U.S. brokerage sales volume was lower by 7 percent, or 415 boats, in the first quarter this year, compared with the same period in 2013.
There were 5,683 boats that sold during the period, and powerboat and sailboat sales declined by similar percentages, according to YachtWorld member brokerages reporting in SoldBoats.com, their proprietary database. Powerboat sales fell 7 percent, to 4,606, and sailboat sales fell 8 percent, to 1,077.
In March, total sales declined 8 percent, to 2,439 boats, from 2,642 the previous year. Powerboat sales fell 7 percent, to 2,020, and sailboat sales dropped 12 percent, to 419.
The total value of boats sold during the quarter was significantly lower than in the previous year. Sailboats brought an aggregate price that was off by 33 percent, to $89.5 million; the figure for powerboats was off by 20 percent, to $634.8 million. In both cases, lower values for superyacht sales caused the steep decline.
In the sailboat segment, no sales were reported for boats above 80 feet during the period; six were sold, for $46 million, during the first quarter last year. Among powerboats, 42 vessels changed hands, compared with 41 in last year’s first quarter, but the aggregate price paid, $189 million, was 45 percent less than the $344 million that was paid in the first quarter of 2013.
If we exclude figures for superyachts (boats 80 feet and longer) and look at the rest of the market, the 2014 first-quarter picture is quite different. The sales volume was still down 7 percent, but the value of all sales was down by only $2 million, or less than 1 percent. The average sale price increased from $89,000 to $94,000, a gain of 7 percent.
Looking more closely at sales trends in different size ranges, we see that the bulk of the decline in sales volume in the core market was among boats smaller than 26 feet. A total of 1,820 boats were sold in that category during the first three months of 2014, which was 333 fewer than in the same period in 2013. The rest of the decline was in the 26- to 35-foot segment, where 2,069 boats were sold — 95, or 4 percent fewer than a year earlier.
At the same time, the average sale prices increased in both of these size ranges. For boats under 26 feet, the average price rose from $21,000 to $21,600, and for boats in the 26- to 35-foot range the average price climbed from $55,900 to $58,500.
Among larger boats, the volume of sales increased incrementally, but the values did not keep pace, reflecting a decrease in average prices. The largest decline was among boats 56 to 79 feet, with the average price falling from $739,000 to $712,000.
John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue.