Is Winter 2020/21 a Good Time to Buy a RIB?

Fleet of GRAND RIBs

Spending the dark winter nights browsing the internet for your dream Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) while thinking about all the adventures you are going to have on the hot sunny days to come, is a common practice. So, purchasing your boat over the winter seems to be the right sort of time to make that purchase, right? In reality, as a “solar-powered” industry, this is less common than in seasons purchases. The list of reasons why not to buy at this time of year range from “it’s the wrong time of year to go boating” to “it’s dead money for the winter” or “I might get more choice in the New Year”.  The reality is that the best deals with the widest choices are done in the winter. This BLOG explains what you can do in the winter to improve the RIB/Boat buying experience significantly.

Let’s Start with Something Simple

If you are looking for a boat in the off-season, you are operating in a less crowded buyers’ market, in which dealers will present options to you first. Simply making yourself available makes you the obvious person to call. Ask any salesperson, and they will tell you that cold calling potential RIB boat buyers, even those that you know, in the wind and rain is a thankless task – for both parties. However, if you, the potential purchaser, step forward and can agree on the type and frequency of contact, you will have started this relationship as you wish it to continue.
It would take a foolish salesperson to abuse this trust – for that; you have “block this caller”!

Winter Buying

You can only make a winter purchase if you have stepped forward and talked to your dealer and told them what you are looking for and what your budget looks like. From that position, if the “no brainer” purchase option comes up, you buy it. These can include boats that have been used as demonstrators or nearly new part exchanges the dealer has in stock etc.  To my mind, this is one of the few boats to buy outright in the winter; in other words, it’s simply because it’s a deal that you recognise as unmissable. If for no other reason, this is why my very first point was to step forward and tell your dealer what you want during the winter. 

Now I have defined my version of “winter buying” we can look at the next option, when the obvious purchase is not available – the long plan. 

The Long Plan

The joy of an unmissable purchase is that it will be very obvious to you. Consequently, this makes it an easy decision. When this easy option is not on offer, the winter planning time becomes very important. 

You are bound to do all the usual online research and garner knowledge from friends, but this is also time-consuming. Finding that time at the rush in the summer months is hard for both you and the dealer. When everyone is going at full tilt, even the best customer service business is under pressure on a last-minute new build. Just as importantly, it’s not a good environment for you to make the best choices if they have to be made quickly.
Put simply; time gives you choice. 

Winter Planning

An Undeniable Home Truth

Although there are many parallels between buying a boat and a car, there are also significant differences, and the biggest of all these is the lead time from ordering to delivery. The hardest thing for a salesman to tell a potential the buyer, and be believed, is that lead time is 14-16 weeks in the Spring. In the Autumn this is down to 8-10 weeks so even ordering a hull at the end of October means it will not arrive until February. To date, I find this the single biggest negative to overcome during a purchasing conversation. The only reason I have for this is that we live in a world where whatever car you want someone will have it in a showroom near you. Even in the very rare cases when that is not possible, the lead time is much shorter in cars because the modelling is easier. The entire Leisure Marine Industry is fickle for lots of obvious reasons. We can all justify our need to buy a car, but a boat is a luxury for most people. This means, almost without exception, all boat manufacture is completed at a single site and shipped globally; it’s simply not viable to have more than one point of manufacture. This means when the UK is enjoying summer, so is the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Ordering in February and March means delivery in June and July. There will be stock at all dealer locations, but by the Spring you will be buying what’s on display and not what you’ve built to your particular needs and desires. All boats are also at the highest price at this time of year as the supply and demand are against you. Any dealer will feel more comfortable that he has time to sell, making Spring and early Summer the least favourable time of year to get the best deal for your new RIB.

Your Package Your Way -Talk is Good

It is most realistic to use the winter planning time to make informed choices about how you are going to enjoy the following summer. Taking the time to select your dealer, build a relationship and start to plan your purchase makes it more fun and more individual to the needs of you and your family. 

Have Some Fun

It is supposed to be fun.
Taking a bit of time planning your purchase enables the fun to stay in the process. Talking to your dealer, discussing colour schemes, engine options, navigation equipment and the long list of potential extras available on a new purchase is an enjoyable way to stamp your mark on your new RIB. Going on the sea trail is also exciting, especially if you have not done this before. Making these bespoke choices on your new RIB is all part of the thrill of creating a new lifestyle choice for you and your family. 

This is a big decision, with lots of money to commit to spending, so if you are not enjoying the process, do not continue. Don’t forget up to this point you have not committed to anything so you can enjoy the ride without being sidetracked by cost; at this stage, you’re just getting the most from the process.
Now we have made time to make this fun let’s look at a list of ways to make your money go further. 

Keeping Your Money in Your Pocket For Longer

How to get your choice of boat is all in the paragraph above; your dealer should work for you to get you the best service and best product. If you don’t believe this is happening, you are simply talking to the wrong dealer and it’s time to step back and find a dealer that will provide this service. 

Now it’s down to the all-important conversation about money. The “dead money” conversations and “wrong time to buy” responses are all about the money. All RIB salespeople see the same faces in the Spring that they saw in the Autumn the difference is time is now against everyone, the suns out and you, understandably, want it all now. To try and overcome all this, the more inventive dealers will come up with some incentives to encourage the process during the Autumn and Winter. In the recognised boating season (April – October) Dealers are hampered by the time taken to build the stock; to try and spread this out, financial incentives come into play. Each dealer has their own offerings, but some ideas are included in the list below.

This Year’s Price for Next Year’s Hull

This simply does what it says on the tin – beat inflation before the year ends. 

Typically, in the marine industry price rises are introduced between 1st October and 1st January. There are exceptions, but generally, this is the timings to remember. It is not unusual for a dealer to offer this year’s pricing until 31st December, which does help the customer buy on the current years price for all of it. Basically, the message is “…commit to this calendar year’s price and get the next calendar years hull” The dealer will do this to help him plan the hull builds for the coming season; it’s worth absorbing the inflation to do this for most Dealers.

Small Deposit

A deposit of 10% is not unusual in the small boat and RIB market. But when that is being put down the year before you receive the boat, it is less palatable to us all. Nobody likes their money in someone else’s bank without having the goods in their hands; even if it is a necessary evil to move on and secure the deal. To make this more palatable to you, and to allow you to secure the current season’s boat price, a dealer may reduce this deposit to as little as 5% maximum. With a typical price rise of 3% per year, the deposit is basically the saving on the inflation and a touch more. This is always negotiable…if you are buying a £100,000 boat, the percentage may be lower, if buying a £10,000 RIB/tender it might be at a flat rate of 10%. Simply put, the dealer has to feel that the figure is enough for you not to turn your back on the sale. There is the Sales Agreement that both parties will need to sign as well; this may affect the size of the deposit as the Agreement is legally binding. The vast majority of Dealers in the UK are working under the Sales Agreement template provided by British Marine; this gives good protection to both parties. 

Payment Terms

In the season, when buying your new RIB, the expectation is a 10% deposit, a signed Sales Agreement and then the balance of the money on handover within a week or two. When going down the Winter buying route, the above-mentioned deals on price and small deposit are backed up with a payment schedule that means you do not need to commit to all the money straight away. That Christmas bonus may well save you a lot of hassle and be factored into the payment plan. Typically, a dealer will ask for payment of the hull, fixtures and fittings on arrival at the dealership, and the payment for the engine (approx 1/3 of the package value) just before handover. This means you have the whip hand right to the bitter end. 

The second payment may cause you some concern if the dealer cannot give you an exact date for payment. If you are expecting this after Christmas and it arrives before you may, understandably, be a little disgruntled. To overcome this, talk to your Dealer and agree a “no payment before date”. This is all doable, but it does need to be agreed at the time of signing the Sales Agreement. Both you and your Dealer have cash flow consideration, and you both need to be satisfied. Again, this is a case of the earlier this happens, the better; if the Dealer is at the limit of their cash reserves by the time you meet, they may not be in a position to pay for your hull until the stock starts to sell. It only takes a handful of £50,000 RIB deals to soak up a quarter of a million quid, so the terms are important to the dealer. The message is, go early if you do not want to be disappointed.

Winter Storage

All storage is expensive and for dealers to find space for this is not always easy; for some dealers, it’s just not an option. However, for those that can include this, it does mean you may be able to negotiate a sale on that ex-demonstrator mentioned above to include free storage until the New Year, or for a new hull to stay with the Dealer for a few months. Another storage options, if you have a part exchange as part of your new boat deal, is to negotiate free storage for your old boat for the winter months. You get to save some money on storage, dry stack or marina fees and the dealer has a hull onsite that he can sell to the next owner – perhaps someone that has read this BLOG and can see the benefit in a winter purchase.
This is not small change being saved by you. It may feel like dead money to store a new purchase and have limited winter use, but, it’s a great way of securing the boat for the coming Summer without any cost to you, safe in the knowledge that you have next seasons boat in the bag already. Again, get in early, space is a premium on the crowded south coast, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Winter Boating 

This BLOG has covered a lot about preparation for the next season, but any RIB owner will tell you some of the best days out on the Solent are during the winter. Once you own a RIB, you will very likely use her all year round. Those clear, crisp, sunny days throughout the winter are usually quieter afloat. The marinas have space for you, as do the pubs, bars and restaurants. It may not be sunbathing and water skiing in the winter but being able to put on another layer and use the sheltered Solent waters to get you to hospitality on the IOW or another mainland marina is magical. Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are two of the busiest boating days on The Solent. If you read this and take the plunge, do so knowing that when the weather is right, you are afloat for the year if you really want to make the most of choosing a RIB as part of your lifestyle. 

The Bottom Line

It really doesn’t matter what I think you should do, but I am struck by the number of people that want the best price, on the best RIB, with the best service, but with the minimum of planning. Don’t see your Dealer as the enemy, give them the chance to give you their best advice and service this Winter when they have the time to help and give the very best of customer service. A Dealer that has knowledge and customer service can be invaluable to you. If this is all new to you, you will need someone to hold your hand through this process. Find a dealer that makes customer service the forefront of their offering to you. There are plenty of them out there, so you are not limited for choice. Anyone buying a boat has the ability to judge people and make good decisions; if you don’t like the personality of the Salesperson or the ethos of the company move on. 

Ultimately, if you want the very best of everything when buying a RIB, don’t leave it until it’s time to buy. If you use your winter wisely, you will get the best price and service on the RIB of your choice.  

Time to Start Looking?

If this BLOG has made you want to consider the option of winter buying and planning makes sure you read all about the purchasing journey in our Ultimate Buyers Guide to Purchasing a RIB. This BLOG is for year-round purchasing and includes details of types of sales, sea trial checklists, the legal concerns and paperwork as well as the after-sale care.

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