Formula Boats is an established brand of pleasure boats that has a racing heritage.
They have a variety of styles, from bowriders to large motor yachts.
They’ve been around for a long time, but just how good are they?
Here’s How Good Formula Boats Are:
Formula Boats is a top-tier brand of performance luxury boats like bowriders, cabin cruisers, and yachts ranging from 24 to 50 feet in length. They are known for the quality, luxury, and durability of their construction and their handling and stability in difficult wave conditions.
A brief history of Formula Boats
Formula Boats was founded in Miami, Florida, by Don Aronow in 1962.
Their first model was the fast 233 Deep-V, and it became very popular, winning a host of races on the national offshore circuit.
In 1964, Alliance Machine and Foundry bought the fledgling company and paired it with the earlier-acquired Thunderbird Boats in the same manufacturing facility.
In 1969, Fuqua Industries acquired both companies, and in 1973 they acquired Signa Boats, founded by Vic Porter. Porter became the head of all three boat companies. Most Formula models were made in California at this time, with Thunderbirds still made in Florida.
In 1976, Porter purchased the entire boating division from Fuqua, and over the next few years, consolidated the brands as his family joined the business.
In 1982, the manufacturing of Formulas was moved to a new facility in Decatur, Indiana. In 1988, all Thunderbird manufacturing was moved from Florida to Indiana.
The company became known as Thunderbird, and the brand of boats became known as Formula Boats.
There were several expansions over the years at the facility, and currently, it is a 575,000 square foot facility that houses the entire company, both the manufacturing and the administrative sides. It has remained in the Porter Family since 1976, with three generations being involved in the business.
While speed has been the company’s focus throughout its existence, they have developed several distinct lines that embody the different aspects of pleasure boating, from day cruising bowriders to outright speed boats to luxury yachts of over 40 feet.
How Reliable Are Formula Boats?
Many people ask owners about Formula Boats, specifically the quality and whether the brand is worth the premium cost.
Most owners, in response, emphasize the fit and finish being superior to other comparable brands and the quality of the luxury aspects.
Most owners also highlight the handling in offshore conditions. The boats are a little heavier than the competition, making them more stable in waves, and the speed and steering in adverse conditions are also superior to others in the same range.
Customer service is also a premium at the company, even for used boat owners.
One buyer of a used Formula said:
“With the 31, I didn’t get owners manuals, keys to the cabin, tabs to pull the stereo out, and a couple other small things. It was a 6 year old used boat but I called the factory to inquire about buying all those items. With a VIN #, they happily agreed to send me everything I asked for and a T-shirt…..FOR FREE!”
[Source: The Hull Truth]
As far as the paint job on Formulas, everything, including the graphics, is done with Imron, so it is superior from the very start and will not fade.
Not everyone is happy with the way that Formula Boats has evolved, though. Some people see them as emphasizing the luxury aspects at the expense of the performance aspect, responding to buying trends in the industry.
As one opinion writer put it:
“Formula has fallen victim to the “trends” leading their design, dictating that bowriders are the way to go. And, Formula interiors are a disaster too. With U-shaped lounges and side facing seats, they are one of the worst offenders of bad interior layouts. But who is to argue with sales and it seems like sales must be strong for Formula, presumably.”
[Source: Wave to Wave Performance Boat Magazine]
It is fair to say that this is a disputed take on current Formula Boats, as their sales are still strong in the top tier of manufacturers, and many contrary opinions are to be found.
How Durable Are Formula Boats?
The company emphasizes the highest quality in both materials and manufacturing processes.
They are eager to give owners and prospective owners tours of the manufacturing facility to know exactly what goes into the boat and how it is done.
The factory makes direct sales without a dealer network, so there is no middle man should any issues arise. The company stands behind all of its work with a 10-year hull and deck structure warranty, with other aspects being 1 to 5 years under the Formula Guard.
While they do not have a dealer network, they have a network of authorized service centers and a Technical Assistance Group.
Almost all of the commentary from owners concerning durability is overwhelmingly positive. Forums are filled with owners talking about the abuse their Formula Boats have gone through, without so much as a crack in the gel coat.
One owner of a used Formula in Tennessee related how a twister had torn through the marina his boat was docked at and how all the boats had been sandwiched together. Most boats were totaled, but his boat did not have a single crack in the hull or deck, aside from a few scratches.
What About Older Formula Boats?
Quality has always been a cornerstone of Formula’s business, and its consistency is why they have always been able to charge a premium for their boats.
While their boat models have continually evolved to meet the market’s demands, they have never cut corners in manufacturing or service to meet it. They have shelved some famous lines as their popularity has waned. Specifically, this would be the FASTech performance line of speed boats.
Once a staple of their inventory, modern buying tastes changed to the point that the line was no longer sustainable, despite its iconic status in the marine industry.
Given that the Formula Boats brand has been privately owned by the Porter family for five decades now, all the boats made with the best materials and techniques are unlikely to change with their name on the line.
Do They Still Make Parts For Older Models?
Some older parts for Formula Boats are still in production, but it is unclear how far back in boat models that the company tries to keep parts in production for. They maintain a list of resources and manuals on their website for owners to aid in identifying parts.
Most factory replacement parts are obtained through Formula Boats of Missouri, which provides replacement parts for formula Boats and has extensive replacement parts for various engine manufacturers. Formula Boats South also has replacement parts.
Some online retailers advertise replacement parts, like boatoutfitters.com and boatseabass.com.
out-of-production parts from older models will be more difficult to track down, though. The Formula Boats Forum is probably the best place to start. It is very active and filled with passionate owners who will be glad to help find obscure parts.
What Are Typical Problems With Formula Boats?
In the early 2000s, there were some problems with the way their cabinets were mounted on some models.
This problem was identified and fixed as of 2006.
A few owners have complained about cheaper hardware like screws being used. One owner said that the short screws on their cabinets and steps backed out after a few trips in waves.
Some owners on the Formula Boats Forum have reported problems with refrigerators, from the wiring to the mounting.
How Long Do Formula Boats Last Compared To Similar Brands?
Formula Boats are among the most long-lasting of any brand of boat at any price.
Their multi-step construction gives them unmatched durability, evident from the abundance of online testimony in forums and blog posts. Many comments related to potential disasters befalling their boats, from collisions to groundings to storms, and their Formulas coming through virtually unscathed.
The number of older Formula boats for sale is indicative of their longevity, as well. While there are fewer Formula Boats for sale generally than other manufacturers, they span decades of manufacturing and command high prices.
It must be emphasized that the longevity of a boat has a lot to do with the kind of care that an owner takes of it. The best boats will deteriorate if not properly maintained.
That being said, there are several testimonials from individuals who purchased Formula Boats that had been left uncovered in the sun and with myriad other problems. Still, they were able to bring those boats back to tip-top shape. This is indicative of the quality of the boats to start with.
Do Formula Boats Hold Their Value?
Formula Boats seem to have average value retention among top-tier manufacturers. The more expensive the boat, it seems the more quickly the value starts to drop. this is very much a factor of fewer people being able to afford these more expensive boats, so the market is inherently smaller.
A 2015 240 Sun Sport cost $103,830 new that year. Currently, that model has an average resale value of $74,590 for depreciation of 28%.
A 2015 353 FASTech sold for $367,440 as a new boat that year. That model has a current average resale value of $231,000, for depreciation of 38%.
Are Formula Boats Still Being Made?
Formula Boats are still being made in Decatur, Indiana.
They divide their boats into 6 distinct lines. Every boat is customizable and can be designed using their website to get a price quote.
The Bowrider line starts with the 24-foot 240 and a base price of $119,340 and ranges to the 31-foot 310 and a starting price of $296,429.
Their Crossover line, named because of its hybrid bowrider/cabin cruiser design, features 2 models. The 330 starts at $354,995, and the 350 begins at $474,164.
Their Super Sport Crossover line echoes the Crossover models but focuses more on performance and luxury. There are four models, from the 380, which starts at $825,291, going to the 500 with a base price of $2,646,000.
The All Sport Crossover line currently has one model, the 430. It is a higher-performance version of the SuperSport 430 and starts at $1,408,365.
The Sun Sport Cruiser line consists of cuddy cabin cruisers driven by outboards, and it has two models. The 310 starts at $302,158 and the 350 starts at $461,754.
Finally, their Performance cruiser line of large distance cruising yachts has 3 models currently. The smallest is the 34-foot model starting at $560,762, and the largest in the 40, which starts at $910,061.