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'They're going fast!' New and used boats still in high demand despite soaring prices

Posted at 6:01 AM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 07:33:42-04

(WXYZ) — As Memorial Day approaches, more and more people want to get out on the water.

Last year, new and used boats were barely in stock, and this year, it seems like boats are still in high demand.

“This is a Regal 19 Surf,” Matthew Rehn of Novi said.

Rehn was finally able to pick up his new wakeboarding boat nearly 6 months after ordering it.

He said he tried to purchase several other models, but they slipped through his fingers.

"How many new boats did you eye and go, ‘Oh, I want that one,' and you missed out?" 7 Action New's Alicia Smith asked Rehn.

"Probably about ten," he answered.

He purchased his boat from Anderson’s Boat Sales in Waterford Township.

The store's sales associate John Chardonnay Heuninck says orders are taking longer than expected.

“I'd say 2 to 3 times longer than it normally would. You know, the factories are pretty backed up with orders," Heuninck said.

Heuninck says the chip shortage is also impacting boat production. And while the effect isn't felt as strongly as it is in the auto industry, it's significant enough to keep inventory from rebounding to pre-pandemic levels.

At Anderson’s Boat Sales right now, only about 10 boats on display are still available for purchase. The rest of the boats on display — about 15-to-20 vessels — have already been sold.

"So they're going fast," Heuninck said.

In Commerce Township, Wilson Marine’s showroom was looking more stocked than it was around this time last year.

This year there are 18 boats in the showroom and all of them are new boats. Last June, only 8 boats were on display, and 5 of them were used boats.

“Last year, Wilson Marine was offering top dollar for used boats. What’s the situation this year," Alicia Smith asked assistant sales manager Paul Morgan.

"Same thing," he said.

Morgan said the boat store is still trying to beef up its inventory with used boats.

Consumers hoping to purchase a new boat should expect to wait.

“You’re still looking 3 to 6 months on pontoons. Some of the higher-end pontoons, you’re looking [at] a year,” Morgan said. “Fishing boat? You can’t even order those yet until June or July. Fiberglass boats—forget about it."

Morgan said fiberglass fishing boats have already sold out for the year.

And if you’re set on buying a brand new boat, Morgan said prices have risen roughly 20% since the start of the pandemic.

But as Matthew Rehn found out, these price increases are not slowing demand.

"Don't drag your feet if you want it. Be the first and put the deposit down immediately," he said.

If you want a boat this summer, look at what’s already in stock.

If you’re considering used boats, remember the market is a lot like used cars right now—their value is higher than they’ve been in many years. So, buying a new boat with a warranty might end up being a better deal depending on the boat. It's worth crunching the numbers to see which is better for you.

If the inventory at local dealerships starts drying up, Rehn also recommends checking out boat dealers outside of Michigan—like those in Cleveland, Toledo, or Minnesota.