Key Points:

Boat buyers are making the most of the economic slowdown and a dive in prices and are getting themselves on the water.

While estimates vary, boating industry insiders say prices have dipped in the past year and with falling interest rates, tax cuts and calls for the cost of petrol to be lowered further, now is as good a time as any to buy.

Recreational Fishing Council president Keith Ingram said the recreational boating market had softened and he reckoned prices had fallen about 20 per cent since last year.

"The guys I'm talking to they're not making money.

"You walk into a boat brokerage and they used to just sit there - now it's a race to get to the customer," said Mr Ingram.

"It's bloody hard out there and they're hurting, it's like real estate," he said.

Mr Ingram believed some second-hand boats had fallen in value by up to 30 per cent.

Jason Tredgett of Turners Auctions branch commercial division, which deals mainly in smaller trailer boats and pleasure craft, said there was "a lot of activity" in the market, with demand for older boats despite an increase in repossessions of boats by finance companies.

He said attendances at Turners' monthly marine auctions had increased markedly and a flurry of turnover went against what everyone thought the economy was doing.

"It really is a buyer's market right now and people are well aware of that. Without doubt you can get a lot more for your dollars these days," he said.

"We have sold a few big-ticket items of more than $100,000, but I sold a boat last week for $38,000 and a guy paid cash.

"I know there are boats we have sold that probably would have got $20,000 more last year but things are good for people wanting to buy boats," he said.

Several others in the boating industry said prices had fallen between 10 and 20 per cent since last year.

The managing director of Orams Marine, Neven Barbour, said things were competitive in the market and now "would be a good time to be purchasing a boat".

His claims were backed up by Riviera managing director Bruce McGill, who said times at the top end of the market, where the average sale price for one of his luxury boats was about $1.7 million, were "tough".

He would not say exactly what the difference in price was between this year and last but it was "quite noticeable".

"There are plenty of guys who have

got the money but they're being pretty tough and they're not going to pay what they'd normally expect to pay," said Mr McGill.

"We are seeing offers coming in that are less than what we saw last year but we will survive because of the service we provide," he said.

The former commodore of the Outboard Boating Club Auckland, Owen Braddock, said he had seen a 10m boat that had been on the market for $135,000 but sold a few months later for less than $100,000.

He had also seen second-hand boats selling for $40,000 less than what they were advertised for but believed things could improve for sellers.

"The market might come back a bit now that interest rates have gone down and it also might spur the trailer boat industry," he said. "It's that time of year again and when a guy wants a boat you shouldn't get in his way."