U.S. brokers sold 1,607 boats in February, 48 fewer than in the same month a year earlier, in a 3 percent decline that coincidentally was similar to January’s result.
Although there was nuance to the data — as always — we decided to take a break from the monthly view and focus this story on a 10-year look at the brokerage market. We went to the SoldBoats archives of YachtWorld member brokerages and reported on sales in the most popular classes of boats sold in 2015, 2010 and 2005.
Overall, sales were highest in 2005, with 33,184 boats sold (sales subsequently reached nearly 35,000 in 2006 and 2007). In 2010 total volume had bounced up to 29,618 from 2008-2009 lows in the 27,000-boat range. In 2015, sales were above 30,000 for the third year in a row, as 30,077 boats changed hands.
During the 10-year period the market shifts were significant. In 2005 the top sellers were express cruisers, at 5,883 boats, and sail cruisers, at 4,958. A decade later, sales in these classes were lower by more than half, with express cruisers at 2,433 and sail cruisers at 2,182.
It should be noted that during the study period YachtWorld increased the number of classes that a broker could choose when listing a boat for sale. A review of the data suggests that an apples-to-apples comparison would increase the number of express and sail cruisers sold in 2015, possibly by a matter of hundreds of boats, but not by thousands.
The relative lack of change in average sold prices also indicates that inventory in those classes generally may be aging, something we know is true in the sail cruiser category.
By comparison, brokers selling power cruisers and center consoles saw a dramatic increase in sales volume. Power cruiser sales were most numerous in 2015, with 3,551 reported, more than double the class’s figures for 2005.
The center console market grew even faster and essentially moved from being a marginal category to a central and reliable segment of the brokerage market.
Notably, the average power cruiser brought a much higher price than in 2005, up from $38,000 to $77,000, and center console pricing went through a similar upward shift, from $33,000 to $55,000. Clearly, the average size model and level of luxury was on the rise in both classes during the period.
Some classes saw a decrease in sales from 2005 to 2010, but then rose again as the U.S. economy gained strength. This was evident in the saltwater fishing, sportfishing and motoryacht categories. Running in an interesting counter-trend of its own was the bowrider, which doubled in sales from 2005 to 2010, but has lost some of that burst during the past five years, even as the average sold price of a bowrider increased substantially.
Not appearing in this issue’s table of top-ranked classes are convertibles and sail cruiser/racers, both of which had major declines during the 10-year period. Convertible sales slid from 2,446 in 2005 to 656 last year. Sail cruiser/racer sales dropped from 1,870 to 983.
What to watch for in the next five years? How about pontoon boats? Sales in that category rose from 177 in 2005 to 570 in 2015 at average sold prices that more than doubled, from $13,000 to $28,000.
John Burnham is the managing editor of Dominion Marine Media.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue.