Duffy Boats are electric boats running on batteries that are common along the coast of southern California and are occasionally seen elsewhere.
They are a popular rental in some areas for harbor or river cruises.
So, are Duffy boats good and reliable?
Here’s How Reliable Duffy Boats Are:
Duffy Boats has been the major pioneer in electric boats. With a simple design, limited components, and a “plug and play” philosophy, little can go wrong with a Duffy boat. While very limited in speed, that is a factor that plays into the laid-back lifestyle that they advertise for the company.
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A Brief History of Duffy Boats
Marshall “Duffy” Duffield grew up in Newport Beach, California, right on the water.
In 1969, when Duffield was 19, he took a second-hand golf cart battery and motor and installed it on a beat-up day boat. The result was a slow but steady cruiser which he felt was ideal for touring the local waterways.
Duffy Boats was born. In 1970 he founded Duffield Marine, Inc. and set up his first shop. That year the first Edison 20s rolled out of the plant.
The design quickly caught on in popularity, and in 1971, Disney World in Florida ordered 25 of the company’s electric boats, which were showcased at the 1973 opening of the water park.
With the Edison 20 and Edison 16 established in 1976, the Edison 18 was launched specifically for the boat rental business, and it featured a self-bailing cockpit.
In 1980, Duffy Boats moved to a 15,000 square foot facility in Costa Mesa, with business booming. In 1986 they moved to a larger facility in Costa Mesa and opened a sales and service facility on the Newport bayfront.
In addition to their expanding mainstay of electric boats, the company designed and built sailboats at this time, such as the Zap 26 and a 65-foot Transpac racer.
In 1987, the name of the company’s boat models changed from Edison to Duffy. They began producing electric catamarans a year later. In 1992, they opened a sales office in Naples, Florida. In 1996, the first Duffy Boats were shipped to Europe.
In 1998, the company moved to a new 5-acre facility in Adelanto, California, where they remain today.
Since then, the company has continued introducing new models with design, performance, and luxury innovations.
How Reliable Are Duffy Boats?
Duffy Boats emphasizes that they are not just a boat but a lifestyle.
Being electric, they are not fast boats, and the laid-back nature of cruising at a low speed with your friends is part of their marketing.
The simplicity of the boat’s operation is a primary strength and why they are so popular as rental boats for touring harbors and rivers. There is not much that can go wrong, owing to their simple design and low speed.
Most of the Duffy boats are intended to cruise at about 5 miles an hour. According to their website, a single battery pack will travel for about 3.5 hours; the double battery pack will last twice as long, plus about 15%.
Their batteries last between 800 and 1,200 cycles of use and recharging; the higher end is if you do not use 100% of the power before recharging. This translates to about 5 or 6 years of average usage.
Then the batteries will need to be replaced.
Duffy pushes its “plug and play” slogan to underline the simplicity of the boat’s operation and maintenance. The motor is the only moving part in the boat, and the battery and charger are the only other things you need to maintain.
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How Durable Are Duffy Boats?
Duffy Boats are made for protected waters rather than the open ocean.
While they have participated in some long-distance voyages, they are not designed to take the rough waters of unprotected seas. The nature of their open sides, even with an enclosure around the boat, makes them susceptible to waves.
Being made of fiberglass, the boats are very tough, and they are built to last. They use quality woods such as cherry in their interiors.
The interior means being inside an enclosure, though opposed to being in a cabin, so the wood must be protected.
The primary testament to the durability of Duffy Boats is that they are used for rentals. There are thousands of their boats in California, Florida, and other parts of the world used by rental companies.
What About Older Duffy Boats?
The quality has been consistent with Duffy Boats throughout their history, from the 1970s up until today.
The principle has been the same: simplicity.
While there has certainly been some refinement in the design and efficiency, the basic motor and battery system has remained unchanged.
Another popular aspect that has remained constant over the years is how quiet the boats are. The electric motor makes very little noise, even when pushed for maximum speed.
Do They Still Make Parts For Older Models?
All Duffy parts are made in-house, which has been the case for most of their existence.
Parts are usually consistent from one model to the next as years go by, so they have not been re-tooled.
Added to the simplicity of the boats themselves, most of the parts used on Duffys since the company opened are still available. And if they no longer manufacture a particular part, they have the specs on it to custom manufacture it.
In addition, since all Duffys have been sold directly from the factory or through one of their few sales offices, and they have operated a service facility in Newport Beach since 1980, they have an extensive supply of old parts.
No online retailers carry Duffy parts; the only way to get any replacement parts is through the company or one of their two authorized service representatives: eDuffy in San Diego or Edgewater Marine in Foster City, in northern California.
What Are Typical Problems With Duffy Boats?
While not necessarily a problem, the limited speed of Duffy Boats, and electric boats in general, is one of the more common knocks against them. 5 miles per hour is their average cruising speed.
The range of the boat as allowed by the charge on the batteries is also an issue.
Occasionally a converter will fail. The converter takes 48 volts from the battery and converts it to 12 volts to power the console, including the stereo, running lights, refrigerator, etc. This is a simple fix of replacing the converter unit.
Another thing electric boats are susceptible to is a power surge. If the boat’s battery is charging and there is a surge, some control boxes may be damaged.
Something else that some owners have had issues with is the propellers from Duffy. The motors use plastic props, and they are easier to damage than metal, which Duffy actively discourages their customers from using, claiming it will throw the operation of the motor out of balance.
Some owners have reported dissatisfaction with the replacement props on older Duffy boats.
How Long Do Duffy Boats Last Compared To Similar Brands?
There are not many brands of electric boats, and Duffy is the largest brand of all of them.
Going off of forums, it is easy to find Duffy Boats from as far back as the 1980s still on the water with their original owners and running problem-free. Many rental companies, whose boats see a lot of use, have Duffy boats from the 1980s.
Even given the relative sparsity of their competition, Duffy seems to have always built a very durable boat.
Do Duffy Boats Hold Their Value?
Boats made by Duffy seem to be about average in terms of depreciation.
According to NADA data, a 2015 Back Bay 16 sold new that year for $29,999. That model has a current average resale value of $22,110, making it a depreciation of about 26%.
A 2015 Bay Island 22 sold new that year for $47,999. Currently, the average resale on that boat is $33,670, for depreciation of 30%.
Are Duffy Boats Still Being Made?
Duffy Boats are stronger than ever today, and their boats are still being made in Adelanto, California.
All parts are made by the company, including the wood in their own woodshop.
There are currently 6 models being produced by the company. They are all sold directly from the factory or through one of their several sales offices.
The Back Bay 16 is the smallest at 16 feet, but it is nicely furnished, and it sells for $43,999. They have 2 18-foot models; the Bayshore 18 is more bare-bones and sells for $34,999, while the more luxurious Snug Harbor 18 sells for $48,999.
There are 3 22-foot models of Duffy, the Bay Island 22, the Sun Cruiser 22, and the Cuddy Cabin 22. All 3 are priced identically at $58,999 but feature a different deck and interior layouts.
In addition, Duffy runs a rental operation at Newport Beach, with rates from $299 for 2 hours to $549 for 4 hours.
Several rental companies in California and Florida are unconnected to Duffy, renting at different (usually cheaper) rates.
Duffy is one of the most reliable manufacturers of electric boats globally, having pioneered the development for over 50 years now.
Keeping all of their manufacturing in-house has added to their simplicity and dependability.
While electric boats are still a long way from being accepted by the majority of the boat-owning public, mainly because of the inferior speeds, Duffy has championed it as a casual marine lifestyle.
Their continued growth shows that more people are agreeing.