There are plenty of classics out there and countless old used boats in need of a rehab. But what if you'd like to get one new enough that its tech isn't ancient and its systems aren't all worn out? It certainly can be done, and whether you're in the market for a runabout, cruiser, center-console, watersports boat, or sailboat, there's almost certainly one out there with less than a decade of service that costs about half as much as buying new.
Used boat values can vary radically due to location and condition, so there's no hard and fast rule as to just how much a boat will devalue over time. That said, most boats depreciate quite a bit when first sold, then devalue less year by year until, at some point, prices more or less stabilize. Find a boat of this vintage in good shape, and you could pay not much more than you would for the same model with additional years of use on it. In this used-boat sweet spot, we find the following five boats particularly attractive and include some other gems in case you want to cast a wider net.
Runabout | 2011 Sea Ray 210 SLX
The 2011 Sea Ray stands out as a find in the world of used bowriders. With modern looks, it was initially equipped with niceties like a stereo with AM/FM/CD (sorry folks, but these do predate today's widespread availability of Bluetooth), snap-in carpet, and the vast majority of the 210 SLX models you find on the used market come with a matching tandem-axel trailer. Standard power for this boat is a 5.0L MerCruiser sterndrive with an Alpha I drive — an extremely popular package intimately familiar to most competent marine mechanics. You may also see the 210 SLX with optional power including the MerCruiser 350 MAG (which produces 300 horsepower) and Bravo III drives.
The 210 SLX has a straightforward layout with bow cockpit seating, helm and passenger's pedestal chairs, and aft seating to either side of the engine box. As is the norm for bowriders of this style, the engine box does double duty as a sun lounge with cushions that flip up for easy transom boarding and extend to either gunwale. There's also a small drink cooler integrated into the passenger's side console. To most people, however, the highlight of the model is a huge extended swim platform (with a flip-down telescopic swim ladder), which stretches the full beam of the boat.
Find a 2011 210 SLX and you'll see numbers in the mid to upper $20,000 price range, with the NADA guides pegging $25,550 as the average price. Sea Ray no longer produces the 210 SLX, but as a point of comparison, the 21-foot bowrider it currently builds, the SPX 210, carries a base MSRP of $47,332 with included tandem-axel trailer and a 200-hp MerCruiser 4.5L with an Alpha I drive. Opting up to 250 horses brings that cost up to just over $51,000. So finding a boat just under 10 years old may, in this case, literally halve your initial purchase cost.
Don't miss these gems! The roomy and sporty Chaparral 244 Sunesta is no longer in production, but a 2008 to 2010 vintage currently runs about half the price of a new 237 SSX. A Four Winns H200 Bowrider is another good choice, and at age 10 can be found for less than half of a new Four Winns Horizon 210, even when well-equipped.
Cruiser | 2012 Regal 35 Sport Coupe
Look at a 2012 Regal 35 Sport Coupe alongside a new model, and you may be surprised at just how similar the boats seem to be. The exterior styling is virtually identical. Both model years have a bridgedeck with a large convertible lounger to port and a wet bar behind the helm seat to starboard. And both feature a main cabin with a head and galley, a large L-shaped settee, a forward queen berth, and a mid-cabin aft of the entry. It's quite unusual to find two boats from any manufacturer that have model years separated by this long a time span without any major changes — and that's because the styling and design of the 35 Sport Cruiser have proved so popular over the years.
There is, however, one big difference between buying a new 35 Sport Coupe and buying one that's eight years old: price. You can find 2012s from right around $150,000 to just under $200,000. This is a relatively large vessel with relatively complex systems, so you have to expect prices to vary quite a bit from boat to boat. But, by any measure, this represents a huge savings compared to buying new because today's 35 Sport Coupe runs closer to $300,000, and this number can grow depending on the options you choose.
Don't miss these gems! The Cruisers Yachts 330 Express also represents good bang-for-the-buck when stacked up against Cruisers Yacht's modern express cruiser, the 35 (currently the only 33 is an outboard-powered bowrider). There's a lot of price variability from hull to hull, particularly between boats kept in freshwater versus saltwater.
Center-Console | 2017 Boston Whaler 210 Montauk
It's true that, like automobiles, the moment a boat gets sold is when its value takes the biggest hit. And with just four years of use on it, the 2017 Boston Whaler Montauk provides an excellent example of a center-console you can buy almost new while taking advantage of this phenomenon to save some on initial expense. While the brand-new model lists at $63,884 with a single 150-hp Mercury outboard, finding a used Montauk just three or four years old can knock around $15,000, or about 23%, off the bill.
But Boston Whalers are a rather unusual case; they tend to retain value better than average, and this shows just how variable different makes and models can devalue over time. Look for a 210 Montauk with an additional five or six years of age, for example, and it's likely to be in the $40,000 range. In other words, while most other boats will be nearing the point at which they retain about half their original value, the Whaler 210 Montauk is still likely to command more like 60% of its as-new cost.
Just how different will the Montauk models be, setting aside the issues of wear and tear and maintenance? Boston Whaler does tend to make numerous incremental changes to its models year by year, so while the major parts of the boat won't differ, you will see changes from boat to boat. Items like leaning posts, console design, the presence (on newer models) or absence (older models) of bow seating backrests.
Don't miss these gems! The Pro-Line 23 Sport center-console was an incredibly popular boat just prior to the Great Recession, and there's a wide selection on the used market today, which generally run well under half the cost of a new boat, often with an included trailer. The Robalo R222 also had a great run in its day, and while most on the market are a bit newer (in the 2014–2015 range) and still retain a little more than half their original value, the savings are quite substantial compared to new models. Looking for a bit more LOA? Consider the Grady-White Canyon 306. In the nine- to 10-year-old range you'll not only spend half as much, but Grady-Whites tend to maintain good resale values through time, so are likely to see slow devaluation moving forward.
Watersports Boat | 2014 Super Air Nautique 210
In 2014 Ski Nautique redesigned its existing 21-foot multiwatersports platform, the Super Air Nautique, to offer both wake and surf watersports abilities in a package with contemporary styling. Included with the boat are modern features like ballast tanks (so you can make those big surfing waves) and a hull designed to work in conjunction with Nautique's NSS Surf System, allowing the operator to modify wave shape and size as desired for different watersports activities and skill levels.
Sure, there have been advancements and changes in both the tech and the boat since then, but models like this allow you to get in on very modern watersports engineering while paying used boat prices. Just how big a savings does this make for? Most 2014 Super Air Nautique 210s can be found in the $60,000 to $70,000 range. While that sounds like a lot for a 21-footer, remember that high-tech watersports command top dollar — the new version carries a base MSRP of $104,830. don't miss these gems! The Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV is one of the most popular boats of its kind, and you'll see plenty of listings for used models, which tend to drop below the 50%-of-new mark right around 2012 or 2011. Also of interest may be the Tige Z3, recently refreshed and substantially different in a seven- or eight-year-old model, but has the price drop to match.
Don't miss these gems! The Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV is one of the most popular boats of its kind, and you'll see plenty of listings for used models, which tend to drop below the 50%-of-new mark right around 2012 or 2011. Also of interest may be the Tige Z3, recently refreshed and substantially different in a seven- or eight-year-old model, but has the price drop to match.
Sailboat | Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 343
As even nonsailors know, sailboats are a different animal than powerboats, not only in how they're designed, built, and perform, but also in their resale values. Often built with fewer complex systems and less dependence on advanced propulsion systems designed for high-speed use, they do tend to age better than powerboats. The expression, "live fast and die young" would seem to apply to boats as well as people. And as a result, many sailboats do enjoy a slower depreciation in value.
That does not mean, however, that you can't save a good deal of expense by looking on the used market, especially if you look at boats with just a bit more age on them. The Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 343 provides a great example of a sailboat that, even with 12 to 14 years under the keel, can still be found in excellent condition and provide the kind of new boat reliability sailors want. Because the boat was produced with a single direct-drive inboard diesel power plant (in most cases you'll find a 29-hp Yanmar 3YM30), engine issues are far less likely than they would be with planing powerboats half the age but outfitted with gasoline engines. The two stateroom/single head layout works well for families and entertaining and proves ideal for both daysailing and weekending. Asking price for most older 343s on the market today is in the $80,000 to $90,000 range.
While the 343 is not currently built by Beneteau, the model closest in size being built at this time is the Oceanis 35.1. This new model has the option for a similar two stateroom/one head layout, or the aft cabin can be split into two smaller private rooms. Like the 343, it has a small Yanmar diesel (30-hp with a Sail Drive) for power. List price is $147,700. So while buying used doesn't quite get you to half the price in this case, it comes close.
Don't miss these gems! Though there aren't many on the used market, both the Catalina 22 and Catalina 275 Sport can be found with significant price reductions just seven or eight years back from new. Cruisers looking for a bigger sailboat might want to see the Lagoon 410, which 10-plus years after being built runs less than half of the new 42, the current model closest in size.
Assuming the previous owner took good care of the boat you may be looking at, in all of these cases there are several things in common: The models are new enough to be reliable, look good, and offer a reasonably modern level of technology. They're also all old enough to have already gone through the period of rapid depreciation that bothers some price-conscious buyers and are likely to depreciate at a much slower pace on your watch. And while we all may wish we could buy new, if that's not an option, these boats represent a great way to save on the initial investment while getting an almost-new boat with which you can fall completely in love.