Before I bought my pontoon boat back in 2016, I wish I had taken in a pontoon boat show. In truth, it never really occurred to me at the time, but since owning mine and actually having attended quite a few around the country now, I appreciate just how much value they can offer you, whether you already own a boat, or are planning on buying one.
Why is it important to attend pontoon boat shows though?
So first up, they are a huge amount of fun. The effort that the manufacturers put into their displays is something else, and if you’re in the process of considering buying a boat, you’re going to get a heck of a lot of information.
In the spring and summer, everyone who loves boats is on the water. But when the weather starts to turn, and the colder months appear, it’s the perfect time to attend a show… and that’s when the best shows are on.
Whether you want something new, or are looking to upgrade on your pontoon, the winter boat shows are an ideal way in which spend some time on the thing that you love; pontooning!
But admittedly, it can be quite overwhelming, especially when you see all those shiny pontoons with eager sales people desperate to get you to open your wallet and it’s your first time.
With such a huge array of choices, it’s important that you look past the sales pitch and resist the temptation to buy the first shiny object that you see, as so often occur at the shows.
In the winter time the local dealers and manufacturers will be ready and waiting with offers and deals, so if you want a bargain, you owe it to yourself to attend a pontoon boat show.
So, if you are serious about buying a pontoon boat, then don’t get me wrong, a pontoon boat show is a great place to start, but if you want to get the most from your visit and maximise the day out, then there are some things you plan for to help you do that.
Pontoon Boat Shows Near Me
Before I get into that though, where are the nearest pontoon boat shows to you? If you are looking for a local pontoon boat show near you, then there are a couple of websites that I recommend you keep an eye on. They are:
These websites will list upcoming boat shows, and you can also filter the geographic area and location you want to check in.
Handy Hint: One word of advice before you go; if you are looking to buy a pontoon, don’t just go to one show. Keep your options open and try to attend at least two or three before making a purchase decision.
And now, here’s that advice on how you can get the most from attending a pontoon boat show, and some rules, or at least basic advice I think you should follow.
Tip 1: Plan Your Visit Before the Boat Show
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
And nothing is truer when it comes to buying a boat. If attending a show is going to be part of your decision-making process, and advise that it is, then prepare beforehand.
My advice would be research the type of boat you want to buy before you even purchase your show tickets. For example, some of the content on Pontoonopedia could be key to helping you make your decision on what type of pontoon you think will suit your lifestyle and ambitions. You can see some of those guides in the links below:
- What are pontoon boats used for?
- Essential things to know before you buy a pontoon boat
- Is it easy to drive a pontoon boat?
- How much pontoon boat insurance costs and why you will need it
- How much do pontoon boats depreciate in value?
- Should you buy a pontoon without knowing the hours on the motor?
Having information before you go to the boat show will put you in a far better position when it comes to talking with the sales people and demonstrators. If you know what you want, what you will be using your boat for, and how much you can afford to spend, you are going to be able to make a far better purchase.
Knowing the right questions to ask will actually mean you will kind of already know the answers you are looking for from the manufacturer representative. Those types of questions can include things like:
- How old is the boat? If of course, you are looking at second hand models.
- If it’s second hand, how many hours are on the engine?
- If new, how long is the warranty for?
- How much does it weigh, including dry weight and with passengers for trailering?
- Have the pontoons been treated?
- Ask about resale value, and what the depreciation is like on your chosen pontoon.
- What is the maximum passenger limit? It should have a capacity plate.
- What extras and gadgets will the manufacturer throw in?
- What motor will the boat come with, and will it suit your towing needs.
- How big is the pontoon boat, and will you have adequate storage or a trailer?
Once you have done your research, it’s time to buy your boat show tickets.
Most of the pontoon boat shows will send you through an exhibitor map, or at the very least will have one available on the show’s website.
Take a look at the guide and plan your trip meticulously. Believe me, the day can soon be over once you get through the expo door as there will be so much to see and talk about if you aren’t focussed on your particular aim.
Identify and mark on the map where the pontoons are that you want to see and envisage well in advance on how your route around the exhibition will take you.
Tip 2: Making the Best Use of Your Time at the Show
On the day of the pontoon boat show it’s essential that you make the best available use of your time. Here are some additional tips on how you can maximize your day.
- Plan transportation and parking so you don’t waste time getting into the show.
- Attend on a weekday, as it will be quieter than a weekend visit.
- Have your show map so you know where you will be walking once inside.
- Schedule an appointment with the manufacturers you want to talk to in advance.
- Have a short-list of those questions discussed in tip 1 at hand for your meeting.
It’s so important that you take your time to look at and talk through each boat that you are considering for your purchase. Sit down in the boat and try to imagine yourself in it whilst out on the lake or river.
Essentially what you are doing here is trying it for size.
Once you have assessed a pontoon boat, write down the pros and cons, which you can then compare to the next boat and so on.
Tip 3: Negotiation Tips for Buying a Pontoon Boat at the Show
Whilst deals and offers that are so often available at boat shows can be very enticing, don’t just jump into a decision because it appears like you might be saving some dollars. If you have done your research correctly, and know what you need from a pontoon boat, you should be able to make a good deal for yourself regardless!
If you are going to be buying at the show, I have heard that the best time to do this would be on the last day of the show. It’s been said that the decision makers are more available on these days, and it’s a prime time to making a deal on any stock that they have. That makes sense really, as for the preceding days of the show they have been trying to shift units for as much as they can and might need to hit a sales target on the last day.
On that last day, you then have an opportunity to compare quotes from the different sellers and get them competing against each other for your business.
But what about older models?
At the boat show, you are going to be seeing the very latest models from the manufacturers, but they are going to have older stock that they want to get rid of that won’t be on display in the exhibition arena or hall.
If possible, get to know the dealer you might be buying from. It’s just as important to get a good feeling about them, as well as the boat you are thinking about owning. Good relationships will so often lead to better deals and prices, I don’t need to tell you that though.
The dealers are the guys who will be delivering your boat. They will be there for servicing, storage help, and anything else you might need in the future once you have bought your new pontoon. Any dealer worth their salt we know that a buyer and seller relationship starts at the sale, and doesn’t end at the point of sale.
And also, just like car dealers do, pontoon retailers will have older stock that they also need to sell. Ask the sales representatives if they have any older stock that’s not on display at the show that they might want to strike a deal on.
And again, just like you would behave when buying a car, don’t be afraid to walk away if the deal isn’t right for you, or if they are putting you under too much pressure to buy from them on the day. The boat will still be available to buy tomorrow, no matter what the sales person says to you!
Above all, don’t make an impulse purchase.
If this is you’re the first of the pontoon boat shows that you plan on attending this year, then go home and do some additional research on pricing. You might find an independent dealer somewhere in the country who can cut you a better deal, even if they do have to transport the boat across country.
What is the Best & Largest Pontoon Boat Show?
It’s not that easy a thing to find out, as each year, some of the larger shows do tend to try to outdo each other and will change in size each and every year.
In my experience, the best pontoon boat shows in the United States are the ones listed below. Traditionally these ones always have a great range of pontoon manufacturers in attendance and never fail to have some great displays of the latest pontoons.
- The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (claims to be the largest)
- The Detroit Boat Show (Michigan is the home of the pontoon, so make sense to go to this one)
- The Miami International Boat Show (who doesn’t want a day out in Miami?)
In addition to that, I would recommend checking out the list of boat shows that you can find on the Bennington website (click here). Bennington are always in attendance at only the very best in the county, and you can bet your bottom dollar that if Bennington are going to be exhibiting, the other pontoon manufacturers will follow!
When I have attended a pontoon boat show near me, the key for me has always been to have fun, first and foremost. Make the day a memorable one, don’t get overwhelmed, and don’t make any rash decisions.
Whilst you might find the sales people pushy, just remember that they are in this industry because they love boats just as much as you do.
I hope that you find the pontoon boat that suits you, and one that will be in your ownershop for many years to come!