Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why do so many people want to buy new boats?

This is a subject that's been exercising me for a while, particularly given the preponderance of stories recently about the pitfalls encountered by the buyers of new boats - poor steelwork leading to sinking; builders going out of business owing customers tens of thousands of pounds; the near impossibility of getting moorings, plus smaller scale local stories about a new boat that's on its third engine, for example ...

Sometimes people buy a new boat because they have very specific requirements, and want a boat built to meet these exactly. This is a reason often given by people whose boats are reviewed in the glossy mags (and frequently make a second appearance in the brokerage ads a year or two later). There are hundreds of boats for sale in Britain at any given time - 378 on Apollo Duck alone yesterday, many of them no more than a few years old - is not a single one of them suitable? Have these people even looked? (Possibly not; I remember reading a review a few years back of a new semi-trad. The owners were very pleased with their boat, but said that had they known about the possibility of having a trad with a back cabin, they would have preferred that.)

But anyway, while it may be true that some people have very specific needs or wants, and have a boat custom built to meet them, that doesn't account for all the bottom end boats sold off the peg with little scope for customisation and even less character or aesthetic appeal. The longest queue I saw at Crick was for the New Boat Company's boat. What's with these people? Even if they can't afford a boat by one of the 'top' builders exhibiting there, aren't they even interested in looking? I'm not saying no one should ever buy a new boat - I don't want to see high quality bespoke builders and fitters running out of work; I don't want to see the supply of good quality boats dry up. But in terms of numbers, we are talking increasingly about boats being made on production lines in Poland and Morocco, and even China (max length 48' to fit in a shipping container). Surely in many cases the same money would buy a much nicer boat that's a few years old.

Lots of people, it seems, simply never as much as consider buying anything 'second hand'. These are the people that buy a new car every three years and whose complaints about said cars fill the consumer and motoring pages of the press. The sort of people who buy a Barrett home because they don't like the idea of having a second hand toilet (I have seen that cited as a reason!) I would never buy a new car, or a new house - let someone else have the inevitable teething troubles, and pay extra for the privilege. But then as far as possible I don't buy new clothes, or furniture, or anything where I can utilise some one else's cast-offs, save money, stop something going into landfill and end up with better quality stuff to boot. But to many people, that seems to be a completely alien world.

Back to the problem of moorings: of all those hundreds of boats currently for sale, most are taking up a mooring somewhere. In many cases they haven't moved or even been visited for years. That's a complete waste of a mooring. Add to those the hundreds more (at a wild guess) that aren't currently for sale but whose owners don't or hardly use them and would sell if there was a buyer. If moorings owners, including BW, allowed moorings to be transferred with a boat this could provide a significant incentive to buy an existing boat rather than add a new one.

Building new boats uses resources and fossil fuels (OK, marginal amounts in the scheme of things, but everything we do as individuals is marginal in the scheme of things, it doesn't mean it's not worthwhile). If a beautiful, well made, loved and used boat is the result, then that's arguably a good use of those resources. If it's an ugly tub that causes its owners so many problems they give up on boating altogether, then that's a wicked waste. Especially when there are so many (potentially) nice boats out there just waiting for someone to love them.

1 comment:

Den said...

Hi Sarah

I have been reading you blog with interest and have been looking at your past postings.

You have made me feel quite guilty as we are just about to take possession of a new boat, one of those off-the-peg boats you wrote about.

We did in fact look at secondhand boats and unfortunatly those in our price range were in such a state that they would have cost us a fortune to do up.

The boat we are buying in good value for money and entirely built in England, we are paying the same amount as the secondhand boats we looked at without taking on someone else's problems.

No hard feelings though and I do get your drift but a lot of thought went into which boat we would eventually buy.

Regards Den