If you’re anything like me, your days have probably been filled with whimsical daydreams of exploring the Great Lakes on a shiny new—or at least new to you—vessel.
If that’s the case, you may be ready to take the first steps in your boat-buying journey. Let’s make those passive daydreams into a reality by looking into Great Lakes boat brokerages.
Know Your Preferences
Before settling on a broker, it’s important to find one who specializes in the kind of boat you’re looking for. Matt Gottron of Happy Days Boating in Port Clinton, Ohio, explained that there are plenty of different styles from which to choose and you’ll need to know how you primarily plan to use your boat before buying one.
“There are cruising, pleasure, bowriders, fishing, and all kinds of styles,” shared Gottron. “So what you’re going to want to do is narrow down how you want to use your boat so you can know what style of craft you want. Then you take a look at brokerages to see if they specialize in the type of boat you want.”
Sometimes brokers can have a broad inventory as well. For example, Happy Days Boating will occasionally get a cruiser even though they do not consider themselves to specialize in cruisers. In this light, it can be a good idea to find a few different brokers to give your name and number to so they can keep an eye out for your particular style of boat.
Research Your Brokers
However, before you start reaching out to brokerages, you’ll want to dig a little deeper into prospective brokers. Jay Kraft, the owner of Bay Breeze Yacht Sales in Traverse City, Mich., stressed that it’s highly beneficial to go with brokers that are well-established.
“There are plenty of new yacht sales brokerages out there that sell the particular brand or style of vessel that you’re interested in pursuing, which a good thing,” observed Kraft, “but when it comes to a broker vessel, I think being a Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA) member is probably the first and foremost fundamental association certification that people should look at.”
Corby Coon, the sales manager at Knox Marine in Fredericktown, Ohio, agreed with this as well. Being a reputable brokerage with experience speaks volumes and demonstrates a commitment to the boating industry.
“Our Service staff has tons of years of experience,” shared Coon, “and the honesty, the know-how and suggestions we make as a team definitely go a long way in helping buyers out.”
Kraft went on to explain that brokerages could also take it one step further with a Certified Professional Yacht Brokerage (CPYB) endorsement. This shows that the particular brokerage has taken a couple of additional steps to establish themselves as a broker who takes the industry seriously as a career rather than just a hobby.
“Reputable dealers are important,” added Coon. “I have a hard time with Craigslist and Marketplace listings because I’ve just seen too many horror stories firsthand about a customer buying through a private seller and not knowing what to look for and then getting stuck with a motor that has problems.”
Researching brokerages is particularly important if you’re a first-time boat buyer. If it’s the first time you’re purchasing a boat, then you definitely want to find a broker you can trust to guide you through the process while explaining what to look for.
Kraft mentioned that new boaters often need a little bit more attention and time. He compared it to buying a first home since there’s a lot to be considered that new buyers haven’t been through before. For this reason, it’s crucial to find a broker who isn’t just interested in selling you a boat, but in exposing you to the ins and outs of the boating experience.
“It’s getting you into the right mindset that there are going to be costs afterward that may not necessarily be associated with something like an RV or some other toy,” added Kraft. “There’s storage, maintenance and things like that. So I think the big picture is an important thing. It shouldn’t just be the broker looking at the sale.”
Brokers are also meant to help you sort through added logistics such as figuring out how to get your new boat to the Great Lakes if it’s coming from another area. They can also walk you through more predictable challenges such as finding a reputable surveyor for a marine survey of your potential boat.
Then there’s the matter of following through with the paperwork and the transfer of funds. Having a broker you trust goes a long way through this entire boat buying process.
Another element that sets different brokerages apart is not just their boat-selling experience, but their boating experience. Of course you’ll want both, but working with actual boaters when it comes to buying a boat makes a huge difference. For example, Bay Breeze Yacht Sales specializes in trawlers and they truly live the trawler lifestyle on the Great Lakes.
“We’ve engaged in the activity ourselves, not just selling boats and buying boats from other people,” explained Kraft.
For instance, they have an active trawler school and active trawler charters. Bay Breeze Yacht Sales also has pilot charters which are different than captain charters. These charters allow people to get on a boat they might be interested in and go from port to port without a captain on board so they can be on their own and figure out whether that particular boat works for them.
“We fully engage and immerse ourselves in the trawler lifestyle and the trawler market rather than just being brokers,” said Kraft. “We take it to the next level.”
Taking The Leap
Once you’ve found a reputable broker who specializes in the type of boat you’re after and you’ve reached out to them, then it’s time to stop on by the brokerage so you can get a proper feel for the boat in-person.
“You can look at a boat online all day long,” described Gottron, “but it’s not going to give you a real idea of how much room it has inside and what the exterior looks like. It’ll only give you the basics.”
Gottron explained that at Happy Days Boating, they get you on the boat and go through the entire thing with you, and they open their doors to surveyors. All their sales are also done with an in-water boat test once weather cooperates. Then when you’re satisfied with the boat and decide to buy it, their delivery guys spend around two to three hours per delivery where they go from the transom and work their way up through the bow, explaining all the features on the boat and how to work them.
“We want them to be familiar and comfortable with the boat because if you’re familiar and comfortable, you’ll use the boat,” noted Gottron. “That’s the biggest goal.”
Trusting your broker cannot be overstated. Now that you know a little more about how boat brokers can help you find your dream vessel, it’s time to get out there and find one that can walk you through this exciting journey!
For More Information
Bay Breeze Yacht Sales
Happy Days Boating