After higher-volume sales to begin the year, U.S. yacht brokers have reported slightly lower sales in recent months. Volume declined by 82 boats in April as sales slipped from 2,916 to 2,834, a 3 percent shift.
The total price paid declined by $102 million, a 22 percent drop entirely attributable to lower sales of boats 80 feet and longer, according to data entered by YachtWorld member brokers in SoldBoats, their proprietary database. Values were level or higher in all other segments of the market by length.
One of the strongest segments in April was boats from 36 to 45 feet, up only 2 percent in sales volume, but 17 percent in value as $97 million was exchanged for 607 boats. In the 46- to 55-foot range a 9 percent volume gain was achieved, compared with April of last year, as 151 boats were sold.
Sailboat market view No. 1: We produced three snapshot views of the brokerage market for sailboats this month, starting with a look back at the sales volume for the first four months of each year from 2010 through 2017.
Between 1,500 and 1,750 boats were commonly sold during the period. There have been few major shifts, but the downward trend is unmistakable.
Sailboat market view No. 2: Now let’s take a segmented look at the current sales data by length, comparing 2017 sales data with those of 2016.
This view shows that overall sales are down 1 percent, to 1,490 boats. It also shows notable percentage increases in the volume of sales among boats 46 feet and above, and modest gains among boats from 36 to 45 feet. Average prices paid increased for boats in the mid-range — 36 to 55 feet.
Sales volume was lower among boats 35 feet and down, which offset the gains in larger-boat sales. However, the prices paid for the smaller boats were higher, on average, than those of a year earlier.
Although not shown in our historical data (view No. 1), in our research we noticed a broad pattern of declining sales of smaller boats that was not fully offset by higher sales of larger boats.
Sailboat market view No. 3: The most revealing look at the market comes in the accompanying table of the top 15 sailboat brands sold in the United States during the first four months of this year.
Although the first columns show a diverse set of newer and older brands, the number of boats sold and the total price paid, the column on the far right shows the median model year of the sailboats sold. Among the boats sold by all brands, including some not shown here, the median model year was 1992. Half of the sailboats changing hands on the market were 25 years old or older.
Anyone who has followed U.S. sailboat manufacturing will realize that some of these brands are no longer produced, and that some other brands, including market leaders Catalina and Hunter, are producing a fraction of the boats that they sold in past years.
The Groupe Beneteau brands, with median model years post-2000, stand out for their relative currency: Beneteau, Jeanneau and Lagoon. The only others in that category are Corsair, Gemini, MacGregor and Alerion.
Sailboats in the fiberglass era clearly last a long time. But with relatively few new boats adding to this aging fleet, it seems structurally inevitable that the sailboat brokerage market will continue to decline in volume year by year.
John Burnham is managing editor of Boats Group (formerly Dominion Marine Media).
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.