Los Angeles, California (NAPSI) - The U.S. Coast Guard says more than 12 million recreational boats will be registered in theU.S. in 2015. Many of those boats were purchased after hours of research, window-shopping, comparisons and dealer visits. The most reliable tool for selecting the right boat for you and your family, however, may well be a visit to a boat show. Only there can a shopper see all his or her options firsthand and under one roof.

Boat shows and expo events offer a once-a-year opportunity for marine manufacturers to gather at one venue and show off their best products. This breeds direct competition among the exhibitors, leading to over-the-top displays, better deals and a push toward innovative technologies.

That means event attendees can peruse boats and engines for boaters of all interests—fishing, pleasure boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, hunting, pontooning and anything else you can do while floating.

With that in mind, here are some tips for getting the most out of your boat show experience.

• Think long term. Choose a boat and motor that doesn't just suit your needs today but your needs 10 years from now. Manufacturers' warranties vary widely, so make sure to consider the lifetime value of your investment.

• Engage with the experts. Exhibitors usually staff their booths with their most knowledgeable employees. They should be able to answer any question you may have and may even guide you toward a different model based on your boating needs. If manufacturers offer test rides at the show, take advantage of that opportunity. There's no replacement for a firsthand experience.

• Embrace technology. Boating technology is advancing exponentially, especially on the transom. Evinrude, for example, recently released the innovative Evinrude E-TEC G2. This new model is believed to provide 20 percent more torque than competitors' models, 15 percent better fuel efficiency and 75 percent fewer regulated emissions. In addition, it won't require dealer maintenance for five years or 500 hours. It's manufactured in six horsepower ratings and available in 350 color combinations.

• Bring the kids. At most shows, children are admitted free. Children are the future of the boating industry and the boat show is very aware of this, often planning activities and exhibits just for the little ones.

• Get smart. Most boat shows host seminars featuring boating and fishing experts, free with the price of admission.

When you head to the boat show, bring this knowledge with you and get your fun times on the water started.