Consumer Demand for Boats Exceeds Local Supply

Saylorville Marina probably won’t be home to many new boats this summer, given the industry’s low inventory.

If you’re interested in entertaining your family and friends this summer in a spiffy new motorboat, you can swing by Brightwell’s Boathouse and check out its inventory of two fishing boats and a single pontoon boat. That’s right – just three boats sit in their yard, which in normal (i.e., pre-pandemic) times would have 60 or 70 to choose from.

“We’re placing orders for next year,” said sales rep Nathan Lundeen of the supply disconnect and current lead times (typically a month or perhaps two). There simply is nothing available this year because of supply chain disruptions brought about by COVID.

“It’s really discouraging. I’ve never had a year like this,” said Dan Mihalovich, who’s been selling boats at Tiki Marine in Centerville (near Lake Rathbun) since 1975. He also is basically out of inventory and said it’s not just woes with one supplier, but the entire industry.

As one retailer explained, the problem is threefold: Boats are not available. Motors are not available. And trailers are not available. You need all three to make your boating day. What are available are buyers, tons of them, who have paid deposits on orders and now call once a week or so hoping their boat has arrived.

The retailer said a single boat did arrive recently – with no seats. There is a shortage of foam, used for seat paddings both for boats and automobiles.

Many of us are working from home these days, using our laptops and attending Zoom meetings. Manufacturers do not have that option and instead rely on assembly lines that shut down. Consumers appear to have bumped into this problem with many modes of transport, be it a boat, a bicycle, a travel trailer or even autos.

Getting the supply chain back on track may take a while – next summer, at least. Of course, used boats are an option as well. Most of them seem to be sold by private parties or on consignment by boat yards.

It’s hard to say where prices will be next summer. One retailer said a popular line of triple-tube pontoon boats that cost around $55,000 last fall now runs closer to $70,000. Fishing boats start at $15,000 but the average price tag is nearer to $30,000. Ski boats start around $45,000. For pontoon boats, two-tube models are $30,000 and up, while three-tube models start around $45,000. That lone pontoon boat at Brightwell’s? It’s 25 feet long, roomy enough for 14-15 people. They’ll be propelled around by a 200-horsepower motor, and enjoy a full windshield and an automatic Bimini top. The cost is $96,000. If that sounds interesting, don’t dawdle.

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