How Many Classic Boats Are Out There?


How manyThe Woody Boater gang was talking about a story on Rod Authority last night regarding Hagerty and how cool of a company they are. One thing stood out to us is that they are claiming, bad pun by the way, anyway they claim that they handle 10,000 boats. Eyow! Here is the part of the story.

“Cody Kinney, a travel and events coordinator for Hagerty, gave us some compelling reasons for what makes the company one of the premier choices for protecting historical cars. For starters, they’re a leader in their field by numbers alone–over 700,000 vehicles and 10,000 boats, worth a total of $19 billion, are insured by Hagerty.”

WOW, I would not have guessed that there were that many vintage boats out there. We factored in that most likely they have a huge percentage of the boats, but add some for the other companies like Grundy and Travelers, but also add in those with traditional companies and you could make a leap of another 10,000 and then there is all the non insured ones, So lets add in another 5,000… Is it possible that there are roughly 25,000 vintage, classic boats out there? We  are guessing here, lets estimate roughly 7,000 members of the ACBS, 4,000 subscribers to Classic Boating, give or take a thousand or two. And roughly 3500 members of the Chris Craft Antique Boat Club, so one could say there is a overlap.. So 4500 active passionistas? We get roughly 200,000 unique visitors a year. We guess about 40% are there for porn.. Cause they dont return. and a percentage just are looking for old boat photos. So a rough guess of about 15,000 interested folks seems like a number.

Honestly though this is all a guess. The numbers are shrinking as the hobby ages. But, there are new folks coming into it. Thats good news. What do you think? Anyone can be an expert here.

24 replies
  1. Troy
    Troy says:

    I think your numbers are WAY low.

    It does depend on your definition of “Vintage Classic Boats”. If you include lap streaks, cruisers, and outboards take into consideration the number of boats that are being neglected, but could be saved there are THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS.

    Every time I go into a new harbor I find more. I have a friend with a yard full of well kept Lymans with a few Chris Crafts sprinkled in. (I will try to get some pictures) Whenever I go to a different lake I find something different.

    Saw my first CL-25 the other day, only 30 made.

  2. Ken Miller
    Ken Miller says:

    First, I think Alex needs his own category when you’re estimating “five thousand here…….ten thousand there.” 🙂

    Second, just being frank, I was actually startled to read your comment that “the numbers are shrinking as the hobby ages.” I guess I assumed there are so many on this forum who are not what I’d call “old” that the next generations are stepping up. Obviously those on this forum do not represent a demographic cross-section of the hobby.

    • Troy
      Troy says:

      I agree that the assumption that this hobby is shrinking may not be acutate either. It would make sence to think that, since every year boats get destroyed one way or another.
      I spoke with my uncle this past summer who participated in the Dora show years ago. He claimed that in those days 50 boats was a great showing. I think there were around 100 in 2013.
      Sounds like growth to me.

  3. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Way too technical, with way too many big numbers for me to handle this early in the morning. I am still suffering from summer boating withdrawal. Just want to smell some varnish and run my boat!

  4. matt
    matt says:

    HAHAHA! We need bigger boats! We shot the header a couple years ago while out on Greenwood lake. The trusty iphone worked its magic, sadly there is no app yet for floating boats. The boat was pulled up and saved by the way. Rotton area under the battery box!

    • Old Salt
      Old Salt says:

      It was a rotten frame and a plywood seam and a battery that was not secured that ruined the previously great day of boating.

  5. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    I have “Lucky 7” insured with Hagerty. It’s the only boat I currently use. The rest are waiting for a little TLC. A lot of boats probably avoid being counted for reasons like this.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Jim, don’t you have “Out of Port” coverage for the others? Complete theft of a project boat is probably slim, but fire, vandalism, organ harvesting (missing parts)…? Out of Port is not expensive. I have at least 4 covered w Hagerty that way.

  6. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    What about Fiberglassics? I wonder what their stats are? For the most part, those must be consdiered classics as well. While we may not agree on definitions and there remains a bias towards wood boats, if we adopt a common car club standard we fiond anythign older than a 1988 or 1989 is a “classic” – in the eyes of someone. I think the definition of what is a “classic” should be left to the owner, subject to some minimal demarcation – such as that sugegsted above. So, how many 1989 and older boats are there in esxistance? If you can tell me that, we will have our answer. There are more classic boats created every year; we just need to worry about creating the classic boaters.

  7. Mike Green
    Mike Green says:

    I agree the numbers to be low. I have learned over the 5 years that I have moved back to Michigan that surprisingly quite a few wooden boat owners are not a member of anything. They have just had these boats in there families and don’t see the need to be a part of any group. Also I would hope that the numbers in the hobby are not falling, that would mean we are failing to spread the word. I just don’t think with all the new technology that is the case. We make it easy to join and easy to be a part of an incredible hobby. Over the last 3 moths I know of 2 single guys that are in there 20’s that have joined the ACBS. One of the problems in my mind are the people the complain about how much it costs. They always have there saying like what boat stands for (bring out another thousand) and how much trouble it is to own a wooden boat. If you truly love the hobby you understand there is a cost to it and you find enjoyment on working in and on your hobby.

  8. Kentucky Wonder
    Kentucky Wonder says:

    Anne and I are still in our first year of ownership and participation in the hobby. She just wanted to have a pretty wooden boat to play in, but I am more of a researcher and detail kinda guy. I also believe in joining and participating in organizations relating to your profession and hobbies. So, as a couple, it was a 50/50 chance that we would join the ACBS, learn that Hagerty was the proper company to insure our boat, and wind up in a contest for a nickname on Woodyboater. We could just be enjoying our Greavette on a lake, but in a communication and statistical vacuum. There have got to be others in that vacuum right now.

    To promote the hobby, I think we classic boaters and the related organizations to which we contribute need to reach out to our communities to draw people in. And since talk is cheap, and actions accomplish things, I would suggest integrating our love of classic boats with community service activities. Shoreline cleanup days, sponsoring boater safety classes for children, etc. I know that the Blue Ridge Chapter has an annual day where they take disabled and terminally ill children and their families for rides. The rest of the community appreciates that and takes notice of both the great people AND the great boats. And, you know, the children LOVE the experience of grace and speed.

    Concentrating on the Rendezvous or Rally possibilities of a boat show really attract more people than which boat wins a trophy. To me, the real trophy is the experience of making new friends while out enjoying the blessings in life. If more people got that part of the experience, they would not be so hesitant about the expense.

    Photo is Anne and neice Kate, age 6, Kate’s first time in a classic boat.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Nice comment. I took three total strangers for rides this summer, based on a comment someone (you, possibly) made here in WB in a previous discussion about how to grow the hobby. I learned how much fun it was to watch these folks take it all in. And, yes, I let them drive.

      I encourage others to do this. It’s so rewarding.

      In fact, I let more people drive the boats this summer than ever before. It’s easier to surrender the helm as I get older and my kids get older (and ask to drive more).

      Separately, what a great photo you posted. Print it (8×10), frame it, and give it to your niece at Christmas.

      • Kentucky Wonder
        Kentucky Wonder says:

        Thanks, Alex! Niece will certainly get a copy.

        And we did the total stranger ride, too. At the Lake Cumberland Show, this guy talked to me for 30 minutes about old cruisers he has owned and places he had been. Never had driven a classic runabout. So I told him to show up after the requested docking time was over, and go for a ride. He brought his wife AND another couple! We all took off, and after a while, I gave up the helm. He took over, and after a few minutes, his wife asked him if he was having a good time. Out comes this grin like the Cheshire Cat…

  9. Gary
    Gary says:

    Yes, there are probably many woodies out there that are uninsured and waiting to be found.
    The wood under the battery box sunk it mom. Honest. Only in NY.
    The numbers are what is amazing, lump cars and boats for 710,000 times $500 annually and you get $355,000,000.
    Dang, I am going to use Google satelite to search for old barns.

  10. Michael A. Hill
    Michael A. Hill says:

    Mahogany runabouts of almost any variety will most likely “get saved” these days nomatter how bad their conditions, frequently at tremendous cost, while solid and usable classic cruisers get broken up everyday. The question is not how many classic boats are left, but rather how many people are around that are ready, willing and able to keep classic boats going. The population of one group is directly applicable to the other.

  11. Sean
    Sean says:

    The new owner of this Greavette barn find is not really active in the antique or wood boat clubs as far as I know. He has undertaken this project to preserve some Muskoka history and he also has an “in water” Duke so, obviously a fan of wood boats. Although not “active” in the clubs He is a “lurker” on Woodyboater from time to time!

    Not everybody wants to be involved with the clubs. I know of several other Muskoka summer residents that are in the same boat (so to speak) who enjoy their wood and just relax.

  12. Chris / Great Lakes marine Insurance
    Chris / Great Lakes marine Insurance says:

    I would agree the numbers are way low… penetration into clubs are associations is in the 40+% range, clubs and associations parallel the penetration into what is out there…..The numbers given for that insurer are approximate total number of boats covered of ALL types of boats they insure……consider BOAT US has 600k members and their business model is built around recreational boat insurance…. and they do insure older boats (if you talk to the right person).
    Consider most of the largest collections are NOT insured, or are courtesy covered for liability only on huge personal and business policies….and you really have to start to think….. There are 2 current resource listings of Restorers easily accessible from well known classic boat site and both just looking at one, list 64 professional Restorers….the list does need some updating but pretty acccurate….all these indicators point a much higher survival rate than 25k classic boats…….

  13. donald hardy
    donald hardy says:

    I keep the Gar Wood Speedster at the Marina all summer for people to take out. It attracts a crowd, mostly who never rode or driven a wood boat. I give them a 5 minute run, teach them the full throttle get up and go, then let them out. Doing this since 06. Some have come back to buy a woody. Now they are club members. It does work.
    This summer I brought a new CC Corsair 28, twin screw to the show, most people did not know that CC was still building boats. gave rides all three days, everyone was very impressed with the old and new.

    • Ken Miller
      Ken Miller says:

      “…..most people did not know that CC was still building boats…..”

      Boy. Let that comment go down Executive Row, the mahogany corridor at modern-day Chris Craft. I bet that’d fire up some marketing staffing sessions.

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