is critical to determining what sort of discount, if any, you could expect to receive.

MSRP

This is the most common type of price listed. Manufacturers typically set this price well above the realistic selling price to give all dealers the ability to make a reasonable markup regardless of their location and cost structure. However, the dealer ultimately determines the final selling price which is often below the MSRP.

The ability to negotiate a discount below the MSRP depends on several factors, including:

  • Time of Year

    If you are shopping for a boat during the heart of the boating season, you can expect dealers to be less likely to negotiate aggressively.  This is because there will likely be many other potential customers besides you to sell to.

    The opposite is true during the Fall and Winter months when boat buyers are scarce.  And, if the dealer happens to be carrying an older model, they might be especially inclined to “deal” to avoid paying floor-plan interest.

    Boat show season can also be a good time to get a better price because it typically is a competitive environment and is easy for shoppers to price compare across dealers.

  • Dealer Inventories
    Because of supply-chain constraints, manufacturer allotments or credit limits, most dealers have a finite supply of boats to sell. If they only have a few boats in stock, they will be less likely to offer a substantial discount since other buyers may be willing to pay a higher price. But if their lot is full, dealers tend to be more motivated to negotiate because they don’t want to get stuck with unsold product at the end of the season that they might have to discount further and/or pay floor plan interest.

  • Boat Brand/Model Demand
    Dealers naturally want to see their boats for the highest possible price and so popular models that typically do not last long on the showroom floor are much less likely to be discounted than those that have more “selective” appeal.

  • Market Conditions
    The 2020 pandemic caused a surge in the demand for boats as families looked for safe ways to recreate. Unfortunately, the inventory of boats was negatively impacted at that time too because of supply-chain issues. As a result, boat shoppers discovered that there was very little room to negotiate. However, the environment for boat buyers has steadily improved since then as dealer inventories have rebounded and the overall economy has weakened somewhat.

The dealer cost for a boat varies by manufacturer but is generally 70% to 72% of the MSRP. Of course, dealers need to price their boats well above this in order to cover their fixed and variable expenses. The dealer margin (not to be confused with the markup) on a new boat typically ranges between 10% and 20% of the selling price. After a bit of algebra, this comes out to 78% to 88% of the MSRP which you can easily calculate using our “New Boat Price Estimator Tool”. This is a good place to start when negotiating with a dealer. However, the factors listed above will impact whether you are able to negotiate a price closer to the upper or lower end of this price range (although in some cases, you might pay more or less than this).

Nationally Advertised Price (NAP)

Though less common than MSRP, NAP has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is a more realistic price (typically between 80% and 90% of the MSRP) that is used to promote value, encourage consistency across dealers, and enhance the boat shopping experience by reducing the need to “haggle”. In some cases, you might still be able to negotiate a discount (or throw-ins) but the level of discount would be far less than if working from an MSRP.

Several manufacturers currently offer NAP pricing under a variety of names, including “No Haggle, No Hassle” (Tracker, Sun Tracker, Nitro, Tahoe, Mako, Regency), ‘Reel Deal Pricing” (Robalo), “Chaparral ONE” (Chaparral) or simply “Nationally Advertised Price” (Skeeter, Sun Chaser, and many more).

However, not all NAP prices are alike. White River Marine Group (makers of Tracker, Sun Tracker, Nitro, etc.) was an earlier pioneer in NAP pricing and strictly enforce its adherence. Their advertised prices are all inclusive (other than taxes and registration/titling) and are the same regardless of whether you purchase from a local dealer or a Bass Pro Shops store. The only thing that might vary is dealer freight (depending on location). As such, there is no price negotiation when buying one of their boat brands.

This is not exactly the case with the NAP prices from many other manufacturers. Things like dealer prep (as well as freight) are often additional and may vary from dealer to dealer. Plus, there might still be some room to negotiate – depending on the brand and dealer.  So, if you are shopping for a boat with NAP, just be aware that the price you see will be at, or close to, what you can realistically expect to pay in most cases.

Buying a new boat can be an intimidating process because of the need to negotiate with a dealer who knows his costs far better than you and is much more experienced with the process. But, by knowing the type of pricing you are dealing with (MSRP or NAP) and types of discounts you could expect with each should help you better plan and negotiate your next boat purchase.

Jerry Mona - BoaterInput

About the author

Jerry Mona is an avid boater and angler and long-time boating industry insider. With over three decades of experience, he is often considered to be the leading research expert with boaters and has helped numerous manufacturers and trade associations to understand the needs, wants, attitudes and behaviors of boaters. He now shares many of his insights about boats and boaters for free on his BoaterInput.com website.

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