At the start of 2020, we’ve been seeing boat prices go way higher than many expected. Even today, in 2022, when this post was written, we’re still seeing boat prices at newer and higher prices.
This begs the question, will boat prices ever go back down?
The honest answer is most likely no; the prices for boats will never go back down to the prices we had before the pandemic.
Prices for boats may stagnate, but I don’t see prices going down to the “before times“.
Why Are Boat Prices So High?
The reason boat prices are so high is that there is a lot of demand for boats and there is a low supply of them.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, many people were looking to stay home more and do more activities that didn’t require being around many people.
Boating was the perfect thing, and as the summer came in, 2020 boats were selling like crazy. Everything was fine at first as most dealerships had plenty of boats to go around from new to used.
Then as 2020 ended, the weight of the problem started to show through.
Places Where Shut Down
Many manufacturing plants and other items needed for boats were shut down during lockdown.
While everyone wanted a boat, we were slowly losing the ability to make these boats.
Then we had supply chain issues; manufacturers couldn’t get the raw materials to make boats. Just like car manufacturers were having trouble getting chips for the electronics, so were boat manufacturers.
It was so bad that many manufacturers started shipping incomplete boats to dealerships and letting them complete the boat. The dealers liked this as most of them had no inventory at all to show customers, so something was better than nothing.
Demand Created Waiting Lists
With demand so high, it created a waitlist of orders.
You would pick out the model you wanted and get in line with others to wait for your boat to come in. The dealerships had no inventory so this was the only way to buy a new boat.
It could take months or another year before you got your boat, but this was the only option for some.
Used Prices Are High, Too
When new boat prices started increasing, it drove many people to buy used.
This caused the prices of used boats to go up as the demand for them went up. And some people were willing to pay it, especially after being priced out of new models.
It got so bad that the people who bought a boat before 2020 could have sold the same boat for what they paid for, with some even making a profit. I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years in the boating industry.
Will Prices Ever Go Back Down?
I’m doubtful boat prices will go back down, but it’s possible they may stagnate for a few years before going back up again.
Inflation is usually silent through the years, but since the pandemic, people seem to have become more aware of it. Combined with supply issues, it’s the perfect storm for prices to go up.
The biggest reason I’m doubtful boat prices will go down is that they never go down. Every year, the manufacturer raises prices because of inflation. It’s rarely noticed, and some manufacturers may even skip a year for some models and eat the cost. But the price increases could not be hidden now, and people are just more aware of them.
Just to give you an idea with simple numbers, I remember the top-of-the-line jet ski costing $13,000 back in 2007. The top of the line jet ski in 2022 now cost $18,000. Boats follow the same line on the chart.
The simple truth is that boats are more expensive than people realize and will only go up in price every year just like everything else in life.
Boats Cost More Than People Realize
Before the pandemic, I would get people who were shocked at what boats cost.
From time to time, I would occasionally get people who thought they could get a 26-foot pontoon for under $15k back in 2018 but slowly realized such a boat does not exist, maybe in 1998, but not in 2018.
The best ones are the boat shows when you hear people say, “this pontoon cost as much as our house.” Yeah, it’s not uncommon for a pontoon to cost over $100k, with some even going above $200k.
Getting A Boat Under MSRP?
During the pandemic getting a boat under MSRP was quite rare; before then, it was quite common.
The markup on a lot of boats is quite large. It’s not uncommon to see a boat with an MSRP of $80k sell for $60k before the pandemic. The more expensive the boat, the more money they can play with.
Now it’s common to see a boat go for above MSRP.
Dealerships don’t do this to be greedy, but they’re affected by the supply chain issues and staffing issues too. Many manufacturers had to cut back production, so dealers have fewer boats to sell, so they need to make up the difference, or they go out of business.
There do exist some dealerships with boats that they’re willing to sell for under MSRP. There’s always one boat or one type of boat that no one wants that the dealership wants it gone.
As things taper off, we may see more people being pickier about what boat they want because they have to pay so much. So dealerships having less desirable boats they want to move may be the way you get in.
To be clear, these less desirable boats are not bad; people are just being picky because they have to pay a lot.
What Boat Seems To Fair The Best?
Oddly enough, it’s been jet boats that seem to have faired the best through this.
Not many people know about jet boats. While everyone was more focused on the traditional bowrider, they forgot to check all their options.
Also, jet boats use jet ski engines, and they do more of those, so you have better odds of getting a jet boat. Many of the problems people were having with getting a boat was due to the engines, with many manufacturers shipping boats without them. Many boat engines are just repurposed truck and SUV engines and with auto manufacturers having supply issues this leads to problems for boat manufacturers too.
If you need a boat and find them hard to get, then you should check out jet boats.
Should You Wait To Buy?
The problem with waiting is that you can’t time the market.
Prices will not get any cheaper, and there is already a list that many manufacturers have for new customers.
So it’s best to put your name on the list and get a boat with an option to back out of your deposit.