OPINION: Younger boaters have been priced out of the market

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Most of us have heard the comment: “I didn’t leave my (fill in the blank). It left me.”

Concerning the headline on the front page of the July 2013 edition of Soundings Trade Only (“A ‘scary’ graying of our core market”), I imagine one reason that many prospective and former boaters are not current boaters is that they feel boating has left them. (See the full story.)

If a boater reads any of the popular boating magazines he will be inundated with ads for gadgets and doodads that cost more than his first boat. What does this look like to a boater on a budget? Probably not like an invitation to become a boater. This budget boater, probably young, sees all this great stuff, but when he goes to a dealership finds it costs way more than he can afford.

Thus the younger potential boater has been priced out of the market or left with an old clunker that will eventually cause him to really hate boating. If a boater is young and has great boating experiences, I think he will still be a boater when he is older.

On the same front page were instructions to jump to Page 8 to learn about the Bayliner Element. (See the full story.) I don’t know if this boat will be a money maker for Brunswick, but it is certainly a great move to bringing people back into boating (our future).

The marine industry would be well served to follow Brunswick’s lead and build something to attract these potential boaters. Come on, builders, whenever possible bring back the tri-hulls and bowriders, make them shiny and slap a little 50-horsepower motor on the back. The future of the industry will be better for it.

— Charles Fisher is the president of Boathouse Discount Marine in Melbourne, Fla.


4 comments on “OPINION: Younger boaters have been priced out of the market

  1. Eric W. Sponberg

    This is another indicator that American companies in general are not paying their employees enough money to live on. Wages have been flat for a long time, but corporate profits and CEO pay have risen beyond belief. The minimum wage is stagnant. Walmart will pay you peanuts and then help you get on food stamps and Medicare or Medicaid. Henry Ford had it rght–paya high enough wages so that the little guys can buy your products. We have forgotten that in this country. Now many, many companies operate only to maximize corporate profits to satisfy the stockholders. They have no concern at all for the wellfare and well-being of their employees. Able-bodied workers are literally starving because they cannot afford the nutritious food they need nor easily pay for the roofs over their heads. Plus they need a car first before they can buy a boat. You want people to buy your boats?! Whatever you do, DON’T lower the prices of your boats–rather, PAY the workers of America more!


    The article referenced was terrific, but what took you so long to realize what has been happening to the industry. Those of us who have been “rabid boaters” realized 20 years ago that the industry was pricing itself out of existence as we knew it in the late 60’s thru mid 80’s. The industry created a boating bubble that came crashing down in 2008 (even though it had been tumbling for many years). Buying a new cruising boat is unaffordable for most of the middle class and the oldsters who may have money are too saavy to sink their future into one of worst values in existence (a new boat). I keep my boat in a 260 well dockominium and I don’t thing there’s a boat in the place that is less than 10 years old and most of the boats over 40 ft. are older. In the last 25 years the cost of boats has gone up 500 +%. You announced the Bayliner Element in your publication in February, 2013. The price was announced at $11,999. I went to the Detroit Boat Show and the only one there carried a price tag of $17,999. Give me a break !!! Mike Scuillo really has a handle on what’s going on. I’m very concerned that the recreational boating industry will no longer be in the future. It is rapidly becoming a pastime that only the very rich can participate in.

  3. bpante

    I see right away someone blames Walmart. A company that pays from minimum wage to unbelievable, and everything in between. The problem starts at New Jersey (and probably most other states) boat dealers. They hire ILLEGALS. Sure not just boat dealers, any business. Their is only one reason they do this, GREED. They pay them even less than Walmart. Can’t buy boat if the money is sent out of the country.

  4. Kurt

    Once upon a time builders and designers and dealers focused energy on finding ways to make boating more affordable. They then decided the margins were greater the bigger/more expensive the boat, so why waste time making smaller and less expensive ones. Now we find ourselves here.

    Not only are the boats themselves too expensive for the average Joe, high moorage costs have sucked the life out of our industry. Many boaters would happily take advantage of the amazing used boat deals if there were more reasonable moorage.

    Costs of course aren’t the only thing keeping us down, there are cultural trends, time availability and competition from other forms of recreation. But with a little focus, something probably could be done about the costs.

    Without a serious change of course, the trouble is only going to get worse as the existing boaters swallow their anchors or die off.

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