Are Sea Ray Boats Reliable & Good? (Helpful Tips)

Sea Ray Boats has been in operation for over half a century and claim to be the largest manufacturer of recreational powerboats in the world.

They are generally considered to be upper mid-tier boats, not one of the more expensive luxury brands.

So, just how good are they?

Here’s how Good Sea Ray Boats are: 

Sea Ray Boats has a strong reputation for making diverse lines of quality sport boats, bowriders, deck boats, and various other lines from 18 up to 65 feet. Even as the industry has changed around them, they are known for consistent quality boats.

A Brief History of Sea Ray Boats

The company was founded in 1959 by Cornelius Nathaniel Ray and was originally titled: Ray Industries.

Its first plant was in Oxford, Michigan, and it was one of the first boat manufacturers to use fiberglass in the construction of pleasure boats.

What began as a small operation employing mostly family members grew rapidly as Ray improved construction methods. He hired from the automobile industry, including designers, to give his interiors a better appearance and more functionality.

The company was renamed, Sea Ray.

The Sea Ray brand grew steadily, and they added pleasure yachts to the lines. In 1972, Ray opened a plant in Merritt Island, Florida, and it eventually expanded to three plants.

In 1986, the company was purchased by the Brunswick Corporation for $350 million. At that time, they employed 4,500 people and were making 28,000 boats a year.

In 2017, Brunswick stated they would sell the Sea Ray brand, but in 2018 they reversed course and revamped the brand, making the tough decision to cease production of their larger yachts. In 2021, they closed one of the three plants they had in Tennessee.

Sea Ray boats are currently made in Tennessee (Knoxville and Vonore) and two in Florida. Some of the smaller Sea Ray boats are made in a Brunswick Corporation factory in Reynosa, Mexico.

How Reliable Are Sea Ray Boats?

Because of the sheer volume of Sea Ray boats on the market, there is no shortage of opinions on them in the industry and among owners, docks, or internet forums.

The reliability of Sea Ray is widely considered to be good across all of their lines. Most owners seem to feel that they put a little more into the construction as they cost a little more than most mid-tier boats.

One exception might be the engines. While they are considered to be generally reliable (Sea Ray uses many Mercruisers), some owners feel they are underpowered, probably due to trying to keep the price down.

How Durable Are Sea Ray Boats?

Sea Ray’s reputation for durability is strong, particularly in comparison to other mid-tier boats.

Though they have been phasing out their larger, luxury yachts, they still focus on quality construction across their other various lines.

As with almost all brands, there is a difference of opinion on forums. But the positive ownership experiences generally outweigh the negative.

One assessment on Unitedyacht.com states this: “…during this time, it’s the opinion of many in the industry that Sea Ray was plagued with quality issues, problems with fit and finish, dated designs, as well as strong competition from other well-run boat builders.”

The period from 2008, beginning with the Great Recession, to about the mid-2010s, is being referred to here, and they are discussing why Brunswick was looking at selling Sea Ray Boats and how it negatively affected the brand.

It must be pointed out that most owners do not share this opinion and that Brunswick did not end up selling the brand, instead re-focusing on the lines.

What About Older Sea Ray Boats?

Because of the demand for Sea Ray Boats over the years, many older models are on the used market.

Opinions are generally positive, particularly in comparison to other vintage boats.

There are detractors, however. One marine surveyor, in particular, David Pascoe,  was tough on them (though he was pretty hard on most boat brands).

He found a lot of flaws in the construction of Sea Rays up to the mid-1990s. After that, he felt they seemed to improve their construction methods and the fit and finish.

Most owners are not marine surveyors, though their opinions are formed by usage and any repairs they have to make. Given the sheer longevity of the company and the number of older boats on the water, there will be many problems reported.

The challenge is to evaluate whether these problems are because of age and care or the manufacturing processes used by the builder.

Do They Still Make Parts For Older Models?

While parts for newer models are relatively easy to find, replacing a part for an older Sea Ray may prove difficult.

It may be impossible to find parts for some models from the 1960s, as the original manufacturers for those parts have ceased being in business.

The best place to check for replacement parts is with the dealer network, which is vast and stretches across the world. The Sea Ray website is helpful in this regard.  

Several forums are dedicated to Sea Ray owners that are very helpful with many topics, including replacement parts. One of the best is Club Sea Ray.

Given many Sea Ray Boats worldwide, some companies specialize in manufacturing replacement parts for the brand, such as Flounder Pounder Marine.

There are also online retailers with many replacement parts, particularly for more recent models, like Great Lakes Skipper and Boat Outfitters.

What Are Typical Problems With Sea Ray Boats?

Some fiberglass work from the 1970s to the 1990s has been criticized on forums, and more tellingly, by some marine surveyors.

Some owners of mid-late 1980s models report unfinished marine plywood in critical places like the bilge. 

Soft decks from that era are also reported, though that seems to be true across most brands.

Some owners of the Sundancer line of Sea Rays from around 2000 report that poorly-designed exhaust systems allowed water to splash back into the engines, requiring rebuilds.

The wiring on some models from the 1980s and 1990s, and later in the early 2010s, have been problematic.    

Some boats from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s did have some occasional fiberglass issues and problems with the fit and finish.

How Long Do Sea Ray Boats Last Compared To Similar Brands?

Sea Ray Boats have good longevity.

Fiberglass boats tend to last a very long time, anyway, but there are many older Sea Rays from all of their lines still on the water.

The caveat here is that the owner (or owners, for more vintage models) has taken great care of their boats. Many Sea Rays were manufactured over the years, and therefore of the high number of used boats on the market, many are in bad shape.

But the general feeling among long-time owners is that they are made to last, with the fiberglass construction being, in general, a higher standard of quality than similar brands.

Do Sea Ray Boats Hold Their Value?

Sea Ray Boats has made a tremendous number of boats over the years.

The value they hold depends on the line and the year, but overall, the depreciation isn’t too bad.

For example, according to NADA, a 2015 Sundancer 310 retailed for $213,767 has an average resale value on the mid-East Coast of $135,900. That is a depreciation value of 36%, about average for a boat of that vintage. 

One 2015 210 SLX luxury sport boat retailed for 50,088 has an average resale value of $38,460. This is an average depreciation value of 24%, which is much better.

Looking at their luxury yachts, their 59-foot L590 FLY ZEUS had a base retail price of $2,381,515 in 2015. Currently, it has an average estimated resale value of $1,305,200. That is a depreciation value of 45% in that time, which is not very strong.

Are Sea Ray Boats Still Being Made?

Sea Ray Boats are still being made in five plants in North America.

Their current lines are available for review on their website, but they do not advertise their retail prices there:

  1. The SPX series of runabouts is designed to be affordable and ranges from 19 to 23 feet.
  2. The SDX series are larger deck boats, running from 25 to 29 feet.
  3. The SLX boats are a series of luxury cruisers that range from 25 to 40 feet in length.

Finally, the Sundancers are larger cruisers designed for distance and overnight journeys, ranging from 32 to 37 feet.

Final Thoughts

Sea Ray Boats have their detractors and have had some rough spots in their long history.

Most owners seem to be happy with Sea Ray boats, and they generally hold up well compared to other similar brands in terms of durability.

Overall, Sea Ray can be considered to be a good, reliable brand.

Sources:

Sea Ray Boats

A Story of Success

Guide to Buying Sea Ray

Brunswick’s Decision in 2018 | Unitedyacht.com

David Pascoe Reviews

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