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Boating Trends for 2024



The pandemic’s impact on boating is still being felt, as evidenced by the trends emerging at this fall’s marine industry trade events. BoatBlurb’s Craig Ritchie attended them all -- here are his key take-aways for the coming year.


Fort Lauderdale Boat Show? You bet. IBEX? For sure. METSTRADE? Of course. And distributor shows, boat builder media events, and new product launches? Too many to count, my friends.


While running around like a crazy man attending boating events all over North America and Europe this fall was certainly very good for my frequent flier account, it was even better for getting a crystal clear view of what’s happening in the boat industry as we prepare to welcome a new year and the 2024 boat show season.


I’ve been talking to boat builders, equipment manufacturers, product distributors, and boat dealers since July, and through literally dozens of discussions some very clear themes have emerged.


So just in time for the winter shows, here are half a dozen key trends for 2024:



Trend 1 – The Big Boat Market Is Hot


boating industry trends 2024
Big boats have been hot sellers, so don’t expect to find many deals out there.

Crowds at fall 2023 consumer boat shows have been solid, yet most of the actual sales have involved big, expensive yachts purchased by people who are paying with cash and who don’t need financing to make a deal. In fact, big boat sales have been driving the market for months, and especially in the US where the economy saw a stellar 5.2% growth rate in 2023 (compared to a mediocre 1.1% contraction here in Canada). What it means is that if you want a big boat, it’s a seller’s market right now so don’t expect any deals – especially if you’re one of the growing throng shopping in the US these days to avoid Justin Trudeau’s luxury tax.


Trend 2 – The Small Boat Market Is Cold


It’s a buyer’s market for vessels under about 30 feet.

While the big boat market is red hot, it’s a whole different ballgame in the sub-30 foot category. Since most boats in this size range are financed, and consumers on both sides of the border have been spooked by incessant media coverage of interest rates, the under 30-foot segment has become a buyer’s market. Deals abound – to the point that even with today’s higher interest rates, boat buyers in the sub-30 foot segment are still seeing some of the best values for the dollar since the 2012 financial crisis.


Trend 3 – There’s Still a Lot of 2023 Inventory Out There


There’s a surplus of 2023 inventory in the current pipeline.

Exhibitors at fall boat shows like the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show were still showing a ton of 2023 (and even some 2022) boats. Normally you would expect to see all new 2024 product at a big show like FLIBS, but not so this year. The simple fact is that with interest rates dampening sales, there is still far more 2023 inventory in the pipeline right now than anyone wants to see. The top priority for dealers exhibiting at this winter’s boat shows will be to get rid of it, and especially since they’re now paying higher interest rates on that inventory.


If you’re serious about getting a new boat, this is the time to get out there and haggle. Dealers and boat builders alike are beyond motivated.


Trend 4 – Auto Docking Is Here


Auto docking capability is going to be hot in 2024.

Avikus officially launched its remarkable Neuboat Dock autonomous docking system in October and its already making waves. The software package uses cameras, GPS and lidar to automatically dock the boat for you – all you have to do is get it within a few yards of the dock, then push a button and get out of the way. The software takes control of throttles and steering to bring the boat into the slip perfectly every time, automatically adjusting for wind gusts, boat wakes and currents.


Brunswick also showed a preliminary version of its own docking assist platform this fall. Volvo Penta has had one in market for a while. Yamaha has one coming in spring 2024. And new names like Daewoo, Samsung and Mitsubishi also have self-driving boat software in various stages of development.


Trend 5 – Less is More


Onboard equipment is growing smaller and lighter as boat builders look to reclaim storage space.

One of the stand-out features at November’s METSTRADE boat equipment trade show in Amsterdam was the focus on reducing the size of onboard gear like batteries, battery chargers, power steering gear, and more. With boats becoming increasingly complex, added equipment has begun eating into storage space, making smaller, lighter components a lot more desirable.


Apart from being smaller, onboard gear is growing increasingly energy efficient, especially as demand for power grows. Everything new seems to focus on having lower power draw, while larger alternators and bigger onboard battery packs keep the juice flowing to all those power-hungry devices.


Trend 6 – Gensets Are History


Batteries and inverters are replacing gensets, allowing quieter nights at the anchorage.

For day boats and cruisers under about 40 feet, the days of the diesel generator are over, as lithium-ion battery packs and inverters render them pretty much obsolete. Forget about losing sleep to the incessant noise of the genset, losing brain cells to the smell of its fumes, or having to crawl out of bed at 4:00 am to refill the fuel tank.


Battery packs and inverters can now run the air conditioner all night without making a sound, plus they'll still leave you enough juice to run the morning coffee and get breakfast going.


Do you still want to be that guy at the anchorage with the noisy genset? Me either. Now, there’s no need.


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4 Comments


No measurement for a "Big boat" is given in the article's description. Now that we're far into the new year and the boat show season of 2024 has begun, it's even more important to get a handle on the state of the boating industry. gorilla tag

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Moe M
Moe M
Feb 01

Seems at least from my current experences shopping a new boat, dealers and manufacturers have'nt gotten the notice or either that or fixated with the Covid days and think peeps will continue paying 30percent over pre covid prices with interest rates 7+ percent. But there is inventory and until the deals are actually deals a lot of these boats are going to be sitting around for awhile, of course unless you have the money to buy that lux"O" yacht.


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How Big is a "Big boat" in the description of this article.

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Moe M
Moe M
Feb 01
Replying to

likely in the 50ish+ plus range.

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