U.S. brokerage sales fell 11 percent in March from the same month in 2014 and the quarter ended with sales lower by 5 percent, as 5,427 boats were sold.
Despite fewer transactions, YachtWorld member brokerages reported in their proprietary database, SoldBoats.com, that the total value of sales rose 5 percent during the quarter, climbing from $715.3 million to $749.6 million. The average value of boats sold during the period rose 10 percent, from $125,162 in the first three months of 2014 to $138,122 this year.
Sales declined during the quarter among boats 45 feet and smaller, but the average prices achieved were higher for boats smaller than 26 feet and flat for boats from 26 to 35 feet. Average prices declined 4 percent for boats from 36 to 45 feet.
During the three-month period, the volume of sales was higher by 10 percent for boats 46 to 55 feet, as 367 were sold for $110 million. Sales volume declined 6 percent among boats from 56 to 79 feet, but the total price paid increased from $111 million to $132.7 million, a jump in the average price of $197,266. Superyacht sales volume decreased from 42 boats to 41, but the total price paid rose 5 percent, to $190.6 million.
This month, we looked at the composition of brokerage boats reported as sold during the quarter by age and type, seeking clues to market behavior.
Of the 5,427 boats that sold, 28 percent were 20 or more years old. Of those 1,543 boats, 40 percent had masts and sails. And of 1,009 sailboats that sold, 60 percent were more than 20 years old. Taken together, these statistics reflect the fact that sailboats, with easily replaced sails and rigging, generally last longer than powerboats. They also provide evidence of a persistent shift toward powerboats in recent times.
Considering the powerboat classes over and under 20 years old that sold best during the quarter, we saw that motoryachts and trawlers led sales among older boats and that center consoles, cruisers and saltwater fishing boats led among more recent models.
This may indicate a shift in market interest toward more fishing-style boats, but with bowriders and even pontoon boats cracking the top 10 for under-20s, we can also hypothesize that smaller, newer-model boats are more readily available at affordable prices. To find a motoryacht or a trawler to fit a budget, a buyer might need to look back into the 1980s and 1990s.
In the sail category, the cruiser of any age continues to reign supreme; the top five classes of boats over 20 years old were cruisers. Among the newer models that sold, the dedicated cruiser has continued to outdistance the ambidextrous cruiser/racer, and although other cruising classes have lost momentum, the cruising catamaran has risen to prominence.
We can’t conclusively relate the composition of this fleet of sold boats to overall market behavior, but on the sailboat side it seems probable that aging inventory has contributed to weaker sales, along with factors such as the aging of the baby-boom generation.
On the powerboat side, sales of smaller boat classes, such as center consoles and bowriders, could indicate that affordability and smaller time commitments were contributors.
John Burnham is the editorial director of Dominion Marine Media.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue.