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Early trends in the tens: boaters focus on the budget in 2010.

After getting a look at the new 2010 boats, the bottom line is that the bottom line is receiving more attention than ever as builders are exploring new ways to bring people aboard. Many companies are offering new entry-level models this year that expand their fleets to make boating more accessible than ever. This is good news for families wanting to upgrade to that boat brand they've always coveted but couldn't quite afford. Since boating budgets are tight, companies are going to great lengths to make it possible for boaters to join their "family," no doubt confident that once consumers have experienced their particular vision, they will stay with the brand and upgrade when financial circumstances improve.

This trend hasn't gone unnoticed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which hosts 20 of the largest boat shows in the country in addition to many international events. This year, one of the features you will be seeing at its shows is the Affordability Pavilion, which is an area on the boat show floor that showcases boats with payments of $250 a month or less. This gives budget-conscious boat buyers a one-stop shopping opportunity to view and compare the latest boats with payments that are less than the average electric bill.

So how are companies lowering prices on their starter boats even though the cost of raw materials has gone up? It's pretty clear that the profit margin on these models is less than the rest of the fleet. While not exactly loss leaders--like the gallon of milk convenience stores use to get you in the door--they're not far off.

A new word has been inducted into the boating lexicon that hasn't reached dictionaries yet: defeatured. No, this term doesn't have anything to do with running up the white flag. Rather, it's computer geek jargon for a product without select features that you might not use even if they were there. In other words, the focus is on giving buyers what they need as opposed to including things that might be just nice to have.

While this blank-slate formula might seem bleak to some, it's really a new opportunity to own a higher-level boat for less money. Bells and whistles can always be added later as money becomes available, and this might be a better way to customize as you can shop for each feature individually, taking advantage of sales and close-outs.

After checking out a number of these price-point boats it's clear that quality manufacturers just can't bring themselves to build a substandard boat. After all, it has their name on it so you can be sure they aren't cutting corners where it matters, because no company is going to take a chance on diminishing its reputation for the sake of selling a few more boats.

So despite the effort of manufacturers to help people buy a new boat, are there really any buyers out there? To quote ex-Governor Palin, "You betcha!" During a recent survey of BoatingWorld readers, we discovered that 44.8 percent of you are currently looking to purchase a new boat.

Can your boat actually save you money? Definitely--especially if you are planning a family vacation. Instead of the usual credit card-busting trip to Disney, consider a homegrown trip involving your boat. A recent travel industry survey revealed that 72 percent of Midwesterners said they will vacation in their home state this year, and I'm in the majority here. While planning a trip to Southwest Florida, I made an interesting discovery. In looking for house rentals on the water, I found the ones that were only accessible by boat cost, on average, about a third less per week in season. Even though there was a ferry to our island (Don Pedro), it seems as though most people don't want to feel "stranded."

Another booming trend is that people seem to be going back to simpler pleasures that involve spending quality time with the family on the water. Last year, sales of fishing licenses in the U.S. rose 7.7 percent, according to the American Sportfishing Association, the biggest jump in nearly four decades. That's an increase of more than 3 million anglers, for those keeping score at home. Why? ASA officials attribute the resurgence to the sagging economy, as newly budget-savvy people seek lower-cost recreational activities.

It looks like the tens are shaping up to be the decade of the boat.
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Title Annotation:editor's letter
Author:Jones, Alan
Publication:Boating World
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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