At one time, Scarab Boats were among the most famous on television, as Sonny Crockett roared across the screen on the show Miami Vice.
Now, the brand has changed hands, and they are a company that makes jet boats instead.
What happened? More importantly, are Scarab Boats any good?
Here’s how Good Scarab Boats are:
Scarab Boats was originally a brand of jet boats made to compete with Yamaha jet boats for entry-level dollars in that market. Though not considered of the highest quality, they have a significant following in the jet boat market.
A Brief History Of Scarab Boats
The brand started as Team Scarab, a purely racing design, and the manufacturing team started by Larry Smith in 1975. After a few years of highly successful racing designs, Smith partnered with Wellcraft, and Scarab became a line under its operation.
The most famous model was the powerful racer, the 38 Scarab KV. The 38 Scarab KV was featured on Miami Vice’s hit TV show from its second season, significantly raising Wellcraft’s profile. Many of the 38 Scarab KVs became very popular.
In 1984, as Scarab’s popularity was at its peak, Wellcraft was bought by Genmar Holdings. The brands did well until the 2000s, when many companies in the marine sector were struggling. Genmar owned many brands, and quality began to suffer even before their financial crisis came to a head.
Genmar filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and its various holdings were sold off. Most of the boat brands, including Scarab and Wellcraft, were bought by Platinum Equity, which formed Rec Boat Holdings to manage the various marine brands.
The production of Scarab boats had been halted in the late 2000s, but they were brought back as a brand in 2014. They became a line of jet boats, intended to compete with the Yamaha line of jet boats.
In 2017, Rec Boat Holdings was bought by the Beneteau Group, further increasing its size.
In 2020, Beneteau and Rec Boat Holdings announced their plans to offload their brands in the next five years. Scarab is among the brands to be sold, but Beneteau still owns them as of 2021.
How Reliable Are Scarab Boats?
The biggest reliability factor with Scarab boats comes from the jet engine.
Scarab uses the Rotax 4TEC jet propulsion engine, made in Austria. The 4TEC has four levels of power using two blocks.
Rotax boasts their closed-loop engine cooling. This system uses a special cooling fluid that takes the heat from the engine to a heat exchanger, which is in turn cooled by external water.
No external water, like corrosive seawater, ever enters the system. This engine has a 3-year warranty, while most jet boat engines are for one year.
What Do Owners of Rotax Engines Say?
The primary competitor of Rotax and Scarab is the Yamaha jet engine.
Yamaha’s have been traditionally superior, but many feel that Rotax has closed the gap. One Scarab owner recently said,
“I am loving my 2020 255open with twin 200’s. 83 hrs so far. Bought it with 35hrs. Did my 50 hr. maintenance and want to understand what I should do beyond the 100hr maintenance. I am relieved to know that the supercharger is maintenance-free…”
This comment is noteworthy, as jet engines do require more maintenance than traditional boat engines. There is a lot of friendly advice along those lines on forums.
Not all jet boaters agree that Rotax are close to Yamahas in quality, though. It is easy to find complaints online.
How Durable Are Scarab Boats?
This is another area of disagreement among owners and observers in online forums and boating websites.
Some owners have posted lists of failures on their first trip away from the dock. Others have had their Scarab for five years and had no problems.
The fact is that Scarabs are manufactured in a large plant, with several other brands being produced there at the same time. While perhaps not a cookie-cutter situation, they are not made with the highest quality materials, nor perhaps workmanship.
They are made to a price point, and some problems can arise in that situation.
It is fair to say that Scarabs are not the most durable boat on the market, and Beneteau’s announcement that they will try to offload the brand does not inspire more confidence in the future.
What About Older Scarab Boats?
The older Scarab boats are the models that put the brand into the collective consciousness, with Sonny Crockett’s 38 Scarab KV being the iconic model.
These older Scarab boats were designed for speed and visual appeal while on the water. Later in the relationship with Larry Smith, Wellcraft purchased the Scarab name and manufactured other boats under that brand.
These were mostly offshore fishing boats and were a marked change from the cigarette-style racing boats. They were not as popular as the racing boats had been.
The quality of these boats has been characterized as average, about what you would expect from mass-produced fiberglass boats at that time.
These Scarab boats were made in the Wellcraft plant in Florida.
Do They Still Make Parts For Older Models?
As far as can be determined from Scarab’s website, parts for all of their models from 2014 forward are probably still available. This covers the current incarnation of the brand.
Owners of recent models should contact the dealer for replacement parts.
Parts for the older brand are no longer available, as the company has changed hands and manufacturing locations.
Owners of older Scarabs may have some luck tracking down old dealers, as they may have some parts in their shops. But the best bet will be to try online retailers of OEM parts like greatlakesskipper.com.
What Are Typical Problems With Scarab Boats?
While they have not been around long enough for problems to be characterized as typical, there have been some recurring problems related by owners on forums.
Faulty electronics have been brought up. In particular, navigation screens and depth finders have been problematic.
The fit and finish of some boats have been rough. Hatches have been misaligned, and some screws have not tightened down or properly bedded.
Several owners have reported cracks in the gel coat within months of taking delivery. Windshields have sometimes been cracked or not secured properly.
While it is difficult to gauge how widespread all of these issues are, they characterize the mass-produced nature of these boats.
How Long Do Scarab Boats Last Compared To Similar Brands?
There is insufficient information to determine longevity, as the boats have been in production for less than a decade.
Given the issues that some owners have had, you can assume that they will last as long as most entry-level boats, at a minimum. There are no reports of fiberglass or other major construction failures, such as delamination.
The jet engine will need to be properly maintained beyond standard boat maintenance. Winterizing these engines is more involved than other motors and is necessary for proper functioning.
Do Scarab Boats Hold Their Value?
For all of the above issues and all the detractors online, Scarab boats hold their value well. Surprisingly, in some cases, their value rises.
A 165 model sold for $22,653 new in 2015. Currently, that boat has an average resale value of $23,000. This is an appreciation of about 2%, though the low resale value is $20,270.
Looking at the 255 model, it sold for $58,267 in 2015. Now that same boat has an average resale value of $60,630, a slight rise in value. The low is $53,380.
This appreciation is surprising to see for a brand that is not considered to be premium.
Are Scarab Boats Still Being Made?
At the time of this writing, Scarab Boats are still in production.
They are made in Cadillac, Michigan, at the Rec Boat Holdings plant, where Glastron, Four Winns, and Wellcraft are also manufactured.
There are six models of jet boats currently offered by Scarab. These include the 165, 195, 215, 255, and 285, which range from 16 to 28 feet and are all deck boat designs.
The sixth model is the 255 Open, which is similar to a center console and provides more open room in the boat.
Pricing is not given out online; instead, prospective buyers are encouraged to contact their local dealer.
Rec Boat Holdings and their parent company Beneteau have announced plans to offload the Scarab brand in the next few years. It is uncertain how long production will continue.
The current brand of Scarab Boats is not the line glamorized on Miami Vice. Scarab is now a line of entry-level jet boats with an uncertain future.
Still, Scarab Boats has many satisfied owners, so if you are considering an entry-level boat in the jet boat market, this is a brand you will want to examine.