price negotiation on new kayaks

-- Last Updated: May-31-08 3:34 PM EST --

Interested in anyone's take on this situation:

I found a local kayak shop that is really good. I have been down there 3 or 4 times over the last 2 weeks trying to narrow down what kind of boat to buy. At all times they have been very informative and patient as I ask 1000 questions and sit in a number of boats. I'm a pretty analytical shopper with major purchases. I don't just walk in and buy a $1500 high ticket ( to me, that is high ticket ) item in 10 minutes. Whether it be electronics, or a kayak, I like to research the heck out of it before dropping this kind of money on something.

So, I've been down there a lot, they have spent a fair amount of time with me, and also have been very accomodating. Offered to demo me at odd hours due to my wierd work schedule, etc. In other words, this is not the kind of shop or people that are trying to jam me into something to make a buck, they seem to genuinely be good people and interested in getting me the right boat and having a good relationship with the customer long term. The kind of place I like to support with my $$$.

Anyway, on the other hand, being a full time student in addition to working, money is fairly tight, and I have to be a wise shopper and look for a deal. I can't afford to spend $300 more on the same thing at one store because I like it better than another store.

I've shopped around via email to other shops within a couple hundred miles of me just to get an idea of how flexible the market is on boats I am considering. I mean, if everyone is quoting me list price, then I guess that is what the market is and I'll pay it. If not, I'd like to know what kind of deals are available so as not to overpay beyond fair market value on whatever I buy.

Two examples. My local shop has quoted me $1729 on a new Necky Looksha 17 with rudder, and $1529 on a new Prijon Touryak without rudder. These are MSRP I think. You also get 10% off gear if you buy a boat at the shop. A shop about a 2-hour drive from me has quoted me $1469 on the Necky. A shop about 500 miles from me has quoted me $1249 on the Touryak. Now, I would not drive 500 miles to pick up a boat unless it was the steal of the century, but I think it is useful to see what other people in other places can buy boats for. Seeing as I live in Kansas City, probably one of the lower cost of living metros in the US, there really shouldn't be a reason I should pay a premium for things like this I wouldn't think, as might be the case in Alaska where the cost of living, transport, etc is probably a lot higher and would need to be taken into account.


how would you folks handle the price issue? On one hand, I'd really like to do business with my local shop, would like to support local business, and would like to support excellent service, within reason. I would not hesitate to spend $50 bucks more on something at a vendor who was great versus saving $50 at a crummy vendor. However, if both vendors were good, I can't justify spending $250-300 more for the same boat necessarily just because I like one shop better and they spent 2 hours talking to me.

I realize good service has a value, and that an aggressive price has value too.

Do kayak shops typically negotiate on price? I know the margin can't be that high ( well, wouldn't think so ) on new boats, and I understand a shop has to make a profit. 10 years from now, I don't want WalMart to be the only place selling boats because people like me were too cheap to support good shops, but I don't necessarily want to make the Lexus payment for the seller either.

Enough of the novel, and sorry for the length here. Just was interested in some feedback on how much negotiation exists at dealers. Have not broached the price subject here yet with these guys as I have not decided on the specific boat yet, but am getting close so the next visit will probably be to buy.


Matt in KC

Look for Used Kayak
Check the classified ads on this forum. Maybe check Craig’s List, too.


– Last Updated: May-31-08 3:47 PM EST –

like supporting local people who give great service. By NOT doing so you not only take up their valuable time which could be spent on a paying customer, but you hurt a specialty dealer. It sounds like you got superb service! These folk need to make a living and they deserve to be compensated for that excellent service. Will you work for free?? Put yourself where they are, cuz you will be one day in one form or another. No right or wrong, just choices with consequences.

Do the math on fuel etc., long term relationship value etc, and make a call.

Not saying you are bad if you do other than I would, just saying that your scenario is exactly what's killing specialty....and maybe it's inevitable??

People these days research on-line or wherever they get great service..THEN price shop. THIS is the real reason for specialty death. It's also why some here get all pissed about dealers being reluctant to allow demo's etc. They know they are being taken advantage of much of the time.

I think in the future we'll see creative agreements at better dealers between customers and themselves. What was their help worth? If you buy elsewhere perhaps drop by and at least thank them for the help.

It's always fun to read on boards about the great deals at some specialty shops going out of business sale! They need our support NOW, not at the liquidation sales. Of course my belief is that the very folk who price shop are the ones bitching about work going overseas. It's overseas for a reason! Virtue is strong on-line, weak at the check out!

So what’s the question?
$1529 - $1469 = $60

“2-hour drive”, call it 250 miles round-trip. Assume you get 25 mpg, so you’ll burn 10 gallons of gas at $4/gallon = $40.

You’ll probably stop for lunch. $10.

So are you really willing to waste most of a day to save 10 bucks?

second what eric and salty said
This shop is doing what it takes to survive and separate themselves from big boxes and internet retailers.

Talk to them, tell them what you found, but do the math first. Figure out your gas expense AND your hourly rate to drive to the more distant shops. Figure out how much you’re going to spend on necessary gear, and how much that discount will help you at the local shop.

Given all that, personally I would talk to the shop and still give them the business unless their price was significantly higher all factors considered. As salty said, the time they spent with you should be consideration.

Another thing to keep in mind is the likeliness they will spend more time with you post-purchase.

You might consider also where you’re going to buy your accessories for the boat. My understanding is that dealers earn a higher margin on whistles, dry bags, and PFDs than on boats (not sure about paddles). So if you’re going to buy a lot of gizmos in addition to the boat, and if you’re going to pay full price for them no matter where you shop, you and your accommodating dealer might be okay with a cutthroat negotiation over the price of the boat itself. If I’m right about that, you could even tell them ahead of time what the situation is, and avoid bad feelings during the negotiation.

My own policy these days is to buy where I got my knowledge, even if I’m paying more than the knowledge was worth to me. When I was a student, I bought more often on price, so I figure I earned bad karma then but am compensating now. I may be a student again soon, and my policy might change again.

– Mark

price negotiation on new kayaks
Agreed with much of what has been said, and thanks for the replies.

I’m not sure if I necessarily agree that the reason manufacturing goes overseas is because of people who price shop. Yes and no. Now, if I buy a BRAND of boat, boat “B”, because it is cheaper than boat “A”, and the boats are equal but the sole reason boat “B” is cheaper is that it is manufactured overseas, OK, maybe. But in this case I am comparing apples to apples as far as product goes, the same boat at two different retail outlets, and the price at which either of the two retail outlets sells me the boat has little to do with the manufacturing cost and location of manufacture. Now, company versus company, yes, to an extent, but in this case, at least with the Necky, I am comparing two US-made boats, and regardless of which dealer sells me the boat with less markup, Necky themselves are not pressured to move overseas by my decision. Necky may be pressured to do this if I ( alnd lots of other folks ) choose another brand of boat based on price and the reason the price is cheaper is manufacturing cost based on location of manufacture.

In this case, I am looking at a German boat as well, but in that case the Prijon is more expensive than most of the domestic competitors that line up with it directly due to weak US dollar and other factors. Same with the Valley Aquanaut I am looking at. In my case, the foreign boats are more ( than the most equivalent domestic boats ) and have a price disadvantage.

I agree that service is worth something, and that supporting a specialty shop is desirable. If I was only on price, this post would have never existed and I would be shopping on price alone, not the case. Price, however, is a factor. I’m not going to pay top dollar, and above market value, just because something is sold at a specialty shop. The shop is an important factor, but there are other factors in the balance. All of the price quotes I have received are from specialty shops. I guess that is what got my attention, is that I was not comparing some Wal-Mart Kayak Warehouse type operation with my local shop. The varied prices I was quoted seem to have come from the equivalent of my shop in other towns, shops who also have good staff and good operations. This is what got me thinking. I think, well, if I am supporting one of three equivalent shops, do I want to pay $250 more just because one is geographically closer to me. I am trying to decide whether quality or location is what I am paying for with my hard earned cash.

The points and advice raised in the replies so far is legit and appreciated. I probably will go down there and say, hey, I really want to do business with you guys. At the same time, my circumstances force me to be kind of a tightwad, and I am looking for a compromise in the middle between being tight and wanting to do business with you folks. Hopefully we can work something out. My fear is that they stick to MSRP, and then I have to ask myself whether the lack of meeting me in the middle somewhere makes me go elsewhere.

I have already decided that if I happen to find a used boat somewhere by some strike of lightning that is near me enough to go after it, I would get those guys some kind of gift certificate for $50 or something just as appreciation for the paddling education and the good service I’ve received so far. I see what $1500 can buy in a used boat, and wish I didn’t live in the netherworld of kayaking to where the good used stuff never comes up around here…sigh.

Thanks all for the good input.

I’m kinda with salty but,
in today’s economy, retailers need to hear what your thoughts are. Your individual purchase will neither put them out of business, nor keep them solvent. If you explain to them your needs, much as you’ve done here, and they’re really quoting MSRP, I’ll bet they’ve got some wiggle room built-in. They’ve already invested in you as a customer and have done right by you so far. Ask if that’s the best they can do. I’d pay an extra 10% if I thought the dealer was worth it!

price difference

Thanks for the reply, but that is not the correct math. You are subtracting the prices of the two different boats. To clarify:

The Necky is $1729 locally and $1469 two hours drive away. My VW Golf gets 30 MPG on the highway, easy. A drive like this has other benefits to me, including getting out of the house, having a pleasant drive to a new area and seeing some countryside. So the price difference minus travel expense is $260. Figure $200 after expenses. The difference on the Prijon is $280, minus expenses.

I would never worry about this over $50. Now, $200 or $250, that becomes significant to me. Commuting to college a couple days a week, $200 buys me a lot of gas…


– Last Updated: May-31-08 4:44 PM EST –

Agree with much of what is being said here, thanks everyone. I guess what I am trying to figure is exactly at what point you folks would draw the line at paying a little more to support my local shop. Also, I have no idea really how much markup DOES exist in a new boat like what I am looking at, so that I can make an educated decision on what a reasonable profit would be. I am all for the dealer making a reasonable profit, but to judge what reasonable is I need to know how much they are marking the boat up. This information is readily available on a lot of big ticket items, cars/motorcycles for instance, but not so much on boats, so hard for me to evaluate. Definitely worth a few bucks to me more to buy here. When it reaches $250 or so on a $1500 item, that is what I term a significant difference, and where price matters, assuming that good service and the same boat are offered by both competitors. $250 is significant on $1500, I think. I think $100 is probably reasonable as a price premium to pay for the same item at two stores, if one store gave very good service, and the other store really, really good service. It is not like I have one store that sucks, and one that is superb, or like I am buying one boat at a mindless big box leviathan, and one at a little local shop staffed by a grandma and grandpa who invented the kayak itself and who donate 50% of profits to feed hungry children and baby seals. ha ha

Anyway, thanks again all for the great input, appreciated, and kind of lines up with my gut feeling, which is pay a little more for good service within reason.

Check other places and

– Last Updated: May-31-08 4:46 PM EST –

if the price on your "favorite" shop is out of line, talk to them. They will most likely be flexible enough and know they are higher priced.

For $200 you can get a nice used paddle that should be very high on your list - do not get a low-end heavy paddle, unless it is virtually free and only to use it while you figure out what you want next.

I've been shopping for another boat. I've seen prices from $999 to $1500 on the exact same boat new - all from "reputable" retailers. Average seems about $1300. I would never pay someone $200 extra if the average is $1300, but that's me.

Inflating a price is just as bad on behalf of a shop in my view as it is trying to bargain below value on a shopper's part. So, if you can get them to balance it for you around the average (not necessarily the rock-bottom you can get), then their good service will be rewarded enough IMO - you will be back for more gear -;)

Good discussion
BTW, your favorite kayak company is probably investigating Asia…as a means of trying to survive in the composite market. The Brits are going and will continue, as are the Swedes, US etc.

It all comes down to PRICE and what a market will bear. This post is a perfect example. I’ve helped friends at a trade show or two and I’m blown away at how price critical it all is. People will buy a POS paddle cuz thay won’t spend an extra $50???

I think kayakers in general are a very frugal sub-group. I say sit down and chat at some length with your dealer as, as others have said they may be able to wiggle elsewhere. Think long term too, as their excellent help may pay off in other ways. Post purchase support, warranty, trade in later etc.

BTW, if they size you up as a price guy who will use them but buy elsewhere don’t expect the same level of support in the future. Why should they give you that support when they know what you’ll do?

No one works for me unless they make money! I expect to make money at what I do and won’t serve anyone who doesn’t respect that. Nor will I accept good work from others without fairly compensating them. This seemingly opposite approach has served me very well BTW.

1,000 questions . . . $200.00
That’s a cost of $.20 a question . . . if the shop gave you good answers, I’d say you definitely got your money’s worth and should go ahead and buy from the folks at the shop that spent all that time with you.

But yeah, talk to the people at the shop. It doesn’t hurt to ask if there is some wiggle room in the price.

(Disclaimer: this is from the perspective of an owner of a small kayak shop).

good points
Good stuff, everyone. I will definitely support the good guys if I can afford to do it, and if the added cost is reasonable. Again, $250 is probably too high a difference on a $1500 item for me to consider this reasonable ( tax on the $250 as well, minor point ). $100 more for the same item at this price range as a cost of good service, I think that is fair. I’ll probably go down there and demo a couple boats, pick out one I like, present them with the pricing I can get elsewhere, and see if they’ll take a deal $100 over what I’ve been quoted. Add to this the likelihood that if they sell me the boat, I’ll probably not only buy a lot of other additional gear there ( just bought a skirt for my wife’s boat there last week ) over the next few years, but probably upgrade eventually with another boat from them, as well as be a walking advocate and advertisement for their shop. I would gladly go out of my way to spread the good word and refer business to them if they can flex a little bit to make the deal make sense to me.

Good stuff, everyone, and thanks. Now, if I could just decide between the Valley Aquanaut Club, the Necky Looksha 17, and the Eddyline Merlin XT they have, all at about the same price point ($1500-ish give or take a hundred), I would be set. All of these boats appeal to a different part of my brain, and I’ll probably try to demo at least 2 of them. Demo time definitely worth some loyalty points to me as well.

Anyone with input on the above boats feel free to chime in…

your best bet on price

– Last Updated: May-31-08 7:06 PM EST –

is to buy in the fall---I bought my T--170 RM in late october at a sale----MRSP then was 1550 I paid $896.00 for it, including sales tax. And BTW it was the annual fall sale of a local shop that is still in business and doing quite well---don't be sucked into the buy local here and paymore arguement---you can usually get a good deal from your local dealer as long as you are not in a hurry to buy and are willing to wait until they want to reduce their inventory. Also you don't have to "negotiate" I simply waited until the local shop had a 33% off sale plus what ever you rolled in a dice(I got lucky and rolled a 6 for a total of 39% off the MRSP---I paddled a used sea kayak for 3 years prior to buying the WS so just be patient---you can get deals.

If you want the freaking boat
make the local guy an offer.

If he refuses your offer you have two choices, buy it at his price or go running all over the place to save a few bucks.

If it was me I would forget about running around and buy it from the local guy.

My local bike shop fixes a bunch of stuff for me for next to nothing, mainly because I have made major purchases there.

A paddling store gives me the best prices possible, mainly because I have bought a half dozen boats from them.

You know the old adage; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. - believe me it is the truth !



It’s the right math
Apparently you would be happy with either model boat, right?

If $200 is so important to you, why are you considering a $1700 boat when there is a $1500 boat that you would be happy with?

Since cost is a driving factor for you, the correct comparison to make is between the lowest cost boat on your “I’d be happy with it” list at each location.

Same here
My local shop isn’t very local - it’s about a 90 minute drive. However, it is the only good paddlesports shop within reasonable driving distance. I’ve supported them for several years because I wanted to see them stay in business and do well. As a result, they often give me discounts on gear even if I don’t ask for it. It’s there way of saying thanks for the continued support.

I realize that money is always a concern, but your local shop has already invested a significant amount of time in educating you. If you are not going to buy from them, at least have the decency to not tie up their time and equipment with continued “educating yourself” trips and test paddles of their equipment. If you really want to buy from someone else, drive down there and tie up their time.

I Like Local…
…provided they provide good service and are reasonably competitive.

Our local shop, the Outfitters, have both. Here’s a small example. Recently, we wanted two sets of SeaDog foot pegs; the Outfitters didn’t carry them, so I googled them up - best deal for us was in B.C., Western Canoeing and Kayaking, at $33, with about $10 more for shipping plus taxes. Called the owner at the Outfitters, gave him some info on the pegs, and offered to pay $40 + taxes - he brought them in for us, and got a couple of additional sets to try in the store.

I “paid” a $7 premium over the B.C. price - better to have that $7 helping pay salaries at the Outfitters than at Canada Post’s rather costly 11 day parcel post service. (I think they charge more for storage enroute than for actual shipping!)

The same store matched the best deal I could get in Canada for two semi-dry suits; when mine had a problem developing with the neck gasket about 18 months later, they contacted the manufacturer, got the return authorization, packaged and shipped the suit, kept me posted on progress re the warranty claim, handled the customs paperwork, called me when it arrived back and handed it over with a “…no charge, glad to be able to do it…”

Quote >

Well, I don’t think I have taken unreasonable advantage of them at this point. I have not demoed a boat, I have stopped by during exceedingly slow times of the day where there was not another person in the shop, and the guy there as much told me that if I wasn’t there, they would have nothing going on at the time. I do buy accessories from them from time to time, and will continue to do so. So I do spend money there pretty regularly, just not on a new boat yet. And, I don’t think I have at all decided to buy a new boat elsewhere. I’m trying to get my head around what is a good compromise between giving them some business for their good service and not overpaying a ton over what I can buy the same boat for elsewhere with good service there also. I definitely will give preference to the local shop, and to any shop that treats me well, lets me demo a boat etc. It is not totally about price, and at the same time I am not a believer in just blindly paying MSRP for everything because someone answered some questions for me or spent a little time with me. I think there is a balance somewhere, and price is a component of this value proposition, as well as service, location, et cetera.

I doubt many people buy a car without significant negotiation or research prior, and without price being a major factor, although maybe not the only factor, in the decision. I’m not going to walk into a dealer and pay full MSRP on a new car just because someone spent an hour or two demoing the car to me. Will I pay a little more, maybe a few hundred more to support a local dealer who deals with me well? Sure. Will I pay a couple grand more? Nope. Now, with a boat, where instead of $20,000 we are talking $2000 or in my case $1500, same deal. I’ll pay, gladly, $100 or so more for a $1500 item off someone who deserves my business. If I can buy the same thing all day long elsewhere and still get good service for $300 less, well, I think I’d be an idiot to spend the additional money. I think there is a balance to be found which is a win-win in any big ticket purchase. The seller deserves to make some profit, and the buyer deserves a decent deal too. Either extreme, where the buyer wants something for nothing, or where the seller expects MSRP for doing a good job ( which is what they should be doing anyway ), eh, I have a harder time with these extremes.

Thanks again for all the good and thoughtful replies.