In July the number of boats sold through U.S. brokerage firms fell 12 percent, a deeper recurrence of a scenario that has played out several times in 2017 when comparing monthly sales figures against the previous year.
The main culprit, as has often been the case, was lower sales of boats under 26 feet, with an assist from the next segment up, boats from 26 to 35 feet.
Sales of 896 boats under 26 feet in July were 14 percent below the previous July, and year-to-date volume in the segment was down 6 percent, with 5,507 boats changing hands, according to U.S. brokerage members of YachtWorld, reporting in SoldBoats, their proprietary database.
The 26-to-35-foot bracket also trended lower, down 3 percent for the year, with 6,800 boats sold.
Yet the average sold prices continued to be significantly higher in small-boat categories in July and for the year to date. Among boats under 26 feet, for example, the average sold price through seven months of sales was 10 percent higher, up from close to $25,789 to $28,329.
To understand this trend we created a report in SoldBoats (see charts at right) for the period from July 2016 to June 2017 that showed the 10 most frequently sold brands, as well as the classes of boats selling best and their average price, median length and median model year.
The brands at the top of the ranking under 26 feet were Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, Grady-White and Bayliner, all with boats of median model years in the 2002 to 2004 range. Among these brands the only one with a higher average sold price than what has been reported in 2017 to date was Grady-White.
By contrast, all but one of the brands in the lower half of the top 10 sold for an average price above $30,000. Even though median lengths were similar, the median model years were newer, and in the case of Key West, Sea Hunt and Robalo, the median boat was built since the Great Recession ended, with the advantage of newer technology and powerplants, which should naturally lead to higher prices.
The top boat classes sold during the period were center consoles and bowriders. Except for Boston Whaler’s generally smaller boats (19 feet median length), most popular center-console brands were selling for more than $30,000. In the bowrider class, brands such as Sea Ray, Hurricane and Bayliner sold in the mid-$20,000 range or less; Chaparral and Cobalt pushed
the averages higher.
Among saltwater fishing boats and high-performance/tow boats, we found prices even higher in many cases. Fishing models by Boston Whaler, Grady-White and Parker sold for median prices of $30,000 to $45,000, and tow-boat models from Malibu, Axis and MasterCraft averaged $54,000 to $72,000.
In summary, we conclude that newer, premium models are driving higher prices under 26 feet in classes as diverse as saltwater fishing, tow boats and pontoons.
DataTracker: Views of new listings by boat brands
There are millions of potential boat buyers looking at new-boat listings on Boat Trader every year, and Tracker and Yamaha drew the most from May 2016 through April 2017 -more than 3 million each.
Most of the rest of the top I 0 brands by this measure saw their listings viewed more than 2 million times, with pontoon builder Bennington ranking third and diversified brands Sea Ray fourth and Chaparral fifth.
Included in the rest of the top I 0 were freshwater and saltwater fishing boats from Lowe, Ranger and Boston Whaler — a second pontoon brand, Sun Tracker — and the revamped lineup of affordable bowriders, runabouts and tow boats from Bayliner.
All data supplied by BoatTrader.com and YachtWorld.com and internal tracking of their respective sites.
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue.