Boat Depreciation: Complete Guide | 7 Boat Types (With Pictures)

Whether you buy a new boat or an older boat, you’ll likely have to deal with depreciation. But just how much will your boat depreciate over time?

In this post, we analyze 7 popular boat types from popular boat brands.

I’ll give real examples of boats so you can see what to expect when you buy a boat.

How Much Do Each Boat Type Depreciate In Value?

Before we dive into the examples for each boat type, here are the numbers we came up with during our research.

Boat Type Value left at 3 years. Value left at  5 years. Value left at 10 years.
Bow Rider 66% 57% 34%
Cabin Cruiser 65% 51% 40%
Cuddy Cabin 87% 75% 63%
Fishing Boat – Aluminum 79% 65% 40%
Fishing Boat – Fiberglass 80% 70% 47%
Pontoon Boat 71% 60% 51%
Sail Boats & Yachts 91% 85% 73%

When you look at the numbers like this it is interesting to see just how differently depreciation affected these different types of boats.

After looking at the depreciation on vehicles, motorhomes, and travel trailers, I would have expected the numbers to all be closer to that of the cabin cruiser.

Bow Rider Boats

Crestliner 1650 Super Hawk

The Crestliner 1650 is just under 17 feet long and it has a dry weight of 1,230 pounds.  Its engine is a 60 horsepower outboard motor and it can easily hold 6 people.

In fact, there are 8 different positions that could be used for seating.

This boat is selling for about $22,590.00 as new.

  • 3 Years
    A three-year-old model can be purchased for $14,900.00.  This is $7,690.00 less than a brand new one which is a loss of $2,563.00 a year. 66% of the value of this boat is left at this point so you end up losing 34% or about 11.3% a year within the first three years of ownership.

    5 Years
    A five-year-old model can be had for $12,960.00.  This is $9,630.00 less than its original value but it still holds about 57% of its value.  Over five years, the owner would have had an average loss of $1,926 a year.
  • 10 Years
    Ten-year-old models are selling for $7,750.  This is a total dollar loss of $14,840 and a loss of $1,484.00 a year.  The value of this boat at this point is 34% of its original sale price.

A bow rider boat seems to lose its value very quickly.

Unfortunately, this didn’t surprise me as my parents owned one of these boats when I was growing up.  I loved the boat but when my parents eventually decided to sell it they practically had to give it away.

If you buy a bowrider, it might be best to buy a three-year-old boat and sell it after five years.  In this case, you’ll only take a 9% loss to depreciation.  If you’d have bought this boat new or at five years, you’d lose more to depreciation.

To get even bigger savings, you may want to consider a bowrider at the ten-year mark.  At this point, you’ll probably have to get a new engine and do some repairs but you’ll get the boat for almost nothing.

Just don’t take on a project that is more than you can handle.

I’ve seen far too many DIYers buy a project boat only to sell it unfinished a year or two later.  These people thought that they’d save some money and instead they kept themselves from being able to enjoy the experience of boating for several more years.

Cabin Cruisers

Stingray Boat Co 250CS – Gasoline Powered Engine

This cabin cruiser is 25’ long and has a dry weight of 4,192 pounds.  It has a 200 horsepower engine and can sleep up to four people.  A 25’ length is pretty popular with cabin cruisers and Stingray is one of the top 50 brands listed on Nada so it’s a pretty good representative of the class.

A new 250CS can be purchased for about $57,710.00.

  • 3 Years
    A three-year-old model can be purchased for about $38,100.00.  This is a dollar loss of $19,610.00 and a loss per year of $6,537.00.  At this point, the boat has 66% of its value left.
  • 5 Years
    At 5 years, you can buy this boat for $29,500.00.  This is a $28,210.00 overall loss and a $5,642.00 loss per year.  The boat now has 51% of its value left.
  • 10 Years
    At the ten-year mark, you can buy this model for $23,000.00.  This is a total dollar loss of $34,710.00 and a loss of $3,471.00 loss each year.  At this point, the value left is about 40%.  This makes holding onto this boat for ten years a much better deal than simply selling it and trading up in three or even five years.

The cabin cruiser did lose much of its value at the ten-year mark.

This is basically on par with the depreciation you might see on a motorhome or travel trailer.

A cabin cruiser is better off purchased at five years and sold at 10 years.  In this case, you take a loss of 11% depreciation rather than a loss of 14% if you had bought it at the three-year mark.

For those of you who don’t want to buy used because they don’t want to sleep in somebody else’s bed, consider the fact that you can buy a new memory foam mattress for less than $150.00.

You’ll get a great price on your boat and you’ll still get to sleep in a brand new bed.

Cuddy Cabin

Bayliner Marine Corp  VR6 Series

This cuddy cabin is approximately 22 feet long and weighs between 3,000 and 3,800 depending on the year.  It sleeps two people and can hold up to 8 passengers.  The engine is a 135 horsepower engine.

This boat was selling new for $30,670.00 in 2018.

  • 3 Years
    A 3-year-old model can be purchased for $26,800.00.  This is a loss of $3,870 or $1,290 a year.  It still has 87% of its value left which is significantly higher than what we saw with the cabin cruiser.
  • 5 Years
    At five years, this boat is worth about $23,050.00.  This is a dollar loss of $7,620.00 and a monthly loss of $1,524.00.  The value left at this point is still 75%.
  • 10 Years
    A ten-year-old model could be found at $19,395.00.  This is a total dollar loss of $11,275.00 and a loss per year of $1,128.00.  This gives it a remaining value of 63%.

This boat type seemed to retain its value much better than the previous boats we looked into.

A 4% loss to depreciation each year over 10 years isn’t that bad considering these boats do have fairly large motors attached to them.

A cuddy cabin holds its value so well that you might consider buying a new one and selling it every three years.  In this case, you’ll lose 13% to depreciation but you’ll have a brand new boat every three years.

If you fall in love with the boat, don’t feel obligated to sell it at the three-year mark.

You can sell it at the five and ten-year mark and you won’t be any worse off than if you had done the same thing with a different type of boat.

Fishing Boat – Aluminum

Crestliner 1600 Vision Series

This boat is an aluminum boat with a 60 horsepower motor.  It is 16’6” long and has a dry weight of 935 pounds.  The boat has a maximum capacity of 5 people.

It is selling for $17,695.00 new.

  • 3 Years
    Three-year-old models sell for $13,910.00.  This is a $3,785.00 loss and a $1,262.00 loss per year.  At this point, it has 79% of its original value left.
  • 5 Years
    Five-year-old versions of this boat sell for $11,440.00.  This is a dollar loss of $6,255.00 which is a loss per year of $1,251.00.  At this point, the value left in the boat is about 65%.
  • 10 Years
    Ten-year-old versions of this boat sell for $7,185.00.  You’ll notice a $10,510.00 total dollar loss at this point and the boat is down to 40% of its original value.

This boat lost quite a bit of its value over its ten years.

I imagine this is because most of the original value of this boat is related to its engine.

At ten years an engine of this size and type is probably close to the end of its life.

Fishing boats don’t seem to depreciate too much over the first five years.  I might suggest that you buy these boats new, but be sure to sell them at the five-year mark.

If you’re going to buy a used boat instead, you might want to consider buying one at the ten-year mark at a substantial price reduction and just plan on buying a new motor.

In this case, you’ll get a deal on the boat and you’ll still get a new motor to use.

Fishing Boat – Fiberglass

The Boston Whaler Montauk 15/CC

This boat is a fiberglass fishing boat with a center console.  It is 15’5” long and has a dry weight of 950 pounds.  The maximum number of passengers is six.  The standard engine for this boat is a 60 horsepower outboard motor.

Boston Whaler markets themselves as a higher end fishing boat that will retain its value for many years.  Also, If their marketing is correct, then we should notice slower depreciation with this boat.  It’s also a fiberglass boat rather than aluminum so it would be interesting to see if a fiberglass boat holds its value better than an aluminum one or vice versa.

A new one would have cost you $21,090.00.

  • 3 Years
    A three-year-old model is valued at $17,080.00.  This is about $4,000.00 less than a new one, so it’s lost about 20% of its value within the first three years.  Another way to look at it is that you’ve lost $1,333.00 a year for the last three years.
  • 5 Years
    A five-year-old model is valued at $14,860.00.  In this case, you’ve lost $6,230.00 over five years.  This is $1,246.00 a year and a total loss of 30% to depreciation.
  • 10 Years
    A ten-year-old model can be purchased for just $9,830.00.  This is an $11,260.00 loss in value or $1,126.00 a year to depreciation.  It now holds about 47% of its value.

The fiberglass held its value a little better than the aluminum boat.  However, this boat cost much more than the aluminum boat at it will probably be needing a new engine soon as well.

As far as money invested, you might be better off getting an aluminum boat. 

The boat won’t hold its value as well as the aluminum one but it won’t matter because you paid much less for it.

Pontoon Boats

Lowe Industries SS 250

This pontoon boat is about 25 feet in length and it can hold up to 15 passengers.  It weighs less than 2,200 pounds.

This boat sells for around $29,000.00 new.

  • 3 Years
    A three old version of this sells for $20,740.00 which is an $8,260 loss.  This is a loss of $2,753.00.  It has lost about 10% of its value each year to put it at a remaining value of 71%.
  • 5 Years
    At five years, the boat is worth $17,550.00.  This puts it at a total dollar loss of $11,450.00.  This is a loss of $2,290 per year.  The remaining value is already down to 60%.
  • 10 Years
    Ten-year-old versions of this boat are selling for only $14,950.00.  The dollar loss on this is $14,050 or a loss of $1,405.00 per year.  The remaining value is 51%.

This boat takes a big hit in value over the course of its ten years.  Unfortunately, the boat also isn’t cheap so you do lose a fair amount of money.

If I were to buy a pontoon boat, I’d probably stick to the used market rather than buy a new one.

Pontoon boats lose a lot of their value over the first five years.  You might want to consider buying these boats when they’re five years old.  You could sell it five years later and you’ll have only lost 9% due to depreciation.

These boats aren’t meant for rough waters so a five-year-old boat is usually in decent condition.  Also, because these boats are social and recreational in nature, boaters tend to clean and take care of them more than they would a fishing boat.

Sail Boats & Yachts

Beneteau Oceanis 55 Series

I had a lot of trouble finding data on sailboats but Beneteau had a model that has run for the last 10 years.  It is a large 55’ sailboat and is considered a sailing yacht.

This sailboat sells for $550,000.00 new.

  • 3 Year
    Three years into ownership of this sailing yacht, you’ve lost $50,000.00 in value.  This is a loss of $16,667.00 per year but only a loss of 9% of its value.
  • 5 Years
    At five years, this boat is selling for $465,000.00.  This is $85,000.00 less than its original value and the owner will have lost $17,000.00 per year.  85% of the value is still left in this sailboat.
  • 10 Years
    After 10 years, this sailboat still sells for $400,000.00 but it has lost $150,000.00 in value.  This puts it at a $15,000.00 loss per year.  It is now worth 73% of what the original owner paid for it.

At first, I found these numbers surprising.

With expensive cars, you usually notice a staggering amount of depreciation within the first few years.

However, these boats seem to keep their value better than the smaller and less expensive models.

A sailing yacht seems to have a steady rate of depreciation so you could buy a new one and you won’t have any large variations in losses throughout the first ten years.

These boats have high price tags so my advice would be to use a broker or spend some time learning how to negotiate.

Get good at shopping and negotiating and you could end up saving tens of thousands of dollars on your boat purchase.

Where Did These Numbers Come From?

Getting pricing information on used and even new boats is tough.  New high-end boat manufacturers don’t like to list their prices and in many cases, you’ll need to talk to a boat broker to get a good idea of what one might cost.

The margin on these boats is usually high so the prices can range even between the same boat model.

Older boats can be hard to collect data on since many boat manufacturers just don’t last.  I found many boat manufacturers from 2008 that aren’t in business anymore and many boat manufacturers that weren’t in business ten years ago.

On top of this, many boat models changed names over the years and even the same models might have had engine changes and size changes.

How Did We Choose The Models?
To combat all of this, I found brands that seemed to have stood the test of time. I then tried to find models that were of the same size with the same engine for my comparisons.  However, these models may not have the same names over the ten year period.

I found most of the prices on Nada.  If I couldn’t find a price on Nada or if it seemed inaccurate, I’d go to BoatTrader.com and see if I could find some for sale.  I then took the average prices of the ones I found for sale to come up with a good estimate of what you might expect to pay.

How Will Depreciation On Your Boat Affect You?

Based off of the numbers, it would seem that some boats are better off buying used and some boats are better off buying new.

So, you cannot say how a boat will depreciate in general unless you specify which boat type we are dealing with.

The depreciation rate is affected by the materials being used on the boat as well as the price of a new boat. So there are many things that come into play here.

Also, it seems that in some cases you’d be better off selling at different points in time.

Here are some things you can do to fight the depreciation and make sure you get the best price possible for your boat when you are ready to sell it.

8 Ways To Limit Depreciation On Boats

Boat depreciation is inevitable.  In fact, I’d venture to say it is worse with boats than it is with cars.  This is because vintage cars and RVs can often go up in value whereas I haven’t encountered many examples of this with boats.

This being said, the lifespan of a boat seems to be quite high.

Most boats have strong hulls that can be repaired and reconditioned and you can easily find many boats from the 1980s selling on the used boat market.

Here are some ways to help you deal with boat depreciation:

  1. Maintain Your Boat
  2. Budget for Engine Replacements
  3. Consider Weather Proof Interiors
  4. Make Upgrades
  5. Fix It
  6. Clean It
  7. Sell it In The Summer
  8. Sell it From The Water

1) Maintaining Your Boat

A boat is a much bigger commitment than many people realize before they buy it.  Firstly, the engine needs to be taken care of through regular maintenance, fuel flushes, and yearly winterizations.

Next, the actual boat needs to be maintained.  Electrical appliances must be taken care of, bimini tops must be treated and repaired, covers need to be replaced, and gel coats and other exterior paints must be touched up or redone.

On top of this, the trailer must undergo regular maintenance.  This is especially true if you’re using your boat in salt water.  Fail to maintain your trailer and your boat could easily end up on the highway.

Keeping up with all of these maintenance tasks will give make it much easier to sell your boat in the future.  Not only this, but it will make owning your boat much easier and more enjoyable.

2) Budget for Engine Replacements

If you plan on keeping your boat for a while, you should plan on having to repair or replace your engine at some point.  Smaller outboard engines tend to need replacement more often but they are cheaper to replace.  Large diesel motors can last a really long time but you may want to learn how to work on them so that you can maintain them yourself.

When it comes time to sell your boat, you’ll get a lot more for it if the engine is working.  I’ve seen so many advertisements for boats with motors that haven’t been run in several years, (according to the owner’s listing).  These listings tend to stay up a long time and their prices usually come crashing down each month because nobody wants to take the risk of buying a boat with an engine that doesn’t work.

3) Weather Proofing

Weatherproofing the inside can go a long way towards making your boat more appealing to future buyers.  Older boats often have wooden interiors that rot over time.

Get rid of the wooden interiors and replace them with fiberglass or aluminum ones.  This will help improve the appearance and the longevity of your boat.

4) Make Upgrades

Some upgrades won’t do much for the value of your boat while others will increase the value significantly.  Upgrades like bimini tops, pedestal seating, and newer floors will all help to make the boat more functional and valuable.

Upgrades to stay away from are stereo systems and exterior lighting systems.  If you’d like to make these upgrades for yourself, then, by all means, do so, but don’t do them to increase the value of your boat.  Buyers usually don’t care about stereo systems and they won’t even see your fancy new exterior lighting unless they come to look at your boat at night.

5) Fix It

If you’ve been maintaining your boat all along, you won’t have many items to fix on your boat.  However, if you’ve let your bimini get devastated by birds or you’ve neglected to run your engine each year, you may have some items that need to be fixed.

Fix these items so that you can avoid selling the boat as-is.  Get the boat water-ready and you’re much more likely to get a good price for your boat.

6) Clean It

A clean boat is going to show much better than a dirty one.  Completely clean the boat from top to bottom and put a coat of wax on it.

Also, take out all of your personal belongings so that people can see what the boat looks like in an unused condition.

Once your boat is clean and devoid of your personal belongings, you can take your listing pictures and invite people over to take a look at your boat.

Tip
We have written an article here with exact prices on boat detailing. It’s a good idea to have this done professionally if you want to get the best price on your used boat. It’s not as expensive as you would think so you can fight the depreciation odds with this service

7) Sell It In The Summer

It’s rare to see someone get the boating bug in the winter.  People want to buy boats just before the boating season or in the boating season when they can actually use the boat.

Some people decide that they’d rather sell their boat at the end of the season to avoid storing it all winter.

While these people may save some money on boat storage fees, they’ll lose all of those savings when they have to sell their boat for much less money than they would have gotten in the summer.

8) Sell It From The Water

Take your prospective buyer out on for a short cruise and make them fall in love with your boat.  It will be much easier for them to see the value in your boat when they know just how much fun it can be.

While you’re cruising, tell them about all of the fun trips you’ve been on and explain to them the unique features of your boat.  After looking at a few boats, the prospective buyer is much more likely to remember their fun boat trip versus the boat that they looked at in someone else’s driveway.

Final Thoughts

Boats are not a financial investment and you’ll likely spend a lot more time and money on them than you ever thought you would.

You’ll lose money to depreciation, insurance, maintenance, repairs, dock fees, and even storage.  You’ll spend time taking safety courses, washing your boat, making repairs, calling insurance companies, bringing your boat to and from boat ramps or docks, and you’ll probably have to do all of this while you’re on vacation.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a boat.

Boating is a lot of fun and many of my fondest memories are from my time spent on boats.  Just remember the numbers from earlier so that you won’t be disappointed when you find your boat isn’t worth nearly as much as you paid for it when you bought it.

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