Wave of competition sends prices for outboards lower; Dealers to exhibit range of basic, luxury models


The Chesapeake Bay Boat Show comes to the Convention Center on Saturday, and according to the marine industry associations, demand is up for big boats, prices for entry-level boats are down and financing rates are favorable for buyers.

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, manufacturers of big boats generally had a good year in 1998, while small boat builders struggled to maintain gains made the past few years.

NMMA estimates of new boat sales last year declined 6 percent in total units but only 1 percent in total retail sales.

What this might mean for prospective buyers at the entry level is continued competition among builders and dealers of outboard-powered runabout and utilities. NMMA estimates prices for entry-level boats dropped more than $300 per unit last year.

And that might be good news for shoppers at the Chesapeake Show, which always includes a strong selection of entry-level boats from a wide selection of dealers.

Also among small boats, dealer demands for bass boats were down 10 percent, while the demand for center console and walk-around models was up by as much as one-third.

Inboard motor cruisers, meanwhile, gained slightly in both units sold and revenue. According to NMMA statistics, the market for big boats has almost doubled in production units and tripled in dollar sales.

The result of the strong big-boat market, according to NMMA, is that delivery dates for the most popular models from leading manufacturers "are running one and two years out."

According to the National Marine Bankers Association, boat loan rates continue to be competitive with automobile rates, but with longer terms, the monthly payment usually will be lower.

Two examples given by NMBA with 20 percent down show a $15,000 runabout financed at 10 percent over 7 years costing just under $200 per month and a $25,000 cuddy cabin financed over 10 years costing about $265 a month.

Boat show shoppers probably can shop for even better terms from lenders on the Convention Center floor during the show.

According to NMBA, longer-term loans for more expensive yachts can be expected to approach interest rates available for real estate purchases.

Boat show facts

What: Chesapeake Bay Boat Show

Where: Baltimore Convention Center

When: Saturday-Feb. 7

Hours: Weekday hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Show opens at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Admission: $7 for adults and $3 for ages 6 to 12.

Parking: Free at Oriole Park lot with shuttle service to the Convention Center.

Pub Date: 1/24/99

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