Pontoon Boat Shows: Guide to Indoor and In-Water Shows

It doesn’t matter if you’ve already got a pontoon boat in your garage, or if you’re just thinking about copping your first set of tubes. Pontoon boat shows are where it’s at! Bringing you the best in boating culture, boat shows are a great place to learn more about pontoons, snag discounted deals, and rub elbows with a birds of the same feather.

Now, if you’re new to pontoon boating or if you haven’t been to a boat show before, you might be wondering what to expect. If that’s the case, this comprehensive guide should tell you exactly what you can hope to find when you attend that upcoming show in your area.

Why Should You Attend a Boat Show?

Maybe the other half just isn’t convinced that you need to pay a visit to that upcoming boat show. Or maybe you’re just not entirely sold on the idea of walking into that brand new social experience. Whatever the case, there’s lots of reasons why you shouldn’t let the opportunity pass.

Fun for the Whole Family

Perhaps one of the reasons why husbands have successfully encouraged their wives (or the other way around) to attend boat shows with them is because these events are tailored for the whole family. Sure, there are going to be lots of activities and displays intended specifically for the boating enthusiasts. But organizers are careful to make sure that everyone in the family finds something to enjoy.

From face painting, to crafts tables, to games, and small shows and presentations for kids, most boat shows provide all that it takes to keep your little ones completely entertained throughout the event. Some even have a pop-up daycare or a dedicated babysitting service so you can leave your kids in good hands while you explore the place with your spouse.

Learning Opportunities

It doesn’t really matter if you’ve been pontoon boating for a while or if you’re new to the experience. There’s always something new to learn at a boat show. Organizers will often set up different classes and seminars that you can attend depending on your preferences.

Some examples include mechanical and engine maintenance demonstrations. Now, if you’re not exactly sure what you should do to keep the inner workings of your pontoon in top shape, this can be immensely helpful. On the other hand, boat show organizers can also offer fishing demonstrations and emergency response simulations on the water among many others.

What’s nice about the learning opportunities at a boat show is that they offer a more practical experience than anything you’re likely to read online or elsewhere. This makes it loads easier to retain the information so you can conjure up the memory when you need it.

Actual Pontoon Displays

Maybe you’re on the lookout for a pontoon you might want to buy, but you just can’t make a decision since it’s hard to visualize what you see online. Well, my friend, now’s your chance. Boat shows bring you the latest and greatest pontoon boat models so you can have a look and feel of the real deal.

Manufacturers and dealers flock to boat shows because people tend to be in a spending mood when they visit these events. That also means their representatives will be there to tell you what sets their boats apart so you can make a more informed decision if ever you finalize your choice to buy a boat.

Live Accessories and Equipment Demos

Where there are boats, there are boating accessories. If you already have a pontoon boat, a boat show could be a great place to find new after-sales purchases that you might want to add to your arsenal. It could be anything from boat seats to bimini tops, and everything in between.

What’s nice about seeing these accessories and equipment first hand is that you get to make a decision based on practical knowledge as opposed to operating off of what you read and see online. This also helps you choose the right size, color, and other specifics that might be tedious to figure out from behind a computer screen.

Meeting New Friends and Contacts

The more the merrier. There’s just something about sharing your love for pontoon boats with other like-minded individuals that can significantly increase the satisfaction of the whole hobby. Boat shows bring together pontoon boat enthusiasts within a similar locality, so you can easily make friends to make each trip just that much more exciting.

But more than just the fishing pals and boat buddies, there’s also the potential to make new, important contacts. Rubbing elbows with reps from dealerships can get you exclusive deals and discounts in the future. You could also get onto exclusive mailing lists so you get first dibs on promotional offers they might launch in the future.

Freebies and Discounts

What’s a boat show without a few freebies? Dealers and manufacturers want to leave a mark on their potential consumer base, so they’re going to do what they can to make a good first impression. That could mean handing out things like pens, notepads, mugs, and other common corporate giveaways which are always fun to collect.

Or they could go the extra mile and offer you a massive discount on a major purchase if you decide to shell out right then and there. In fact, most boating experts claim that boat shows are the best places to get deep discounts on brand new boats, offering unbeatable prices compared to any other venue for boat sales.

How to Find Boat Shows Near You

best pontoon boat shows

Boat shows happen all year round, and they’re pretty widespread especially in states where pontoon boating is considered big business. To find out where you can attend the next in-water boat show, you can walk into your local marina and ask the personnel since they’re probably updated on the latest boat show news.

You can also walk into a dealership and ask them since they’re likely to bring some of their boats to display at the next in-water show. They might even be able to hand out calendars to show you which boat shows they’re participating in during the coming months.

And then of course, there’s the internet. There are loads of online directories and websites that provide information on boat shows in different areas. Some of them include:

Make sure you check back on these websites to find out when you might be able to visit a boat show in your locality.

Different Types of Boat Shows

Because boating isn’t something you can do all year round, dealers and manufacturers have come up with ways to bring their boats front and center regardless of the weather conditions. And that’s why we see two main types of boat shows happening throughout the year. They include:

Indoor Boat Shows

Now, these are definitely more comfortable. Hosted inside function halls or even inside dealerships, indoor boat shows still bring you all the same fun points of interest except you’re going to experience it all indoors. While they’re definitely more comfortable, especially if you’ve got small kids or elderly members in your pack, they do lack one obvious thing -- water.

Indoor boat shows might not be as immersive (pun intended) since you won’t get the chance to give those boats a test drive or to see how they actually perform on the waves. Nonetheless, indoor boat shows are great for off-season window shopping, and for checking in on the latest model releases that manufacturers showcase during the cold months to retain interest while boating season takes a break.

In-Water Boat Shows

Now this is about as real as they get. In-water boat shows can be loads of fun because they let you experience a pontoon boat the way it should be -- in the water. This also means that you can test drive any boat of your choosing if you really want to get a feel of what it can do and how it performs.

Of course, the obvious downside to an in-water boat show is the heat and the sweat. There’s also an increased chance of getting soaked in water, so you might want to consider packing a change of clothes. If you’ve got kids in tow, it helps to foreshadow how the warm, sticky, and crowded conditions might affect their mood.

Finally, it’s important to read the fine print when choosing an in-water boat show to attend. Some of these boat shows might not even have any pontoon boats on display, especially if they were organized for yacht and sail boat manufacturers. Read the specifics to make sure you’re attending a show you can enjoy.

How to Prepare for a Boat Show

So you’ve found a show that caters to you and your family, and you’re getting ready for the big day. If it’s your first time to attend a boat show, make sure you follow these tips to prepare for the date:

Know Your Budget

It’s easy to lose sight of how much you can actually spend when all of those shiny boats and accessories are laid out in front of you. Make sure you figure out your budget and stick to it when you attend the show.

Research Manufacturers

There’s a lot that sets different manufacturers apart. Read about them and narrow down your choices so you can manage your time and visit the booths that are most important to you.

Prepare Your Questions

You might not be able to muster up the right questions when you’re face to face with a rep. So make sure you list them down before you leave. Ask about warranties, capacities, after sales services, and other important factors that could affect your boating experience.

Think of the Essentials

If you’re visiting a boat show with the single purpose of buying a boat, then you need to make sure you have all of the other necessities in place before you do. Storage is often the most important of all. Sure, they’re not going to deliver your boat on the same day. But it pays to have your trailer or slip at the ready so you keep your boat safe when it arrives.

Bring a Big Bag

You’re going to get loads of pamphlets, freebies, and other handouts while you’re there. And this can easily overwhelm your hands’ grasping power. Make sure you have a spacious bag at the ready for all of those papers, documents, and corporate giveaways.

What to Look for at a Boat Show

what to look for at a pontoon boat show

That really depends on your own preferences and expectations. But in general, you should keep your eyes peeled for these essential factors and features:

Although it might be tough, it helps to picture out how you expect to use your boat. This way, you can map out which features are essential to you and which ones might be more of an added convenience at best.

What to Ask at a Boat Show

What's Included?

Sometimes, dealers will showcase boats with various upgrades that don’t actually come with the sale. This just makes the boat more alluring at face value. Always ask what the price includes - some of those features might not be a part of what you’re buying.

What About After Sales Services?

This is especially important if you’re a first time buyer. Most of the time, dealers will give you a direct line to one of their reps so you can get prompt service if you need it after you make a purchase.

What's the Warranty?

A 10 year coverage is the average, but some manufacturers have been known to go beyond that. Also note that furniture, upholstery, the engine, and motor tend to have separate warranties from the boat itself.

Are There Freebies

There are freebies and giveaways that they might not hand out to buyers unless they ask. Always ask what you can get tossed into the package. Heck, you can haggle and negotiate - they might be able to bend a little to meet you halfway.

The Place to Be

The best pontoon boat shows have anything and everything you might ever want to improve your boating experience or to get you started all together. And with events and booths for every member of the family, you can easily turn it into a family outing. Just make sure you come prepared and ask the right questions to get the best deals and score a boat that you can be proud of.