We look at consumer trends in ten categories to gauge what the market might look like in 2024.
If you are considering selling or upgrading your boat, it's important that your current boat matches the needs and demands of the market. If you own or buy a boat that is perceived as current in both design and technology, it will hold its value better than one that does not offer such features. Another factor that affects resale value is the popularity of the activity for which the boat is built. While older boats can provide tons of fun, the relevance of the application for which it was built can change and affect depreciation. If your boat purpose supports a fading activity, the demand for your boat, and therefore its value, will drop quickly.
In this article I take a look at these factors to see if we can predict the boat types that will offer the best return on your investment. While I don’t really have a crystal ball, there are always trends and developments happening that will help keep you from “missing the boat” when specifying your next vessel. Of course, actual sales numbers are one of the best indicators of what boat products are best succeeding in my three measurement factors. Let's dig in.
Fishing boats are a great example of market trends. There are hull designs for specific types of fishing, including tournament boats, center console boats, flats boats, and bay boats. With the many specialized boats available today in recreational fishing boats, the odds are not in favor of the fish. As with any sportsman, fishermen are always looking for a product that can give them an advantage. Strong sales numbers support the fact that today’s fishing boats offer excellent design choices, the latest in electronic technology, and features from power-poles to electric trolling motors that can make any fisherman a professional. Of course, fishing as a sport is as strong as ever. I don’t foresee any decrease in the popularity of fishing boats.
While cruising has also been a mainstay of boating, there is a decrease in current cruiser sales. Styling and technical features have been updated, but higher fuel costs have discouraged many boaters from taking long cruise vacations. It is difficult to say what this segment might look like in 2024, but I wouldn't expect a big bump especially in the 'entry level' cruiser category. Larger cruisers and yachts may be a different story.
Personal Watercraft (PWC)
The sport of driving an open personal watercraft (PWC) shows no sign of weakening. Perhaps it's because the fun factor is high while the cost of owning is significantly lower than a full-sized runabout. Also, manufacturers are coming up with new features and options every year. Sales are up, and I expect that to hold.
Many boaters appreciate the ability to take their whole family, and the family next door, for an afternoon boat ride. But just when it seemed like every boater would have a pontoon or tritoon in their boat collection, sales have levelled off. While they used to offer a big bang for the buck, more recent and capable model offerings are no longer featured as an inexpensive way to go boating. Boaters that want the longer travel range and speed offered by a standard hull design can only do so with a higher horsepower pontoon. Since large horsepower outboards have become more commonplace and pontoon styling improvements have changed their appearance from that ‘pig pen on floats’ look, I would expect that pontoons should once again set record sales numbers.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in boat trends heading into 2024 is with watersports boats. Ski boats themselves have always been specialized, but with more new ways to challenge the water such as wakeboarding, there is more competition diluting the category. Even trends in human powered craft like paddleboards could be cutting into watersport boat sales, and for considerably less money.
Sterndrive & Inboard
The decrease in sterndrive and inboard pleasure boat sales may surprise some, but with the expansion of outboard power options and the maintenance advantages that outboards offer such a decrease is understandable. The switch from sterndrives to outboards is happening in spades and multiple outboard setups are becoming commonplace. "Fuel fear" has not affected sales. Personally, I am now embarrassed to go boating with only two outboards on my transom. Could dealers be offering “buy three and get one free”? Technology and horsepower advances are pushing outboards and outboard sales are doing well.
When center console boats under 30 feet were introduced for offshore fishing, they also became a popular sports boat for buyers. You could stand behind a massive helm and feel the power of control. The walkaround capability provided 360 degree water access for fishing, but families have discovered that comfortable seating is reserved for the driver. This will slow center console sales.
What about jet power? There may not be a lot new with jet drives, but their pleasure boat offerings are stylish, the work boat offerings are practical, and both fulfill a specific need. Predictably, sales are up slightly. Where there is value, there is a buyer.
Despite new products coming to market, there appears to be a reluctance for buyers to jump on the electric boat wagon. There can be several reasons for this, but cautious buyers seem to be waiting for more power choices and better backed manufacturers. My observation for electric boats still applies: “Speed, range, price. Pick Two."
A word of caution in going for too much advanced technology in your next boat. While current technology is something to look for, most manufacturers build only what buyers think they want. They don't want to take any chances building advanced engineering that may raise the price, but not sell well. Because most buyers are not aware of many new technical features, they don’t ask for them and so they are not in demand. Current styling supersedes tricky tech. Having a boat that can run on hydrogen may not deliver a higher resale value, but one shaped like Taylor Swift might.
So, how much can you actually save by considering the technical level, the styling of the boat, and the relevance of the water sport the boat supports, prior to purchasing? When you combine these checks with today’s inflation, you might just save enough to justify moving to a larger boat. #tips #culture