At this point we’ve seen a number of boats designed for the 2017 model year. Many are prototypes and yes, there will be a few changes between now and next spring. And we’ll see another large crop of new models at the Miami International Boat Show in February, where many manufacturers unveil their latest and greatest. That said, there are already some trends we can see from the early introductions. Here are three important ones, which may come into play the next time you go looking for a new boat.
- Center console outboard boats are continuing to grow bigger and bigger. Last year brought us the quadruple outboard Regulator 41, Scout 420 XSF, and Mystic M42. At the Fort Lauderdale show this past fall, we saw a new quad-engine Hydrasports 38 Speciale, and noticed that even bay boats are growing larger, as evidenced by Everglade’s latest intro, the 273cc. As we move into the 2017 model year, it’s a sure bet that we can expect to see more and more monstrous center console outboard boats hitting the market.
- Conversely, many low-cost entry-level fishing boats are also being rolled out. Bayliner, of all companies, was one of the first to notice the under-served niche in the market when it introduced the Element and then turned that platform into the (fishing-oriented) F-18 back in the fall of 2015. (And we told you all about it, in Bayliner F-18: a 18′ Fishboat For Under $20,000). Then Mako expanded its line of inexpensive Pro Skiffs, Robalo got the price of its R16 down under the $20,000 mark, and Ranger introduced the thrifty RP 190 at a list price of $17,395. The bottom line? Just like much of the economy the boat market is being divided up into haves and have-nots, and we’re seeing lots of new product designed to appeal to one end of the market or the other.
- Outboard power continues to dominate—and expand. This has pretty much been the case for small fishing boats for years, but outboards are now eating their way into traditionally stern-drive segments, like bowriders and mid-sized cruisers. Formula, Sea Ray, Regal, and Crownline, all builders who have historically focused mostly or solely on stern-drives, have designed outboard boats within the past 12 months. Why should a sportsman care about bowriders, cruisers, and other boats that will never be used for sporting purposes? Because of economy of scale. Increased volume in outboard engine sales helps pull prices down, resulting in a net benefit for us. At the same time, as outboard manufacturers find more and more transoms receptive to their products, R & D funding can go up. That means newer, more efficient designs are constantly hitting the water for you, me, and our fishboats.
Stay tuned—we’ll be on the scene at the Miami show this year (in mid February), and will give you an update on the latest and the greatest as soon as we get back to town.