Are We Cheapening Our Classic Boat Culture?

Under priced Cruisers!

I was on a car web page the other day and the comment gang was squawking about a car that had sold at auction for $30K and how it was an extreme price for the car. Normally a $10K car. And I thought, shut the hell up. We all win if the price goes up? And you can’t blame a guy for trying. No one has to buy it? Okay, okay, this is not the point of the story today. The point was we in the classic boat culture are guilty of the same issue. We tell new folks to not spend this or that. We bitch when someone tries to ask ” too much” for a classic boat. In an odd way, we are our worst enemies.

Whirlwinds are undervalued. no bottom replacement needed, and yet have a problem reaching over $2,500

Now, hold on. I am guilty of this myself and we do it to protect our “family”. And I am not talking about being ripped off here. And yes, high prices could ruin the fun. BUT. Lets be honest here. We all spend double the value of the boat on a restoration. And sell it for a loss. Is that good for the culture? No. It’s bad business, and eventually the hobby dies. Because it becomes ridiculous to keep doing it. Look at vintage Porsches. 10 years ago they were flat sales. You could get a 1969 911 for under 10K. I know I did twice. Now, $100K for the same car. Guess whats happened. New businesses are opening up, sales are good and cars are being saved. And after all isn’t that what we all want. To save all the classic boats out there?

Paid $15K , sold it a year later for…$15K and now… I really don’t want to know. ALOT.. Enough to have paid for these two kids collage.

So how do we deal with this observation? We don’t want to fool people. And you can get into classic boating for under $10K still. YES! But when a nice restored boat is on the market for $70K and the rest are $40K, maybe, just maybe the $70K is worth it, and it deserves the credit it gets. After all, after a restoration, the value can go from pile of junk done by your Uncle Morty and his deck screws, or a world class job done by a professional. Both are “restored” and Uncle Mortys will cost the buyer more in the long run, and a worse thing happens. We loose a Woody Boater.

25 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    High cost of entry will keep the younger generation out of the hobby and lead to a price collapse down the road when supply from the old guard selling off and dying off is met with little interest from those with disposable income that have found other interests.

    • Andy in MIddletown
      Andy in MIddletown says:

      Truth M-Fine.. I am a 35 year old member of the HCCA (Horseless Carriage Club of America) which promotes touring in pre-1916 vehicles. I do not own a pre-16 yet… but over the last 3 to 5 years, the prices for the more common pre-16s are comming down. Your Model T’s, Buicks, etc. are retiring/downsizings and plain dying off. My generation does not appear to be as enthused by these cars. I am excited, for as I hit the sweet spot in my career, I am anticipating these price bottoming out to where they are affordable for me to get one.. or two!

      This happens in all hobbies… have you seen the prices in Lionel trains lately? down down down.

  2. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    Both of my children loved the sharing the wood boating life with their parents when they were young teenagers. Now in their late 30’s with families, mortgages, student loans, they still enjoy a day out on the water but neither wants the commitment of maintaining the hobby, even if the boats are in their future as gifts. I can understand that but it does make you wonder what will become of the preservation efforts put into these boats.

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      Fear not Bilge Rat.

      After my Dad passed in 1995 Yorktown (a 1957 21′ Chris-Craft Continental) went into storage for 12 years. My brother and I were in our mid 30’s and did not have the time or spare money to support the boat. By 2008, as I was approaching 50, I got Yorktown going and re-launched her in September of that year for a few short weeks of enjoyment. She has been on Lake Cobbosseecontee every summer since then with some degree of improvement every year.

      Your sons will likely come back.

  3. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    If every boat sold for what was put in it with materials and time they would all be too expensive, and I would never have become a WoodyBoater with more than one boat. I did not get into it to break even monitarily. I get my value in the joy of the externalities of the cost benefit equation. I could never afford hiring someone else to care for my boats, I needed that money for varnish and gas and beer. Check your opportunity cost. Sorry Matt I am not buying a boat from you.

  4. Capt. Cranky
    Capt. Cranky says:

    I think that as long as the current “mature” generation continues to introduce its kids and grand-kids to the wooden boat culture, we will be fine. Hell, as a 25 year old I “liked” the old woodies, but I wanted everything to go fast and be flashy – in pursuit of the – ahem – biological imperative!

    As I have have grown older and hopefully wiser and my pockets have gotten a little deeper (and yes I said a little…they aren’t bottomless), the boats I remember from my childhood are the boats I want to own and tend to.

    The older I get the more the smell of a wooden boat and old varnish takes me back to a time where life lessons were learned at the knee of my grandfather…and that’s a nice place to be.

    • Mo Sherrill
      Mo Sherrill says:

      From Capt. Cranky: “……..the boats I remember from my childhood are the boats I want to own and tend to.”

      This is the same with most all collectible hobbies we tend to want what we remembered as a youngster because we can relate to that era. I bought, restored and sold a 28 foot 1929 CC triple in 2005 for a significant amount of money recovering what I spent on the materials but NOT labor. I felt OK with it because at the time people were looking for big triples – but not TODAY! Big triples are sitting around waiting to be purchased at ridiculously low prices and very few people want them because the people who remembered them as kids are gradually leaving this world for “greener pastures.” I was fortunate to have found a buyer 12 years ago because today I’m not sure I would have been able to recover my material costs. Having said all this there are people out there with deep pockets who can handle the responsibilities of owning big boats like big triples and cruisers. But these people are not the majority of antique and classic boat owners. I agree that it’s a shame we can’t really get what these wooden beauties are really worth but that’s the reality of the situation today. Perhaps it will swing back in the future — who knows.

  5. Mark Edmonson
    Mark Edmonson says:

    Next year will mark 40 years of restoring boats, I seen a lot of things happen in field of boat prices, cost of restoration, club goals. Hell at one time we were burning U-22 because the market demanded Runabouts. Now I can get a Utility done fast enough. As for the cost of restoration, I have tried to make the hobby an investment by breaking even of even losing money on jobs to get people to commit to owning a wooden boat. Thus, a long term ownership seams to pay of if the boat is well maintained.

  6. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    Average cost to own and maintain my classic live aboard cruiser, $5000 per year. Average cost to rent one of the water front cottages in my local that I see from the cabin of my boat for the 24 weeks is $3000 per week times times 24 weeks of summer equals $72,000. I’m ahead $67,000 a year.

    What are you guys waitin for? Save a Cruiser!

  7. UpNorth
    UpNorth says:

    Having been into wooden boats and old cars all of my life (soon to be 60) because my Dad and Grandfather were, makes it difficult to ever move away from them. I think we are all just caretakers, but yes, agree that the “old guys club” has to step up every chance we get to bring someone into the hobby(ies).
    The entry price of a 17′ 1950’s Sportsman or 18′ Continental needs to be attractive enough that interest can be generated to own one. Conversely, a 26′ triple Hacker may be worth 100K, but how many of the new generation have that laying around or even want a non-social cockpit boat anyway? A utility suits there needs far more at the younger ages.
    My hope is that we at least offer a ride every chance we can for as many as we can or our hobby will suffer and struggle.

  8. WoodenRookie
    WoodenRookie says:

    I saw Brunswick last week put up SeaRay for sale. In the story in 1986 SeaRay sold approx 28,000 boats/Year. This year sales will be about 2500 boats. Less than 10% is a shocking number. Luxury taxes on the big end and lack of interest on the lower end makes me really wonder when and why the boating interest fell off.

  9. Mark
    Mark says:

    I bought an old wooden boat.

    I restored the old wooden boat by the book – no shortcuts.

    I enjoy using the old wooden boat and people seem to like seeing it and the history that it represents.

    To answer the header question I have not contributed to cheapening the classic boat culture. Just the opposite.

  10. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    All very insightful comments. My “contribution” to continuing the hobby is to Go Boating…be SEEN…..then respond to the questions and acknowledge the praise.
    Got my latest Whirwind into the shop yesterday….paid twice as much for the new 50 HP 4 stroke as I paid for the boat and trailer…and don’t expect to get half of it back….but am not looking to sell….just ride…while I still can!
    Mfine and Mo make good points..but Matt is right too.
    John in Va.

  11. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Oh, and as to the CAR THING….I once sold my 1962 Mercedes 190sl for 3 k…….multiplier there now is almost 100!
    That said, if any of you want to tackle a 1959 Mercedes 220S (woody dash and interior)… me.!!!
    No one wants those anymore and they were neat as hell.

    Ahhh….back in the day!

    John in Va

  12. Sean
    Sean says:

    Bought my 72 911S for $6,500. I restored it myself, and sold it for $26,000 about 10 years ago without losing any cash (made a wee bit). It’s now valued north of $100,000. I still like old Porsches but, due to the escalation in price, will never own one again. So, what’s that doing to the “hobby”? Good for business is NOT good for the enthusiasts.

  13. John f
    John f says:

    new 26′ Skiffcraft today nearly $100k handmade. Used in excellent condition $85K, 19080’s good condition $30k, 1970, good condition needs paint and varnish $7,500… sold!

  14. Rob
    Rob says:

    I have no axe to grind with professional restorers, nor would I criticize those who choose to employ them . But I think you unfairly and condescendingly describe those of us who restore our own boats as “uncle Mortys'”. For myself, much of the joy that comes from owning a pre-war (that is to say pre 1939) cruiser is found in the ‘work’ she entails. What others want from this hobby is their business.

  15. Captain kapok
    Captain kapok says:

    I am part of the younger generation and I do want a 26’ limo tripple yacht tender but all that is not in my cards. What I do see is youth struggling to fit into the classic boating community torn between restored and preserved “100 point” boats. I am not taking away from the heritage or history of the sport. Heck I love it all but I would love to see more youth out in their classic boats just doing what they like with their boats. Wild interiors, funny names and funky boot stripes…Hmmm maybe a Jalopy class But maybe I’m getting off topic here. In every generation in all hobbies there are things that just sparks our Interest into saving an old project. People who inspire us to keep going! now I’m not in the sport to become a game changer but I do think if I’m able to inspire some youngsters to go classic boating than I have done a great Justice. So go surf the web and find a great user at a great price and just have fun!

      • Fredster
        Fredster says:

        Here, here !!!. Have restored two Century’s and one Chris Craft in the last two years in which the customer and I implemented custom woodwork, stain, interiors, and power plants to create a custom craft that combines modern & historic flair. Plus the owner has real pride of ownership of his boat, and they use the he** out of them!. I think the re-purposing of non-collectable boats ( small & large ) into custom designed creations is totally viable & makes economic sense, especially to the younger crowd.

  16. Dave Nau
    Dave Nau says:

    The news about Brunswick selling Sea Ray is very telling. Powerboat sales are one-fourth what they were in the 90’s, with today’s sales being one-third PWCs, one-third pontoons, and the the last third consisting of mostly fiberglass center-consoles, aluminum fishing boats, and fiberglass tow sports boats.

    Boating has changed, much like cars, where SUVs rule, and sedan and minivan sales are waning. In 1955, there just were not many boats in these categories even made. I think this has something to do with the owning and restoring of antique and classic boats. Tastes have changed.

    A wise man once told me that to find out what a guy wants in this area, ask him what sort of vehicle or boat he liked when he was 14. That means for someone, say, 35 today, this takes them back to 1996. Yikes! Restored Sea-Doos, anyone?

  17. Nauti By Nature
    Nauti By Nature says:

    I’m 36 and I disagree with most of what is being said. Getting on the water with a classic is a drop in the bucket compared to shelling 50-70k on a new inboard ski boat. I got into my first classic boat at the age of 21 for 3500 dollars. A Higgins Sport Speedster, user boat, not correct, re-powered, but it was mine and I could pass and out tow most of my friends any given Sunday. I owned that boat for 12 years and did most repairs myself or some help from the old man. I figure all in all, I probably put about 5k more into it over the years. I sold that boat for 12k. So I made roughly 3500 plus the priceless times on the water. I think there is a perception out there by many that this is a rich mans sport, that essentially scares away people especially in my age group. There are plenty of people spending money in my age group. 70k wakeboard boats are physical proof. Its a matter of capturing the market. A lot of people in this hobby have plenty of boats, but how many actually use them the way I did back in my 20s? Probably not many. Out of the 6 guys I hung out with most back then, 3 of them now own wood boats. But I can guarantee none of them would’ve, if I had not bought and used the sh*t out of that boat. Our hobby and pricing hinges on the exposure/perception to our potential new hobbyists. And last I would like to comment on the whole he said/she said BS going on between WB and ACBS. You’re all starting to sound like a bunch of teenage girls throwing jabs at each other on Facebook. I can guarantee no hobbyist new or old wants to sift through the garbage each day. I have had my bouts with both Woody Boater and ACBS, but STILL look for the positives in each. I feel between Woody Boater, ACBS, CCABC, and the many smaller clubs on Facebook we will grow quite powerful in knowledge, community, and recruitment to the hobby. But we can’t have our two largest and most influential groups bickering like a bunch of sissies

  18. Scott Ales
    Scott Ales says:

    Sorry, couldn’t resist…

    I bought a 28′ wood boat, paid a professional to restore it over a 2 year period, played with it a year, sold it.

    Most money I ever made ($300k+) on any single asset after 35 years of buying and selling a quarter of a billion dollars worth of stuff.

    Matt’s right no matter if you like it or not. Sounds like the naysayers are like those who said Bitcoin was a bubble at $1,000?

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