What does the family that has everything want next?
A power boat.In Utah, they want a very fast power boat. Owners of several boat businesses report that more and more Utahns are passing up the smaller, entry-level power boat for the larger, faster middle-line models.
The boat business is looking good in Utah. The local economy is improving, new tax laws allow you to write off the finance interest on some boats, and recreational financing has become as flexible and creative as auto financing.
"In Utah County, you couldn't have sold a boat for love nor money two years ago," said Bob Brimhall with Brimhall Marine. But Geneva is thriving, Kennecott is back up and folks are looking to buy again, he said.
This time, they are buying new and they are buying big. Some of the credit for the trend goes to financing. "Creative financing has just arrived on the boat market," said Mike Hartson, operations manager at Duce Marine, 3638 S. State. "It's caused the new boats to really take off in sales."
Duce used to sell 50 percent new and 50 percent used, he said. Now it sells 75 percent new and 25 percent used.
When Utahns go shopping for boats these days, they want big, fast boats.
Dennis J. Peterson used to be able to put an inexpensive small boat at the front of his display at the boat show to draw first-time buyers in. He would sell the little boats like hotcakes. This year, he couldn't do that.
Halfway through the show, Peterson Marine, Draper, had sold only two of its $6,995 boats.
"We haven't had the people jumping on our lower-priced units as we've had in past boat shows," Peterson said.
"People aren't as concerned with the price as they are with a quality boat that does everything they want it to do on the water," Hartson explained. "They don't want to apologize: `Sorry, I can only take six people,' or `Will you please sit up in the bow so I can pull the skier up.' "
Middle-line boats with lots of horsepower have always been popular to the seasoned boater who is buying his second or third boat. But now those boats are appealing to first-time buyers.
"They are stepping right into a middle-line boat and keeping it a little longer," Hartson said.
"Rather than buying one that's smaller and moving up later on, people are buying closer to what they eventually want the first time they buy," Peterson said.
"They found out that boats depreciate," explained Joe Housley, with Peterson Marine.
Families used to buy 18-footers for their first boat. Now they are buying 21-footers and 22-footers.
The hottest engine at Duce Marine and Peterson Marine is the "Big Block," a 454 Chevrolet engine that develops 330 horsepower.
"In a 21-foot boat, they are a 55-mile-per-hour craft," Hartson said.
Dealers also noted that boat buyers are an increasingly sophisticated crowd.
They've done some research and comparison shopping. Hartson has customers who have called San Diego and Las Vegas for some price comparison, he said. "They are a more intelligent crew," Peterson said.
Peterson is a part-owner of Peterson Motor in Ogden. He said boat buyers are much more savvy than car buyers. "We can make a better deal on a car than on a boat. A lot of our boat people are business people. They deal with banks and finance interest daily."