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Why Are Sportfishing Boats So Expensive?

By Robert Bowman | Posted On Mar 24, 2023
Updated On Mar 27, 2023

All it takes is a quick walk around the docks of a South Florida boat show to recognize that the cost of sportfishing boats is not for the faint of heart. Sure, there are deals to be had and older boats available, but those also come with hidden maintenance costs and upkeep. Trying to justify the purchase of a yacht of this magnitude from a financial perspective is a doomed exercise. It will never make fiscal sense, but it will make you happy.

After one head shake from a sailfish or a successful gaff of a 200-pound Bigeye in the Canyons, any reservations about investing in a sportfish is quickly forgotten and if you didn't already have the fishing gene, you do now.  Purchasing a boat is truly an investment in yourself and while it may not make sense to your financial planner, your family will have a much different reaction.

For some of us, it's the pursuit we love and the catch is simply icing on the cake. It's the memories made with your son or daughter, putting them on their first Mahi. It's the traditions passed down from your Grandfather. I still think of mine every time I tie a bimini twist. So while boat ownership does cost money, the life experiences and memories created are indeed priceless.

Why are sportfishing boats so expensive? There are a number of reasons that go into the price of a sportfish including whether or not it's a custom-built yacht, the size of the engines that power it, the options selected at the time it was built, the current market landscape, and even the location of where the boat is docked. Looking at two examples at both ends of the spectrum, the price range can be vast. In one example, a Bertram Yacht built in the mid 1970's is currently listed for under $12,000 and has twin 225hp MerCruiser engines. On the high-end is 'OWL'S NEST', a gorgeous 2018 86-foot custom sportfish built by Merritt Yachts that is priced at just under $13 million and has a total of 5,200hp.

Below are details on the 5 main reasons why sportfishing yachts can cost such a 'pretty penny'.

What does a $12 million+ sportfishing yacht look like?

 

1.) Materials & Construction

If you're responsible for building a high-quality sportfishing machine that is going to take half-a-dozen people 50 miles out into the Gulf Stream, pounding waves at 25+ knots, then a solid hull is absolutely essential. The builders at the Viking Yachts shipyard are a great example of the cost of the materials being reflective in the price of the boat. The average price of a 80-to-85 foot Viking will run anywhere from $4 million to $8 million depending on the model and the year the boat was built. 

Only a trip to the factory in New Gretna can give you the full scope of how much of a financial investment the company has made to ensure they are at the forefront of yacht design and construction. Take for example their choice of resin. Viking's hulls are made of an engineered composite of fiberglass fabrics and coring. The entire hull is vacuum-bagged and infused with resin. Viking has a lot of options when it comes to resin - vinylester, polyester, epoxy, and all different producers across the world. For both their sportfishing yachts and their Valhalla center-consoles, Ineos modified epoxy resin was chosen. "They have seen a tremendous improvement in their surface cosmetics and a dramatic reduction in the re-work needed to meet their high-quality standards," a case study for the resin producer stated. "Most (Viking) models have seen a 20% reduction in non-value-added post finishing."

(Below is a video from Viking that shows the resin-infusion process.)

The best materials also require the best equipment to construct the very best sportfishing boats. Sticking with the Viking shipyard example, the company has invested millions in 5-axis profilers and CNC routers to create unique hull shapes and even develop complex components. The result is a boat designed in ways other companies without this equipment cannot fathom - one that is lighter, faster, more durable, and thus, more expensive.

 

2.) The Costs Of Power

There are many different options today to power your sportfishing yacht from companies like MTU, Cummins, MAN, Volvo, Caterpillar, and others. The price tags on marine engines today are substantial and is a big reason why late-model sportfishing yachts have become so expensive. Many owners are faced with multiple power options when building their boat.

Take for example building a new GT59 from Hatteras Yachts and the various power options available. The standard engines are the CAT C-32A 1,600bhp's that will accelerate the vessel to 38 knots when at wide open throttle. Knowing their customers like to compete in Billfish Tournaments and don't want to be left in the other captains' wakes, Hatteras offers two other options on the GT59 - the CAT C-32A 1,900bhp engines and the MTU 10V2000 1,600hp. The CAT 1,900bhp selection will add an additional 4 knots of top end speed. Each engine, and there are almost always two on this level of sportfish, can cost from $200,000 to $300,000, or more.

Let's also not forget the cost of diesel to operate your sportfishing boat. The GT59 example above has a fuel capacity of 1,750 gallons. At an average price of $5.50 per gallon for diesel fuel, that's a total cost of nearly $10,000 to fill up your boat.

(Below: The inside of the Hatteras GT59 engine room.)

engine room of hatteras gt59 sportfishing boat

 

3.) Equipment Options & Electronics

Outfitting a sportfishing yacht with the latest navigational electronics and the equipment options you need for your boating plans can easily become a substantial amount of the overall cost of the boat. Many of the factory-installed electronics packages that are selected when building a sportfish from Garmin or Simrad, for example, can range from $50,000 and up depending on what's chosen. Then you have to consider the add-on components like your televisions, stereo system, marine satellite and more. Other components on board that demand a higher overall purchase price include water-makers, ice machines, air conditioning on the mezzanine, Seakeeper gyros, and a lot more available to add to the final tab.

(Below: The flybridge helm on this Paul Mann sportfishing yacht includes 4 19" Seatronix screens.)

electronics on Paul Mann sportfish

 

4.) Custom Or Production?

To my knowledge, there has never been a complete study that looked exclusively at whether custom sportfishing yachts held their value longer than production boats. That being said, ask any yacht broker or boat captain the question and the consensus is that a custom-built boat, one that's rare and hand-crafted, will always retain a higher value when re-sold. When considering why sportfishing boats are so expensive, whether or not it's a custom yacht will certainly weight into the overall asking price. And frankly, it should. Some custom builders can take 3-to-5 years or more (depending on backlog) to complete the construction of a boat, while production builders typically have a dealer with one in inventory or an open build slot within a year.

Taking a quick look at the yacht brokerage MLS, there are a few comparisons that can be made to support this:

  • A 2020 F&S 61' Custom Carolina has an asking price of $5.3 million while a 2020 Viking 62 is asking $4.4 million - even though the Viking had more horsepower.
  • A 2013 Garlington 61 has an asking price of $3.6 million while a 2013 Hatteras GT60 is asking $1.8 million.
  • A 2019 Paul Mann 77 is asking just under $9 million, while a 2018 Viking 80 is asking over $7 million even with the same engines.

(Below: United Yacht Sales advertises our sportfishing boat listings with Sportfish Trader for maximum exposure.)

 

5.) Market Value & Location Of The Boat

"Consumer demand coupled with lower than normal inventory levels is driving these historic spikes in boat values as the global average boat price is now $182,900, an increase of 28.9% from 2019. This is further reflected in how quickly boats are moving off the market, selling 32 days faster than last year and 83 days faster than in 2019," said a report on PRNewswire about the cost of boats post-2020. There is no denying that the lack of inventory on the market through 2022 has greatly affected the price of sportfishing boats. 2023 has seen a slight slow-down in demand and inventory has improved, but we are still seeing well-priced, late-model boats sell within 30 days if it's been properly maintained.

Have you ever sold a boat before and the broker representing it asked you to move it to another location? It likely wasn't for his or her convenience, but rather to get it to an area where it will be more likely to be seen over a competing boat on the market. So often buyers will fly down to Fort Lauderdale, for example, to look at a dozen potential boats. Those listings might be scattered at various marinas around Broward and Palm Beach counties. If your boat is located 2 hours north in Vero Beach, there is the potential for that boat to be missed completely. On the flipside, sometimes boats that are located in areas that aren't considered as possible can demand a higher price, as there is little competition nearby.

 

At United Yacht Sales, we have sportfishing boat experts from Ocean Reef, Florida all the way to Montauk, New York that can assist you in the purchase or sale of your vessel. If you're considering purchasing a sportfish, allow a professional, reputable UYS broker assist you in the purchase process. This is at no cost to you and you will have a knowledgeable representative working and negotiating on your behalf. Many of our team members have been captains on sportfishing yachts and have been through multiple custom boat builds throughout their career. For more answers to your questions, please contact our main office by calling (772) 463-3131 and we'll be happy to connect you with the expert sales professional that's right for your needs.

 

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