In July 1957, this group of boaters from Guntersville, Alabama
travelled 650 miles on the Tennessee, Ohio, and Cumberland
Rivers. This photo taken at Old Hickory lock on the Cumberland
credit: The Tennesseean
Boating has been a mainstay of Southern
recreation for years. It provides leisure, fun,
jobs and money for the economy to grow.
This article explores the changing marine
market due to the large volume of aging
boats, advice for buyers and sellers, and the
boating outlook for the next 5 years.
We asked industry specialists the following questions:
1. Manufacturing has been slow since 2005/2006 which
means less pre-owned inventory for the last 7 years.
The used market consists of a large volume of aging
boats. What is your advice to boat buyers? Boat sellers?
2. What maintenance items are critical in an older boat?
3. What is your outlook on the boating industry over the
next 5 years?
Jon Horton, Jack Martin & Associates marine insurance
Jon Horton's advice to boat buyers is to get a survey or
a boat inspection. The survey should be a condition and
valuation assessment. Preferably, it should be performed
by a National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) or
Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors(SAMS) certified surveyor.
Boat sellers should get a reputable broker that understands
selling and buying process. When selling a boat, connect
with brokers via boat shows, marinas, other boat owners,
web searches, or use trade magazines such
as Boat Trader Magazine, or Yacht World.
As an underwriter for insurance, Horton suggests bilge
& bilge pump conditions as a top priority and a great
indicator of the prior care of the vessel. If you see a
waterline in the bilge, that usually means there has
been water intrusion here in the past. Another
concern is the vessel’s belts and hoses. Just like on
an automobile, belts and hoses can dry
rot if they have not been properly maintained. It is
always a good idea to get a good marine mechanic!
They should look at the engine's overall operation
and performance. Also check the exterior hull of the
vessel for blisters as these can cost you money down
Jon Horton is cautiously optimistic about the future of
boating. “In 2007, the market fell at a very steep rate,
but it has been slowly increasing over the past two
years. It is all tied to economy and the recovery has
been in the single digits each year,” he says.
Underwriters will only allow you to buy insurance for
the current market value of the boat. Horton also
indicates, "there are good deals out there,
so take your time and make sure you are buying
the boat of your dreams. Seek out an industry
professional to help you through the buying and
selling process. It can save you lots of money
and headaches in the long run!”
Gary Swearengin, GDS Services-marine surveyor
Gary Swearengin, a marine surveyor, says the best advice
to boaters is "maintenance, maintenance, maintenance".
The better the boat is maintained, the more it will appreciate
in value over time. The older the condition of a boat, the
more the value becomes a factor.
Sellers need to have "curb appeal". How the boat looks
makes a big impression. Just as you stage a house
for sale, this also applies to boats. It should be nice
and neat. Take off any items that do not go with the
boat and this will make the boat appear bigger.
Engine hours logged is very important. Especially
with diesel, if engine hours is too low, the boat may
have not been used for a long time. Too many hours,
there is a possibility that the engine may need repairs.
Other critical items are air conditioning units, steering
systems, throttle and the transmission. Keep the
paint clean, let it shine.
Look at the small details, from repairs to keeping
the paint clean and orderly. Gary states, "A boat
gives you that downtime needed to regroup. Boats
are good for today's economy and it’s a lifestyle
enjoyed by not just the wealthy but hard working
Americans". Swearengin goes on to say "the future
is bright for the boating industry". Boats are a luxury
item, and the industry can lag behind the economy.
But recovery means boat sales will rise.”
Terry Miller, Houseboats Buy Terry brokerage
First-time boat buyers should factor in the total cost of
ownership. From slip fees, insurance, annual
maintenance, fuel and boat payments, think about
what it will cost you to own a boat. “Make sure that
it fits your lifestyle,” she says.
Miller suggests that buyers get a marine survey,
similar to a home inspection. She feels the used "
boat market is still strong. “Boats that are 30 years
old still have some good life in them and financing
should be better,” she suggests.
Boat sellers should price the boat properly right in
the beginning. “Keep the boat neat and tidy. It’s
the small details like clean engine hatches and
bilge area that makes all the difference in the world
when selling a boat. Nobody wants to buy someone
else’s dirt. Staging the boat is important," she says.
Miller sells houseboats and for older ones she
advises hauling the boat out of the water at least
every ten years to take care of the lower unit and
change the zinc anodes. Also, she indicates the
roof on a houseboat needs to be Del-coated
(2 part epoxy and paint). “Maintenance of the roof
will help in preventing cracks and dry rot. Another
suggestion…as with a house central HVAC, check the
air filter once a month,” she says.
Miller feels the houseboat industry is currently steady
with no huge increase or decrease. “The houseboat
industry follows the RV industry trend. RV's are on
a steady uphill climb. With this in mind, houseboats
should follow in a like manner.”
Sam Evans, Captains Choice yacht broker
Pickwick Dam, Tennessee
Sam Evans sells boats and yachts on Pickwick Lake on the
Tennessee River. He strongly suggests that buyers need to
be aware of the boat's value. “The best quality boats were
made from 2000 to early 2009. After this period, the quality
has gone down, but the prices have gone up. For buyers,
they can get more for their money. Sellers with a better
quality used boat and reasonable pricing can have an
advantage in the current market,” he says.
Some specific suggestions to sellers includes…
--Keep the bilge area dry inside. Dampness is a boat's
--Check hatches and outside windows for a good seal.
--Use a good UV resistant wax on the outside to make the
finish last longer.
--Monitor your engine life, change the oil, and change
the impellers frequently.
--Make sure the bottom job does not get out of hand.
Paint ages and if blistering starts you can run into problems
later. Keep the paint clean.
Evans feels there is an uptick in used boat buying…but
nothing to replace the void. He is doing a great business
in used boats, but not in new boats. Overall, he has a
positive outlook for boating.
"The boating lifestyle gives you a sense of freedom that you
cannot get from anything else. The industry will be just fine."
Ken Chambers, Freedom Marine manager
Lake Guntersville, Alabama
Ken Chambers suggests that buyers use a certified and
reputable boat dealer. “Use a good certified boat technician
to look over the boat before you buy. Getting a third party
inspection is just good practice. And do a test drive as you
would if you were buying an automobile.”
Boat sellers should practice good customer service and treat
the customer like they would want to be treated. The most
important items for maintenance are the water pump and
impellers. He suggests that impellers need to be changed
at least every other year. “Change the oil and do tune-ups
regularly,” he says.
The boating market is strong and picking up. Especially
in the bass boat market, his dealership has seen strong
sales for the last six months.
“Getting on the water is a pastime that’s been enjoyed
for centuries. That won’t change.”
Tommy Backe, Honor Marine marine surveyor Decatur, Alabama
Tommy Backe advises buyers to do their research. “Get a
survey from a member of either SAMS or NAMS. These
two organizations set the standards and requirements
for their member surveyors. It provides the buyer with a
professional opinion of the condition of the boat,” Backe
Sellers should look at comparable vessels listed in the
current market. A good "condition and valuation survey"
often required by an insurance company helps to show
any deficiencies, repairs or replacements required.
Backe suggests that a good rule of thumb for annual
maintenance is 10% of the original cost of the boat.
“Keeping the boat in great condition will make it a
better value when it’s time to sell,” he suggests.
Backe is positive about the future of boating. “There
are so many innovative products coming out with
new ground being broken every day in the marine
industry. It will attract new people to boating
to experience all the water has to offer.”
Capt. Billy Martin, YachtSouth Brokerage
YachtSouth has been selling pre-owned boats since
2000 in the Tennessee River Valley. Martin feels it’s
the best time ever for buyers to find great boats at
reasonable prices…but it can also be the worst time.
“A down economy can mean the boat maintenance
is last on the list of priorities. Pricing doesn’t
always reflect that. Buyers should definitely have a
marine survey…and give the surveyor specific items
to evaluate. Doing your homework on the kind of boat
you want is critical,” he says.
“The very best advice for sellers? Keep organized
and detailed maintenance records and share those
with prospective buyers. Have the work done by
certified mechanics and offer to let buyers talk to
them. A boat is like a house. As they age,
maintenance can be more expensive. Another
item to think about…parts for the boat. It’s becoming
increasingly harder to find parts for these older boats.
Some sellers should think about parting their boat
out…finding someone that will buy the boat for
its parts. They can refurbish the parts and re-sell
them on the open market. It would be a good
business for someone to do.”
photo from Joy Holzworth, submitted in the 2013 Photo Contest.
Taken at Paris Landing State Park in Tennessee
All of our industry specialists agree that now
is the time for both buyers and sellers to do
their homework. With the incidence of
hurricanes, oil spills and tornadoes in
the South, available used boats can have
a not-so-great history. They all agree that
owning a boat can be the best investment
you make to spend quality time with friends
and family. It's rare that you can buy a boat
and make money. Getting a survey, servicing
the boat regularly with a certified mechanic,
and keeping detailed maintenance records
will make buying and selling a more enjoyable
experience. And they agree on one thing
strongly...the future of boating is bright.
One of our experts said it best:
“I can’t imagine life without a boat.”