Irwin Jacobs, who owned 16 boat companies in the 1980s and still owns Larson Boat Group in Little Falls, Minn., said the growth in new boat sales, while not stellar, is at sensible levels. “We’re the first business to go in a recession, and the last to come back,” he said.
To rev sales, manufacturers and retailers say they’re putting value front and center. At Brunswick — which owns nearly a dozen brands, including Mercury, Bayliner, Lowe, Sea Ray, Crestliner and Lund — Chairman and CEO Dusty McCoy said, “Every new model made should cost the same or less than the model it replaces.”
But it’s not about stripping a model to make it affordable. McCoy said many new models come standard with features that today’s buyers expect, such as joystick docking for easier maneuverability, state-of-the-art dash systems and fuel-efficient engines.
“Consumers want more but expect to pay less,” McCoy said. “They want more standard features without a higher price. It’s happening across the industry.”
Dan Chesky Jr., co-owner of Dan’s Southside Marine in Bloomington, Minn., said that he’s completely changed his customer approach. He’s added an affordability page on his website so customers can see how a new boat fits in their budget.
“If someone is spending $150 a month on a cellphone, we can show them how to own a new boat for about the same amount,” Chesky said.
The monthly payment on a 16 1/2-foot new Alumacraft with a 50-horsepower, four-stroke engine with fish finder, trolling motor, cover and trailer is $159, assuming a $17,628 purchase price, 10 percent down and financing for 12 years at 5.49 percent.
“We say that you could own that boat for less than $200 a month instead of throwing out an $18,000 price tag,” Chesky said. (Interest rates vary from 4.99 to 18.95 percent, depending on a customer’s credit.)