Higher Prices Tempt Boat Owners To Sell And Upgrade

Boat values have soared to a record high since the start of the pandemic, with the current average global boat value remaining at 29% higher than pre-pandemic levels. However, despite the higher-than-expected price tags during what has been referred to as a “boating boom”, both buyers and sellers have remained largely undeterred by prices. In fact, current boat prices have even prompted many existing boat owners to seize the opportunity and opt for a boat upgrade. After all, what boat lover out there wouldn’t want the chance to trade in their used bowrider boat for a brand new center console fishing boat with modern, efficient Mercury 600 HP power plants!

Quad Mercury 600 HP V12 Outboard Engines

Above: Quad Mercury 600 HP V12 outboard engines rigged on the transom of a Scout center console boat. Photo by Ryan McVinney for Boat Trader.

In a recent 2022 survey of boat sellers across the country, Boat Trader learned that 39% of sellers on its For Sale By Owner (FSBO) boat marketplace said they were listing with the intention of upgrading their vessel, while another 18% stated they actually expected to sell their boat for a considerable amount, perhaps even earning them a profit (a rarity for what is traditionally considered a depreciating asset). Of the more than 3,500 private sellers surveyed, 5% said they plan to downsize but remain in the boating lifestyle. Only 3% of survey respondents reported selling because they could not afford their boat.

Boat Trader Boat Prices Seller Survey

Above: Boat Trader’s 2022 boat seller survey was fielded June 1 – June 30, 2022 and included 3,587 sellers ages 18+ who have listed their boat for sale on Boat Trader’s marketplace. 

In addition to higher prices in the boating world, an increased demand in outdoor activities along with supply chain issues in the boat building industry, caused an inevitable inventory shortage over the past two years. Although those issues are now beginning to fade, these recent factors continue to help private sellers fetch high prices for used boats as well as drive up the cost of newer more desirable boat models.

Are Boaters Unsettled By A Looming Recession?

Despite some apprehension about the current economy, only one in 25 respondents (4%) said economic uncertainty was a reason for selling their vessel, while a mere 3% are selling due to high gas prices. Respondents also reported relocating or moving factored into their decision to sell. Many new boaters came into the lifestyle during the pandemic, and purchased smaller trailerable vessels, or “starter boats”. These boat owners may now be looking to upgrade to larger or more equipped vessels, as they get more comfortable on the water.

“The pandemic-driven rush to boating pushed the industry to focus on retention,” said Courtney Chalmers, VP of Marketing for Boat Trader. “Based on our survey findings and marketplace data, high prices and inventory shortage haven’t deterred boat buyers. More private sellers are also listing their boats for sale as inventory levels begin to normalize, with listings up by 65 percent during the summer boating season compared to last year. We’re heading in the right direction, which is a positive sign for the long-term health of the boating industry.”

Which Boat Brands Are Holding Value The Best?

Our recent seller survey also found that among the 434 boat brands listed by private sellers, Bayliner, Boston Whaler, Chaparral, Sea Ray and Yamaha were the most popular, and nearly half of the boats listed were models newer than 10 years. These boat builder names are not surprising as they tend to rank among the top in terms of the best boat brands in the marine industry, year in and year out. The top five states with the most boats listed for sale by a private seller were California, Florida, Michigan, New York and Texas, where a higher-than-average demand for boats would be expected.

Written by: Ryan McVinney

C. Ryan McVinney is a film director, producer, writer, actor, boat captain, outdoor enthusiast and conservationist. He's currently the host and director of Boat Trader's award-winning Stomping Grounds TV show that explores boating culture across America. McVinney also directs and produces the documentary series Cult Classics and the extreme superyacht show LEGENDS for YachtWorld, as well the popular Factory Fridays video series for boats.com. He is a regular contributor to leading marine industry publications.

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