Tale of the tape: trawlers vs. sailboats


Brokerage sales in the United States lost ground in September compared to September 2009, according to member brokerages of YachtWorld.com, reporting their sales in the proprietary database SoldBoats.com.


Unit sales fell from 2,420 to 2,246, or 7 percent, and total valuation fell from $222 million to $208 million, or 6 percent. Despite the relative slump in sales during the last three months, a look at sales of long-range cruising boats reveals their buyers appear to be holding on to their often long-held cruising dream slightly better than the average boat buyer.

We looked at sales among two classes of boat - trawlers and cruising sailboats. In September, unit sales of trawlers were up 14 percent compared to September 2009, the same percentage they've been up year-to-date, during which time 858 trawlers have changed hands, up more than 100 boats from 749 in the first nine months of 2009. That 14 percent is slightly better than the overall increase year-to-date in powerboat sales of just under 12 percent.


Sales of all sailboats in September were down markedly, falling from 521 boats to 423, or 19 percent. Year-to-date, sailboat sales are up 10 percent, from 4,044 to 4,447. Most sailboats sold by brokers are cruising sailboats - 367 of the 423 boats sold in September - but the decrease in cruising-boat sales was slightly less than 19 percent in September and the increase to date is greater, closer to 12 percent.

So, by a small margin, it's fair to say that the power cruising market is doing slightly better than the sailboat market as a whole this year.


By size, the strongest part of the sailboat cruising market for 2010 has been among boats 36 to 55 feet, which has shown double-digit growth. Among trawlers, the strongest growth has been among boats 36 to 45 feet, up 23 percent with 448 boats sold compared to 365 in the first nine months of 2009.

While the U.S. brokerage market has weakened substantially during the summer months, overall sales in 2010 remain well ahead of 2009. On a percentage basis, boats 36 to 45 feet, 46 to 55 feet, and over 55 feet have made the largest gains - all three categories in double digits. Some 23,854 boats have changed hands, 11 percent more than the 21,425 sold a year ago, and total valuation of sales is up 17 percent, from $2.03 billion to $2.38 billion.

The average time to sell a boat continued to fall in September and is now about nine months (277 days), compared to 292 days in September 2009. Year-to-date, time to sell was 285 days, still two weeks longer than the 271-day average in the first nine months of 2009.


This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue.