Tidewater Boats is a comparatively young company, founded to be a value-based choice for the prospective boat buyer.
So the prices are pretty good – but are the boats?
Here’s How Good Tidewater Boats Are:
As a manufacturer that strives to produce to a price point, the Tidewater brand has issues common to other lower-priced manufacturers. There is an inevitable drop in quality compared to more expensively manufactured boats. The brand has seen some vocal detractors and loyal owners.
For the price point, Tidewater Boats makes a decent boat.
A Brief History of Tidewater Boats
Tidewater Boats was established in 2006 by several people who had been employees of Sea Pro Boats, including Jimmy Metts, who is their president. They set out to create affordable boats for offshore fishing and more general pleasure boating.
They opened their plant in Lexington, South Carolina, a region where marine manufacturing is a staple of the local industry.
They keyed in on three design elements in establishing their brand: the flared Carolina bow and shear line, filling the hull with foam for safety and to reduce vibration; and their Corrugated Grid Stringer Vertebra to provide support for the foam in the hull and other components.
They have grown steadily as the industry has seen a resurgence. In 2018, they announced an $8.3 million expansion to their plant and an additional 100 jobs. At that time, Metts said they had been growing at a 20% rate each past five years.
Today they are an established brand and partner with Yamaha in providing the engines for all their current models.
How Reliable Are Tidewater Boats?
Tidewater Boats seem to be as reliable as other boats in their price range at this point.
Most problems reported by owners are common to other brands in a similar price range.
A few electrical failures have been reported, such as a three-button switch panel on the hardtop breaking down. One owner experiencing this claimed dissatisfaction with how the company handled it, though he did not disclose the age of the boat.
There was a surge of poor comments on Tidewater Boats in the mid-2010s on forums like the Hull Truth. Still, there are many counter-examples of the company’s quality or customer service in creating satisfied owners.
How Durable Are Tidewater Boats?
Tidewater Boats seem to be as durable as others of their quality level. Cracks in the fiberglass and gel coat are observed in a few models, even new.
These problems are less common in higher quality brands like Boston Whaler or Grady White but not uncommon in this price range.
Some owners have had problems with the upholstery that comes with the boats. These problems usually seem to center on cushions splitting or coming apart at the seams.
The warranty on the upholstery is one year, so some owners have been unhappy with the response they have gotten in trying to get the damaged cushions replaced.
The construction process and quality do not seem to be any worse than other manufacturers in the same price range.
The Yamaha outboards that are standard generally get highs marks from owners.
What About Older Tidewater Boats?
Most older Tidewater Boats are not that old, since the company was founded in 2006.
The earlier boats that they manufactured seem to be as typical in their durability as comparable models. Higher-end boats with better manufacturing will have fewer problems over time.
As Tidewater is geared toward competing with the less-expensive brands, their older boats will show some problems characteristic of that price range.
This primarily centers around cracks in the hull and the gel coat.
The problems specific to Tidewater in this area are standard for less-expensive boats of the same era, so it does not seem that older models of the Tidewater brand have more problems than others.
Do They Still Make Parts For Older Models?
Given their relatively recent vintage, most parts from their older models are still being made.
They are easy to obtain through the dealership network.
The few parts that are no longer being made can sometimes still be obtained through the dealers’ network or the original manufacturer of the parts.
The best place to start here, if the dealer is unable to assist you, is the Tidewater Owners Group forum.
What Are Typical Problems With Tidewater Boats?
Some of the problems that owners have reported with Tidewater boats plague all fiberglass boats: cracks in the hull and gel coat cracks around the deck.
Also, some of the snaps for the cushions have come out of the fiberglass.
It is hard to say whether these are typical for the company or just the industry, however. Many of those who reported cracks in their hull also point out that Tidewater had them repaired according to the warranty.
Spider cracks in the gel coat were a major issue for Tidewater in the mid-2010s, however. This was discussed at length on their owners’ forum, and the efforts the company made to address it and make their owners happy.
They also were having issues with the powder coat at this time, but those problems were wider than just their brand. Several owners have complained about the ride.
Despite being designed to ride smoothly over a steep sea, some report having a rough ride in the boat with its flared bow and hard chines.
“It will pound you to death in the front and will make your back hurt real bad,” said one ex-owner on the Hull Truth forum. Others have said the deadrise angle is poorer than other comparable models.
It must be pointed out that this is not a universal view; for every negative point from an owner, there is a counterpoint post from another owner. These comments on the ride are not typical of owners.
How Long Do Tidewater Boats Last Compared To Similar Brands?
At this point, it is difficult to say much about the longevity of a Tidewater Boat, as they have only been around since 2006.
Comparing the comments of owners of older Tidewater hulls to owners of comparable brands of similar vintage, it does not seem that Tidewater is any worse in longevity.
It is easy to find both negative and positive comments from owners of older hulls.
As always, it is paramount to consider the care that the boat has received over its lifetime. An older boat of lesser quality that has received the highest quality care will probably be in better shape than a more recent top-quality boat that has been left out in the elements and ignored.
Do Tidewater Boats Hold Their Value?
Tidewater boats do not seem to depreciate faster than other models of a similar price range.
While there are quite a few on the market, that market is not flooded with Tidewater boats like the Bayliner brand is, which tends to drive prices down.
Being a cheaper brand, there is not a high price point to fall from, either.
NADA guides give values of used boats relative to a prospective buyer’s location, using data that has been reported on the resale of boats.
Using their online tool to look at a 2015 180 CC Adventure in the coastal Virginia region, the model sold for $27,160 originally and averaged being resold for $21,460 and a low of $18,770.
This shows a depreciation of around 21% with a high of about 30%.
This is a decent depreciation value, though it is helped by the boat’s low original purchase price.
Are Tidewater Boats Still Being Made?
Tidewater Boats is going strong at this point and still seems to be growing, given their major expansion in 2018.
Currently, they make both center consoles, designed more for offshore fishing, and bay boats, designed for pleasure on the water with family and friends.
Their center consoles range from the 180 CC Adventure, which is 18 feet long and costs $28,800, up to the 320 CC Adventure, which is 32 feet long and costs $264,000.
Their line of bay boats starts with the 1910 Bay Max, which is 19 feet long and costs $31,900. Their largest bay boat is the 2700 Carolina Bay, at 27 feet long and retails for $139,900.
All Tidewater Boats come with Yamaha outboard engines as standard features.
Tidewater Boats has a limited Lifetime Warranty on the hull, with three-year stem-to-stern coverage. There is a one-year warranty on gel coat, powder coat, aluminum, and upholstery.
For brands designed and manufactured to be value boats, problems will arise, and the ease of online posting tends to magnify such complaints.
Tidewater Boats is typical in the criticism it has received for boats in the price range. Digging deeper into forums shows that there more positive comments than negative ones.
The important thing in looking at buying a Tidewater Boat, new or used, is to be aware that there is a reason for the good pricing.
You are not buying a Grady White, but rather a boat that is designed to cost less. Compromises in quality are inevitable.
But Tidewater Boats has built a loyal following, and most agree that they are good value for their cost.