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Emphasizing affordability in the Big Apple

A new feature was launched this week at the New York National Boat Show: an “Affordability Pavilion” featuring eight boats from different builders, each of which can be financed for $250 or less a month.

The pavilion, set up at the back of the show floor, provides consumers with pamphlets detailing how financing works, the best way to finance a boat, and boat show shopping tips. At the Discover Boating Center, situated in the pavilion, staff can discuss the different boats and help customers decide which best fits their lifestyle.

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This is the first show to feature the pavilion, said Ellen Hopkins, director of marketing communications for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which produces the New York show. It will also be featured at other shows during the upcoming season.

"It's been a popular spot," Hopkins said Tuesday afternoon, the fourth day of the show, which runs through Sunday.

One of the boats on display was the Mako 171 center console with a 90-hp ELPTO Mercury for $18,995, a discount price. That boat can be financed for as low as $140 a month. And Bentley Pontoon Boats featured several models, including a 20-footer with a 50-hp Mercury 2-stroke for less than $190 a month.

Leslie Heins was the Discover Boating representative on hand Tuesday to answer questions. She said most people are surprised to learn that you don't have to be wealthy or have tens of thousands of dollars in the bank to buy a boat. In fact, according to NMMA statistics, about 75 percent of boat owners have a household income of less than $100,000, and about 95 percent of boats on the water today are 26 feet or smaller.

In addition to on-site staff, the pavilion offers literature to help potential buyers find the right boat. A detailed worksheet helps consumers figure out monthly payments, and there's literature that talks about how longer financing terms are often available because boats hold value longer, and why paying cash for a boat may not be the best option.

With manufacturers and dealers around the country concerned about the drop in sales, which is expected to continue into 2009, emphasizing affordability may be one way to keep people in boating and bring new boaters into the fold.

Will an Affordability Pavilion at this winter's boat shows help turn the tide? What do you think?

— Beth Rosenberg


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