Ultimate Boat Show guide

RACV Marine

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What self-respecting boatie doesn’t love a boat show? Whether it’s the glamour of luxurious white hulls, the awe of twin monster outboards on big centre consoles, or the latest must-have electronics, the boat show is the place where all your waterborne desires come together.

But what if you’ve never been to one? Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your first boat show.

Know what’s on

Shows are very big and busy events. There’s so much going on that it’s easy to miss something. Alongside displays there are often many demonstrations and presentations. Remember to schedule your time so you don't miss the ones you're interested in.

Since boat shows are almost always preceded by extensive media coverage, checking back periodically on the show organiser’s website and finding out what manufacturers are up to (social media and boating news sites are great for this) are both great ways to find out what to expect, and to figure out what you want to see.

Then, once you get through the gate, grab a copy of the show guide and plan your day.

A big deal

Boat shows are big on deals and specials. Along with launches and updates, shows are the place to be if you want a discount, cashback offer, more options than standard, bonus items and other benefits.

Once you’re set on something, don’t be afraid to ask about any deals, although keep in mind that many offers are exclusive to the event (after all, dealers are there to sell more boats).

Of course, you’ll ideally book in a test drive before you take it home. And don’t forget to be clear on your warranty situation.

Take in the demonstrations

There are only so many hours an average person can stay on their feet. So why not mull over a potential purchase during one of the many demonstrations on offer?

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Have a crack at winning

All exhibitors want your attention and one way to do that is to offer prizes. Whether it’s guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar or entering a giveaway, you’ve got nothing to lose. When you consider how many exhibitors have giveaways, the likelihood of winning something increases significantly.

Many exhibitors also give away show bags and other goodies, often including toys like foam boats or balloons. The kids love ’em — which is why exhibitors keep handing them out.

Wear the right shoes

While this isn't much of an issue with the fish guts and squid ink crowd, many exhibitors will ask you to remove your shoes before boarding, so choose ones you can slip in and out of. You will also be on your feet for long periods, so wear comfortable shoes and be ready to remove them if asked.

Pick your time

Boat shows can get very busy on weekends. Exhibitors will have as many staff on hand as they can, but if you don’t like crowds consider going on a weekday. Weekday mornings are usually when things quietest.

Know your financial situation

It may sound obvious, but do you know precisely how far your budget goes? And does your partner?

If the answer is yes, then congratulations, your home life will most likely remain happy and stable. If the answer is no, it's best to discuss your budget before you go to the show.

Remember that the cost of owning a boat amounts to more than just the purchase price. There’s fuel, maintenance, berthing and insurance to keep in mind when committing to a buying decision (many boaters also consider a constant influx of new rods and lures to be essential purchases, but that may vary between individuals).

Boat engine

Test the bunks, headroom, stowage…

So you’ve found a boat that ticks all the boxes. You can already see yourself at the helm of that new cruiser — but what about the rest of the family? Will it accommodate all the extra gear you normally carry? What about the dog? And your mates?

As with buying a new car or sofa, physically try out how things feel. Stretch out in bunks, make sure there’s enough headroom, pay close attention to storage and, on larger craft, satisfy yourself that the stairs don’t make you giddy.

Find out about all the important legal and safety stuff

On the topic of finding out new things, the various government and volunteer organisations that keep you safe on the water always have a presence at boat shows. If you’ve got a burning question, here’s your chance to get an answer.

A face-to-face chat beats a lengthy phone call or tedious trawl through documents. Plus, the Coast Guard are a very friendly crew.

Many shows (like the RACV Marine Melbourne Boat Show) also have trade stands for those interested in a marine career. If you want to work with boats, this is the perfect place to start.

Work out how to get there

If travelling by car, find out ahead of time what parking facilities are available. Also, get there early, just in case the popularity of the event outstrips capacity. Many locations will have extra trains or buses to and from the event and nearby stations.

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