Contender Boats is a brand of offshore fishing boats that are seen as being expensive.
They are often compared to Grady White and Yellowfin.
So, how good are Contender boats?
Here’s How Good Contender Boats are:
Contender Boats is an upper-tier brand of semi-custom offshore fishing boats, mostly center consoles. They have fewer amenities than most comparable brands. As all popular brands do, they are recognized as being a top choice for hardcore fishermen because of their performance and reliability.
A Brief History Of Contender Boats:
So in 1984, Joe Neber started his own company, Contender Boats.
The Classic 25 was the first model produced, and it quickly took off in sales. It featured biaxial and triaxial fiberglass construction and gained a reputation for being solidly built.
This was followed by the 35 Express and then the Classic 31, which were the boats that changed the company’s direction. They focused on inboards, but when Yamahas set a new standard of reliability for outboards in the late 1980s, they put outboard brackets on these models and never went back to inboards.
The company continued to grow until the price of oil skyrocketed in 2008, and sales dropped off. Neber considered going back to inboard diesel engines for fuel economy but instead began a major hull redesign.
After extensive work in naval architecture, his company introduced their stepped hull design with Step 35. This was a major break from their deep-V origins, but it proved to be a success. Stepped hulls always had problems following seas, but the new design was perfect and was smooth at any angle relative to the waves.
The fuel economy increased, and with the smooth ride and seakeeping ability of the new hull designs, once again Contender was on the rise.
Today they have a solid reputation for offshore performance fishing and recreation.
How Reliable Are Contender Boats?
Contender builds their boats for speed and functionality for offshore fishing.
They have several options for each of their models, so they are billed as semi-custom boats.
As an upper-tier brand that places little value in amenities, the expense of the boat is tied up in the design and construction. Everything is designed and built to function well and last.
With fishing being the foremost characteristic of most Contenders, they are an open, clean design so that you can walk around them easily. There is plenty of room for casting and even gutting a fish.
There are many rod-holders spaced around most models. The livewells are large and well-supported. Cleats are a combination of pop-up and recessed below the rails to do not interfere with fishing.
With ample storage in several recessed lockers, there is nothing else that most offshore fishermen require in a boat.
How Durable are Contender Boats?
The fiberglass construction of the Contender brand has always been of the highest quality.
The boats have a reputation for outstanding durability.
The company puts an ample amount of foam in the core of the composite layers, leading to the unsinkable reputation the brand has developed.
While Contender Boats still uses wood in a few areas, like the transom and the anchor locker, it is high-grade marine plywood and is sandwiched between layers of vinylester resin. Stringers are of fiberglass composite.
While there are occasional complaints about the fiberglass online, as there are about any of the popular brands of boats, the consensus is that Contender makes some of the most durable boats on the market.
What About Older Contender Boats?
The company has been under Joe Neber’s leadership since it was first founded and has never been sold.
Because of that, the vision of the company has never changed. It has always been about well-built performance boats made for offshore fishing and recreation.
As a result, the standards of this upper-tier brand have never wavered. Older models are as durable and reliable as those of today.
A typical comment from an owner, made in 2012:
“I love the ride on my 31 (especially in a head sea)… I thought I would miss the deck space from my old walk around when I wanted to have company on the boat. Now it just moved to the front deck. I shopped other high-end brands but in the end, I am really glad I picked Contender.”
[Source: The Hull Truth]
Do They Still Make Parts for Older Models?
Some parts for older Contenders are still being made, but it is unclear from their website how far back they keep parts in production.
They have a request form on their website for owners looking for replacement parts to contact them.
It does seem that getting older replacement parts is difficult. There are several threads on forums like The Hull Truth that list the manufacturers of various older parts so that those looking to replace some can contact the manufacturer directly.
Some replacement parts are found from online retailers, like boatoutfitters.com and boatseabass.com, though their inventories are fairly small.
What are Typical Problems with Contender Boats?
Contender has always used wood in the transoms of their boats.
While it is not a common problem, this has sometimes led to rot in the transoms when stress cracks or untreated holes allow water to get inside the fiberglass and attack the wood.
Rarely there have been some large cracks reported in the transoms, believed to be from the flexing of the outboard motor bracket and maybe the differential of the flex characteristics between the wood transom and the fiberglass sides.
Some owners have reported some problems with the wiring, such as connections not having a heat shrink to protect the connections from corrosion.
Some owners report stress cracks in the gel coat after extensive use. It is an easily found issue on boating forums, but this is almost always a cosmetic issue rather than structural and only seems to happen on Contenders that have been running hard offshore for years.
How Long do Contender Boats Last Compared to Similar Brands?
Being among the upper-tier brands of offshore fishing boats, Contender lasts with the best of them.
Today, some of the earliest models, like the Classic 25 and the 35 Express, are still seen on the water in fishing tournaments.
This goes back to the emphasis on quality materials and construction that Joe Neber emphasized from the company’s first days.
As always, the care and maintenance that an owner performs on their boat determine ultimate longevity, but Contenders are built to last.
Do Contender Boats Hold Their Value?
Please note: there is no data on Contender Boats in the NADA guides or other sources on what various models have been resold for.
There are two reasons for this, according to online sources. First, the manufacturer must participate, which Contender does not do.
Second, with the number of options for each model, it is believed that there is no average resale value for each model, as each boat is unique.
So it is difficult, if not impossible, to get good data on the resale of Contender boats.
The best data available are either the asking price on websites such as Yachtworld or self-reporting by owners on forums. Yachtworld may be the less reliable of the two options, as there is no indication of the actual price once sold.
But forums seem to indicate that Contenders do hold their value well. One prospective buyer in 2017 looking into a well-maintained 2000 31 Open that sold for around $60,000 that year would have a reasonable resale value of $48,000 to $70,000, depending on location.
One owner reported selling his 2003 23 Open in 2018 for $44,900, several years after buying it for $43,000 and giving it some TLC.
So while it is impossible to be conclusive, it seems anecdotal that Contender Boats retain value fairly well, in regions like Florida more so than in other areas.
Are Contender Boats Still Being Made?
Contender Boats is still going strong, manufacturing their models in Homestead, Florida.
They currently make boats from 24 to 44 feet in length. Most of their boats are the newer stepped hull designs, though they still make deep-V hulls in various lengths. They also make some smaller bay boats.
They do not advertise their prices online.
Prospective owners are encouraged to investigate the options for their models on the website, so they have an idea of what they may want and then contact their local dealer to discuss pricing.
Contender Boats has earned its reputation as one of the best fishing boats on the market.
While not everyone agrees that they are a smooth ride, there is no question that they are fast, have good seakeeping ability, and are one of the best, cleanest fishing platforms on the market.