What's true of real estate in 2009 is also true of the boating world: It's a buyer's market. So if you've always wanted to hit the open water but didn't think you could afford it, now may be the right time to reconsider.
Prices on new boats dropped steeply in the past year as used boats flooded the market, so start your search at a boat show or local dealer, where you can find surprisingly good deals on new models. For instance, Chaparral Boats, a subsidiary of Marine Products (MPX), is running a "Wow Now" sales event with cash rebates and free extended engine warranties. Marine retailers like MarineMax (HZO) can help you choose and finance the right boat. By cruising shows and dealers, you can get a firsthand look at different models and ask questions about them.
If the price on a new boat is too steep, look around for a second-hand version. Dealers often sell used boats, too. They may charge a premium, but it might be worth it if they have a repair shop that will provide servicing before your purchase. Moreover, dealers often sell used boats with active warranties.
You'll likely find the cheapest prices on boats through online classifieds or in listings at the back of boating publications. Also consider checking out auctions on boats that have been repossessed. All the recent economic troubles have left boat repossession companies very busy, which could lead to a great deal for you.Before you buy: Don't rush into a purchase until you've taken a few steps to make sure the boat is in an acceptable condition.