Smaller production boats
There are definitely a lot of factors in play here. But as has been pointed out, the middle class are in quite a bit of distress right now. There's also a huge pile of used-boat inventory on the market, really inexpensively priced right now. When a family has to choose between paying their mortgage or their moorage, you can bet which one will win. So those boats are dumped well below reasonable, fair value. Who needs to buy a new boat for $150k when you can buy the same boat with some use, for a fraction of the price.
New boat buyers are generally affluent enough not to care about trivial details like depreciation, and those with spare cash these days, generally have lots of it, and thus aren't on the market for a small cruising boat.
So instead of lamenting the lack of new, midsized cruising boats, why not enjoy today's bargain-basement prices. Pick up the used boat you want, for a tiny fraction of what it's really worth.
Btw, regarding the comment that a mid-30's modern production boat looks like it only cost 50K, that comment really needs to be re-thought.
My 1981 boat has a steering wheel that lists for $750 with a $250 suede wrapper on it. My engine new, would cost $12,000. We are now at $13,000 for a motor and a steering wheel. A new Genoa? $3500. A mainsail? $2500.00 Two primary winches? $1500 each. Now we're at $22,000 for two sails, two out of say, 5 winches, a steering wheel with no place to put it, and a motor sitting in a crate with no driveshaft, stuffing box, or propeller. We're missing a hull, through hulls, a binnacle, a fridge, sink, head, cushions, oh heck, the parts list is pretty long.
Get your hands on a wholesale price list for marine parts and then walk around a sailboat. On a sailboat in the 36' range You will find about a quarter of a million dollars worth of high-priced marine gear, all assembled and installed by hand.
In any event, for those who aren't fabulously wealthy, or putting a boat into a charter fleet, I simply can't understand purchasing a new boat.
I ran into a fellow last week who recently purchased a roughly 40' Moody. This boat was clearly a bit older, but it was clear that someone had LAVISHED money on the boat. After chatting a bit, it turns out the new owner had bought the vessel from a very wealthy individual. In 2006 alone, the previous owner had spent $120K on the vessel, and somewhere in the ballpark of half a million dollars in the last 10 years. The boat was purchased for $125K.
The lesson? Skip the new boat that needs $30K in goods from the chandelry; Buy a good used boat from a wealthy person!!! The drawers on my boat came packed with valuable equipment purchased specifically for this vessel. Long live the redistribution of wealth through the purchase of used gear, well below purchase price.
SeaLife Sailing (Sailing School Operator)
s/v 'Ma Provence'