The Startling Spike In Boat Ownership That Nobody Predicted

Here’s what the surge in boat ownership means for you

The COVID pandemic has seen a spike in boat ownership, as more people look to explore their local waterways instead of taking an overseas holiday.

If you’ve been to a boat ramp during a peak period recently, there’s no question that the industry is booming. The latest figures from NSW Maritime have confirmed it, with 21,367 boat licences being issued between May and December last year. That’s a 52% rise on the same period in 2019, and a lot of people being introduced to boating.

NSW Maritime also reported a 40% growth in registration transfers for secondhand boats between May and December. And people are not just buying secondhand boats, with NSW Maritime seeing a 26% rise in new vessel registrations.

We felt the effects of market demand at BoatBuy, with inquiries increasing rapidly. In response, we we grew our team by welcoming Donald Nicholson to keep up with demand, who has proved to be an invaluable addition.

But as hundreds more people snap up boats and take to NSW waterways, what does this mean for your boating experience? Here are the 3 trends we’ve seen at BoatBuy, and how they could impact on you.

  1. Boats are selling fast

As more buyers join the world of boat ownership, we’ve seen boats in all sorts of condition start to move. Competition has heated up, with many first-time boaters looking to buy and people upgrading to bigger boats.

This has prompted old stock, and boats which aren’t in as good condition start to sell. When it comes to new boats, the story is the same. Dealers have told us they have a backlog of orders. They simply can’t get enough boats in the country quick enough to keep up with demand.

Although boats are moving fast, contributing to this spike in ownership, it’s important to keep a level head when considering a purchase. It will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. Make sure you do your research and that the boat is inspected thoroughly before you put your money down. This includes researching insurance. Not all new boaters realise they need an insurance survey if a vessel is living permanently in the water. In addition, most marinas won’t accept a boat without an insurance policy.

  1. Prices are rising

This spike in boat ownership has seen more buyers on the market and a short supply of boats have pushed up prices. Since the pandemic, boats have been resold for a hefty profit. For example, we surveyed a vessel 2 years prior, and it resold this year for a 30% price increase. We also saw another vessel sold within a matter of 3 months for a tidy 10% profit. Whilst this is great for the previous owner, it’s clear we’re in a seller’s market.

We’ve also seen more boat owners hold off on selling their boats. This is to get some extra use out of it over the Christmas period, since they can’t holiday overseas. Meanwhile, others who find themselves on a waitlist to buy new boats are buying interim vessels. They plan to use them for a year or two, and then sell when their new boat arrives. All this results in less motivated sellers, which has contributed to higher prices and less stock on the market.

When you’re paying extra, you want to make sure you’re getting a quality vessel. A way to identify if a boat has been well looked after is by looking at the service history. For a comprehensive guide on how to assess the service history of used boat, download Service History Essentials.

  1. Busier waterways

An increase in boat users means busier waterways and more vessels to be aware of while navigating. It’s worthwhile putting some extra time into planning your day, so that you can avoid 1-2 hour waits at some boat ramps and easily locate a public mooring. Look out for newcomers who may not be aware of their wash or could do with some extra help. Remember, more people out and about is better for everyone. It means a bigger industry, with a greater variety of boats. A few pointers from an experienced boater can go a long way in improving a newcomer’s experience and helping to keep the whole industry thriving.

Whether you’re new to boating or you’d like to improve your skills, we’d highly recommend getting boat lessons. They will help your days on the boat go more smoothly and build your confidence. Insurance companies are also less likely to give you a policy if you’ve got no experience, so getting lessons can save you money on your policy. Whilst we don’t currently offer lessons, our friends at BoatWise can help with 1 on 1 tuition.

What’s next for the industry?

In an industry influenced by changing restrictions, it can be hard to pinpoint what’s coming after this initial spike in boat ownership. However, traditionally the industry operates in cycles, with demand ramping up in the lead into summer. The season usually starts after the boat show in August. Despite the show not going ahead, the season kicked off early in May, as opposed to usually ramping up in August.

Many dealers refer to the early 2000s as the industry’s peak, where they would sell a couple of boats daily. Once supply increases to meet demand, this is where I see the industry is heading.

As more people are introduced to boating and fall in love with it, they will build fond memories with their family and friends and inspire more people to get involved. This means more opportunity to get out, have a great time and grow the industry – far beyond when borders open and international travel resumes.



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