The Boat Show Extravaganza 3


It’s that time of year again. The Boat show is back in Milwaukee. Why in January when the worst of winter is still to come? My theory is that it’s like “Bread and Games”;  maybe if we distract them enough with shiny trinkets, they’ll forget about the misery of minus 15 outside and stay one more generation. And it works, it reminds us there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The show presents everything none of us can really afford. While in the “economic” boat section, I heard a woman say to her husband “This is just like ours”.  I asked here why it was we gravitate to the boats we already own. “I just want to experience how it feels again” the husband yelled back. Again proving my point. It’s not about buying newTheBoatShow stuff but about reminding ourselves thing will get better.

So good for us, we can spend 15 dollars just to carry us over till winter is gone in May and we can leave the show, feeling a little warmer whence we came.

The show actually depresses me somewhat but since it has now become a tradition for my Father-in-law and Brother-in-law to go when it’s here, we keep doing it. Each year we try to figure out what is new and sadly it always boils down to something insignificant. All the boats are the same but this year it was the stairs built into the trailer. Last year it was the switch from carpeting to vinyl. The year before was a big one when all pontoons changed from cream color to blue. Now when we’re on the lake we know exactly who’s boat is older than 3 years. It’s a power tool for the Joneses. They’ll look at your boat and say your boat is so not blue.

What’s, even more, depressing is the price-tags on these contraptions. There’s product for around 14K to 20K but most of is starts at 35K,  easily goes up to 75K and in many cases, a crossing the 100K seems no problem. It amazes me how people will pay that kind of money and it’s depressing knowing that is how much my portfolio dropped in the first 20 days of the year. Hmm, I could have bought three of these for the money I lost in January.

Here’s the thing, my money will come back in the next few months. The value of those boats won’t. It will only depreciate and sadly for most people buying they’ll see the water maybe three days out of the year. It’s true when they say the best days of owning your boat are the day you bought it and the day you sold it. If you’re parking boatlaunchgonewrongthis boat in your garage, chances are that’s where it will stay for most of the year. The first time you’ll take it out it will be exciting. The next time you’re just thinking about the hassle. Gotta get the tarp off, have to get it in the water (always an adventure), getting it out isn’t much better and when you finally do make it out on the water little Betsy has to go to the bathroom.

Two things at the show stood out to me this year. One was a stand with two 22-year-old “kids” trying to sell financial advice, which ironically if it were any good, would be bad for the rest of the vendors. It’s hard to take guys with pimples in suits serious but I do admire their entrepreneurial effort.

The second stand was Water’s Edge Boat Club. This is an outfit that provides a boat at different lakes in Wisconsin to its members. All at a nominal fee of course. They’re fast growing company that one day may cover each lake in the state. Remember how we save over $4,000 on memberships each year. What this company is doing makes sense. Instead of buying a $60,000 boat that spends most of its year in the garage (or costly storage) you pay a couple hundred a month (maybe even less) and use one of their boats. It will be in the water fueled and ready to go. They have boats in more than one lake so you can choose different scenery over close locations saving you the trouble lugging your trailer from one lake to the next.

Here are a few other things to consider when buying a boat. First read my article luxury in moderation it may put things in perspective.

  • If your planning on keeping your boat in the garage most of the year I have bad news. That is where it will stay most of the year. Even if you take your $60,000 boat out 3 times a year, after 10 years you’ll end up paying close to a $1,000 per day trip.
  • Boats depreciated faster than cars so don’t think you’ll recoup most of your cost.
  • Boats tend to break more than cars and, in general, are expensive to maintain.
  • It never stops at the boat. You’ll need all the ski gear, life jackets, tubes, ropes…. I can go on. The price tag on the boat is just the beginning.
  • Get the right horsepower. I started my pontoon with 30HP and soon regretted it. I now have a 90HP which will do just fine until the kids start water-skying.
  • Abide by the rules on each lake. I’ve been bust more times on the water than on the road.
  • Many lakes provide boat rentals. If you don’t want to join a “club” see if you can rent. Again no hassle and no maintenance. Enjoy the water and pay for rent and gas.
  • As a lake dweller, do me a favor: when you put your boat back on the trailer, wash it according to the lake’s rules. There are many invasive species that haven’t reached all lakes yet and would love to hitch a ride with you.

If you need to take anything away from this article other than sound advice, consider the fact that we’re talking about boats again. Winter will come to an end and the fun will begin again.

Good luck reaching your financial goals


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About Maarten van Lier

Maarten came to this country with a suitcase and a diploma. He created a financial plan and goal to become a millionaire in 10 years. He successfully turned his financial goals into reality, wrote a book about it and now blogs actively in hope of inspiring other to do the same.


3 thoughts on “The Boat Show Extravaganza

  • LeisureFreak Tommy

    The same thing happens whenever the RV and new Auto shows come to town. I haven’t been to any for a while but I would say it was entertaining and at least to me worth the admission price. I never gravitated toward boats. My vice is all auto related. The automotive hobby is part of my early retirement lifestyle but as I tell my auto loving friends, I could upgrade to something newer but I don’t want to. I love what I have. I draw a line between being smart financially and succumbing to the emotions associated to owning the latest and greatest. I still think it is fun to look at where things are improving and as with you, laughing at what they consider is enough of a gimmicky improvement or change to cause people to bite and buy.

    • Maarten van Lier Post author

      Always good to keep the emotions in check. It tends to be the emotional side of us that gets us in financial trouble. Funny to hear how it’s not just the boats trying to remain relevant year to year. I wonder if we could make a drinking game out of it. Each time you find a new “feature” ….

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