Stingray Powerboats
Cruising the Net
Boating Magazine

Buying a boat? Use the Web.

This past fall I bit the bullet and upgraded to a new, more powerful bowrider. My search for that perfect boat didn't start at a dealership, boat show, or during an opportune test. I was at home, sitting in the comfort of my office, cruising smoothly along...the Internet. Or as I have come to know it, the ISW (Information Super Waterway). Think you can't buy a boat on the Internet? Well, think again. Although the day has yet to dawn when buyers can simply call up a new boat purchase on their computer and have it delivered the next day, the Internet offers the next best thing—interactive window-shopping. Today, almost every major manufacturer has a site on the Internet, from basic company data to access to pictures, statistics, pricing, even videos. In the process, your next boat-buying decision has become, if nothing else, easier.

Some of the more interesting approaches to the Net shopping experience are the manufacturer sites that help you find the boat of your dreams—or at least, your budget. They steer you to the appropriate size range, allow you to configure individual models with color and options, price out the final result, then refer you to the closest dealer that can make your dream a reality. Stingray (www.stingrayboats.com) offers three simple steps to boating nirvana. Input your zip code, select a local dealer from the choices that follow, then select and build your own boat. You can view the price of each option as you add it to your wish list, right down to the depthfinder or stereo upgrade. Once you're happy with the result, the site creates a printable spec sheet, complete with an overhead outline in your preferred color, all the standard equipment and options you've selected, a dealer contact, even a certified Internet price. Specials? The spec sheet offers notification if your dealer extends alternative pricing.

Four Winns (www.fourwinns.com) offers a similar approach. Although the site doesn't offer prices, it allows you to configure the options you desire, then access a prequalification loan calculator. Input your income and a few basic expenses, and the calculator will tell you how much boat you can afford and what the monthly payment will be. Just pay attention to the interest rate and loan terms.

Looking to compare models from different manufacturers? Sites such as iWaterways (www.iwaterways.com) allow you to select from a variety of models, then compare their statistics head-to-head. Once you've made your decision, you can submit a "boat purchase inquiry"; iWaterways promises to have a member in its dealer network contact you within 48 hours. The site even goes so far as to allow you to submit both loan and insurance applications online, which are then shopped among a network of loan and insurance providers nationwide.

Configuring and pricing your new boat, however, isn't all that's available. Many sites take another route, preferring to bring you as close to actually touching and feeling the boat as possible. Sea Ray's Web site (www.searayboats.com) takes advantage of QuickTime technology to show a video of every boat in its lineup; it also offers virtual reality tours of most models. Visitors can select the area they wish to explore, then manipulate the view using their computer's mouse to get an entire 360-degree panorama of the layout. Wondering about the view from the top of that 560 Sedan Bridge? Click the mouse and you'll be put right at the helm.

Stingray screenshot

Sea Ray also provides brochures and spec sheets in individual PDF files (read with Adobe's Acrobat Reader, available free on the Web), which enables consumers to download info they're interested in. Beats waiting for that brochure in the mail.

And, of course, you can just have a little fun, too. Thanks to the screensaver I downloaded from a manufacturer's site, my new bowrider splashes across the screen whenever my computer is idle. Problem is, every time I look at it, I want to upgrade to a cuddy.

Jeff Hemmel
Boating Magazine




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