Millennials At The Helm: Boat Buying

We take a look at the intersection of millennials and boating. How have millennials helped to shape the boating landscape? What can we expect from Generation Z, the next wave of boat buyers? Buying behaviours are changing. Boat Trader takes a look at Millennials’ consumer habits, trends in the boat buyers market, what the future holds for a new wave of boaters, and the convergence of generational mindsets.

Millennials are tech-savvy and socially conscious individuals that are transforming the boating landscape.

Millennial Values And Beliefs 

Millennial’s profiles will typically follow some distinctive values and behaviours including:

  • Taking social and environmental accountability in their boating lifestyle;
  • Believe that equality in leisure activities is central to enjoying a positive and rewarding experience;
  • Embraces intrepid and unique experiences and uncovering unknown worlds;
  • Flexibility is central to their boat buying decisions;
  • Owning a boat is not a prerequisite;
  • Embraces boat co-ownership schemes and rentals;
  • Actively seeks friends and family recommendations;
  • Luxury is not defined by a brand, but by unique and immersive experiences that deepens emotional connections;
  • Harnesses the power of technology to make their boating more effective
  • Expects high-tech features on boats and digital controls;
  • They are on a mission to reduce their carbon footprint;
  • Wants to be connected with the ability to disconnect at a moments notice;
  • Prioritises self-fulfilment over possessing assets;

The Buying Process: Smart shoppers

Millennials have accelerated the drive towards greater diversity in boating, and the proliferation of women searching for boats has risen dramatically. Boat Trader data reveals a shift in women’s involvement in the boat buying process. In September 2020 Boat Trader documented that women boat shoppers increased by 75%, significantly higher than the previous season. The Boats Group’s latest data demonstrates an upwards trend in women becoming a prominent part of the buying process has remained buoyant. The number of women browsing Boat Trader in January and February saw an increase of +23% over the same period last year. We have seen an increase in women in all age groups across the board visiting the Boat Trader marketplace. Most notably, the number of millennial women aged 25 – 34 visiting the Boat Trader marketplace since last May soared by +76%.

A Brand Mission And Ethos Is Central To Decision Making

Millennials are looking beyond the tangible element of a product and trying to understand what makes the company tick as part of the buying process. What is the brand’s mission? SILENT-yachts brand mission resonates with millennials; it is to create an independent and environmentally friendly yachting experience that combines the silent cruising of a sailing boat with the luxury of a motor yacht.

Millennials and Gen Z’s are expected to take social responsibility where boat buying is concerned, with many willing to pay a premium for sustainable goods with a story that makes them feel guiltless about consumption.

Millennials go boating

Millennials go boating. Image credit: Boatsetter 

Using Social Platforms

Millennials and Gen Z cultivate their social media feeds with boats they want to engage with- and boat builders they appreciate. Short videos and live seminars on social media are more likely to attract their attention than long marketing emails. 

Harnessing The Power Of Technology 

Millennials harness the power of technology to make their boating life as seamless as possible. You can use boating apps to help and guide boaters on the weather forecast, navigation rules and aids, boating terminology, essentials of good seamanship, mechanical and electrical resources, boat trailering tips and techniques and more. Some of the most popular apps include the Boatyard app, NOAA Tide alert, YachtWorld’s app. FishWeather, Boat Trader mobile app, iNavX Boat Navigation app. For an extensive list of each app on The Best Boating Apps of 2020

Ownership Vs Rental Vs Co-ownership

Peer to peer platforms such as Boatsetter and Snag a Slip offer boat rentals making boating more accessible to mass markets. According to Boatsetter’s internal data, more than half of its clients are millennials, and roughly half of those younger clients are female. Boatsetter organises bachelor and bachelorette parties, fishing trips, wedding anniversary trips to provide unforgettable and unique memories. Platforms such as Boatsetter are ideal for the younger generation of women who might not have the confidence to join a local boat club.  

Another great benefit of rental platforms like BoatSetter is that it makes owning a boat more affordable. Boat owners can offset the cost of boat ownership by chartering their vessel on the platform, where boat owners can list their boat for free. Boatsetter has helped to rescue thousands of boat owners who needed an extra cash flow or revenue source to alleviate some financial pressure.  For younger generations looking to find ways to help them fund buying a boat, Boatsetter is the perfect platform. Some owners end up buying more boats and running it as a secondary business

Millennials are increasingly participating in co-ownership schemes. Boat clubs allow members to split the cost of a boat. However, the co-owners and fractional ownership schemes mean that the usage of the boat will be limited. 

Individuals that want to fully immerse themselves in the boating lifestyle should consider sole ownership. Owning a boat will always hold an appeal for true boat enthusiasts; enabling them to fully embrace the boating lifestyle and being a part of the boating community is invaluable. Owning a boat is a gateway to meeting new people with shared passions and interests. If you spend any spare moment you get out on the water like us, the costs are much easier to justify.

Boat ownership also provides millennials with the freedom to be as spontaneous as they need or want to be. The ability to set sail to anywhere at a moment’s notice will continue to appeal to boat aficionados regardless of their generation. 

Adventurous Spirits

Millennials are fully aware that the world has become more globalised, and the benefits of broadening their horizons is a top priority. As a result, intrepid boat trips to uncover unknown worlds have become increasingly popular.

Millennials are not only seeking adventure through the types of destinations they visit but by partaking in immersive activities to enrich their lives, seeking boating experiences that are unique and ‘out of the blue’. Such as discovering the phenomenon of the North Pole or visiting seamounts home to extraordinary species of marine life, 

Boats Which Embrace A Lifestyle

Millennials believe that the journey is just as important as the destination itself, and we can see this echoed in boat design. We are more connected than ever before, and yachts are being adapted to suit our lifestyles rather than the other way around. 

Boats Provide Millennials With A Sense Of Mindfulness

Millennials are also incredibly aware of how important downtime is to our mental health. They appreciate that being outdoors, active and close to nature has enormous mental health benefits, including cognitive functioning and emotional well-being. Although Boats don’t label themselves as ‘health retreats’, there is a clear connection between the way boaters look and feel after a weekend with the family on the boat. Millennials are using more sea toys than ever before, participating in sunrise yoga on the sundeck, paddleboarding at lunchtime, and fishing in the evenings (Malibu boats are great boats for Summer activities). 

Smaller Boats Are Trending

According to the Robb Report, millennials in the yachting industry prefer to opt for yachts in the 197-foot range (60 metres) rather than 328 feet plus (100 metres). 

The ‘trophy boat’ is something that is becoming outdated to discerning millennials. The idea of buying a boat that is functional, flexible and multifunctional is much more important than possessing an asset- and showy or ostentatious displays of wealth can appear outdated. Using a space that is multifunctional and flexible is more important than having a ‘luxury’ feature. 

Millennial boat owners have a strong sense of what they want to achieve when buying a boat. After seeing numerous megayachts and Giga yachts rolled out with every feature imaginable, there is a consensus among the younger generations that less is more. Working with less space but having a clear idea of how to use the space is something that millennials embrace. 

Luxury Customization

Owning or renting a boat that is truly bespoke appeals to millennials. Mass made products have less appeal than they did twenty years ago. Many boat builders such as SILENT yachts and Greenline Hybrid yachts offer their customers customized layouts and bespoke designs. 

Environmental Conscience

The gravity of climate has shifted boat buying behaviours across the generations. We can invest in luxury products that leave a minimal footprint behind us through the development of technology, easing our social conscience.

Millenials prefer to buy or charter boats that are electric or hybrid boats that harness natural energy to bring energy emission down. By the time Gen Z is buying boats, using fossil fuels will seem out of touch and eventually become obsolete. 

Circular Boating Products 

According to a recent report from Forbes, most younger generations (59 percent of Generation Z and 57 percent of millennials) are buying upcycled products. Millennials are very aware of their carbon footprint and view repurposing recyclable fabrics and material as an effective way to combat waste. The boating industry is innovating reclaimed and natural fabrics. Monalison, for instance, is a company that specialises in boating linen with organic certification and fairtrade cotton. 

One such company considering the full lifecycle of its products is Arksen. With the first yacht launching in 2022, Arksen has designed a range of efficient, multi-use aluminium explorer vessels with sustainability at its core.

Arksen’s interiors are built from sustainable plywood and work surfaces from recycled plastic and stone.

Marine Industry Reshaped and Reformed 

Over the past ten years, the marine industry has slowly been reshaped and continues to move on a trajectory towards a more clean, eco-friendly, innovative and diverse industry. Access to peer to peer boating rental platforms will help narrow the gap between men and women using boats and help sustain the trend of women becoming an integral part of the boat buying process. 

Written by: Emma Coady

Emma Coady is a freelance writer and marine journalist who creates content for many household names in the boating industry, including YachtWorld, Boat Trader and She also writes for several boat builders as well as charter and rental companies and regularly contributes to Greenline Hybrid yachts, TJB Super Yachts and Superyachts Monaco. Emma is the founder of Cloud Copy and enjoys traveling around Europe, spending as much of her spare time as possible in or on the water.