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When price matters

8 new powerboats for under $40,000

8 new powerboats for under $40,000


If you’re shopping for a new powerboat, what can you really get with a budget of $40,000 or less? Are you dreaming to think you can find a quality boat for a family of four at that price? After all, you can buy three entry-level Toyotas for $40,000. Why not one boat?

Despite what some naysayers might argue — including a marketing manager for a major boatbuilder who believes “you’re really limiting yourself” with a budget of less than $40,000 — we were pleased by what we found. We chose eight new boats that range from around $25,000 to around $38,000, and from 19 to 22 feet. There were plenty more we could have highlighted, and in most cases we didn’t choose a builder’s least-expensive boat.

While buying used might make sense for boaters on a budget, there are a number of reasons to go with a new boat, including a full warranty, fewer maintenance issues, and not buying someone else’s misuse or abuse.

“The budget-conscious consumer should always look at a new boat as the first alternative, because no matter what their budget they are all looking for a quality, trouble-free experience,” says Dean Burnett, vice president and general manager of Century Boat Company of Panama City, Fla., who, like any boatbuilder, isn’t exactly an unbiased source when it comes to new vs. used. “A budget consumer can find quality at a low price in a new boat; they simply need to know what to look for and be educated in the real differences from boat-to-boat.”

Keep in mind that with a lower-priced boat you may not be buying cutting-edge technology in terms of construction, materials and propulsion. You might end up with a carbureted 2-stroke rather than direct-injection or a 4-stroke, and don’t expect SCRIMP construction and exotic laminates. The latest technology isn’t cheap, and plain vanilla works fine for many people.

So how does a builder keep costs down? For some, the answer is participating in buyer groups, keeping overhead low and selling factory direct. Eastern Boats of Milton, N.H., can take advantage of lower-cost resin because it belongs to an independent boatbuilders buying group and can place bulk orders to save on hardware and accessories, according to company owner Bob Bourdeau. And cutting out the middleman by selling 95 percent of its boats direct from the factory also saves money, says Bourdeau, as does sticking with proven designs. While Eastern “freshens” its models every year, it isn’t retooling its line as often as some manufacturers.

“If they spend $100,000 [on new tooling] that money has to come from somewhere,” he says.

Eastern has 35 employees and builds around 100 boats a year, ranging from 18 to 35 feet and in center console, lobster yacht and sportfisherman configurations. We’re looking at the Eastern 22, which with a 115-hp Honda 4-stroke and such features as seat boxes, a V-berth, side and aft curtains and no-feedback steering, sells for around $35,640. The company also builds an 18- and a 20-footer that obviously cost less.

Like Eastern, Miami-based Angler Boats keeps overhead low and takes advantage of a buying group. “The joke is we steal our resin,” says company president Gerritt Walsh. “But the reality is we do a lot better job than anybody at controlling our overhead.”

Walsh not only is president but serves as the company’s Florida sales representative and handles production scheduling. “Everybody here wears multiple hats,” he says.

The builder has 165 employees and produces between 1,100 and 1,200 boats a year at its 106,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. “For our volume, many companies would have almost twice as many non-production employees,” he says.

Robin Parker, who handles marketing and dealer support for Parker Marine Enterprises of Beaufort, N.C., says the company keeps overhead down by concentrating on in-house efficiencies, in addition to using buyer groups. “Despite the increases in our petroleum-based materials and stainless steel components, we are able to absorb these costs by focusing on our production flow, using lean manufacturing concepts and investing in labor-saving devices to reduce our expenses,” says Parker.

Some builders are using different technologies and materials as a way of competing on price. Triumph, which is under the Genmar umbrella, builds boats using the proprietary Roplene process. (Boat show visitors might recognize the term “Roplene” from a sideshow involving a sledgehammer bouncing off the white hull sides of a Triumph.) The technology involves pouring a specially formulated polyethylene compound powder into a high-temperature mold that is rotated vertically and horizontally in a large convection oven. The powder melts, forming the boat.

“Our molds are kind of costly to produce, but we don’t have nearly as many materials that go into the boat,” says Rick Davis, national sales manager for the Durham, N.C., builder. “From the standpoint of just the hull, it’s rotomolded polyethylene [with] stainless steel crossmembers.” It is the same process used to build kayaks and canoes, translated to center console and dual console sportfishing boats.

“It runs down the assembly line just like a fiberglass boat once it comes out of the oven,” says Davis.

The boats are tough, durable, low-maintenance and recyclable, Davis says. Though they’re filled with closed-cell foam, he says the Roplene material also is naturally buoyant.

Triumph builds nine boats from 12 to 21 feet, including center consoles, dual consoles, a bay boat, and a model based on a RIB but built entirely using Roplene. Prices start at about $11,000, and all but a limited-edition 21-foot center console fall below the $40,000 mark.

Among the cheapest entries into the boating world is the small, open bowrider powered by an outboard or relatively inexpensive sterndrive. Large companies like Bayliner and Glastron, backed by even larger boatbuilding conglomerates like Brunswick and Genmar (respectively, in this case), seek to entice entry-level boaters with these 16- and 17-footers that cost less than $15,000, a price that often includes a trailer. A new entry-level boat for saltwater coastal use generally will come in at a slightly higher price, but they still can be found near the $15,000 threshold.

C-Dory isn’t a rock-bottom price-point boat, but the company has carved out a place for itself among judicious cruisers and anglers by taking a simple design and investing in quality.

“I would say we’re an affordable niche boat that’s high quality and very intensive to build,” says Jeff Messmer, vice president of sales and marketing for the Auburn, Wash., company.

C-Dories are described as rugged, simple boats that are easy to maintain. The focus is less on frills and more on construction. The deck is laminated to the hull for one-piece construction. The layout is simple too, with a V-berth forward, a pilothouse (the hardtop is laminated to the deck), and an open cockpit.

“It’s much stronger than most boats, with really no chances for leaks,” says Messmer, adding that the boats’ resale values are high.

Other companies are lowering price tags by offering the same hull as their higher-priced models, but with less-sophisticated components and fewer accessories.

Century Boats’ new SV Series is the result of the Panama City, Fla., company’s quest to offer a competitively priced line of entry-level boats. The first models are a pair of center consoles, the 1701SV and 2001SV, based on the same hull as the full-feature models. In addition to removing some frills and luxury items, Century chose to reintroduce less-expensive carbureted 2-stroke outboards from its parent company Yamaha.

“In the 2006 model year the only 2-strokes we offered were the 300 HPDIs on the larger center consoles,” says Burnett, the vice president and general manager. “As a result we took ourselves out of that aggressive center console entry-level market. In an effort to ensure a price point we are only offering the SV series with 2-stroke engines at this time.”

Another fishing boat builder, Sea Fox Boats of Moncks Corner, S.C., announced this summer that it would split its line in two, the Pro Series and the lower-priced Sport Series. Sport Series boats are built using earlier hull and deck molds, while Pro Series boats use the latest molds. The Sport Series also has fewer standard features. Each series consists of 14 boats, including center consoles, walkarounds, bay boats and dual consoles. (See New Boats on Page 62. )

Here’s a look at the eight boats we found priced less than $40,000, including outboard power.

C-Dory 19

The price of a “loaded” C-Dory 19 is $35,927, including a 90-hp Suzuki 4-stroke, according to Northeast dealer Y-Landing Marine Services of Meredith, N.H. The fuel-efficient 19-footer gets around 5 miles per gallon at cruising speed, C-Dory’s Messmer says.

“We’re as close to a hybrid [automobile] as you can get on the water,” he says.

The boat cruises at 18 mph and tops out at 28 mph with a 90-hp Suzuki or Honda. With a 70-hp outboard it has a cruising speed of 16 mph and a top speed of 23 mph. Its hull has 22 degrees of deadrise at the bow, tapering to 4 degrees at the transom.

“It planes very quickly, it takes little power to push it, and if you go 15 mph you’ll get through any chop,” Messmer says.

The salty Pacific Northwest cabin boat has the same hull design, albeit 3 feet smaller, as its 22-foot sister and a nearly identical layout. It has the same size V-berth forward as the 22 but without a galley. (A fully equipped 22 Cruiser with a 90-hp Suzuki comes in at about $52,000, according to Y-Landing.) Nevertheless, Messmer says a lot of owners will spend a couple days aboard the 19-footer, perhaps hanging a barbecue grill over the side in lieu of galley cooking.

Pro-Line 20-Sport

Pro-Line Boats of Crystal River, Fla., has added two new center consoles to its lineup. The 20 and 23 Sport are designed to bring the fun of boating “well within the reach of most budgets,” according to the company.

“Rising gas prices are putting the pinch on boaters, but Pro-Line’s new 20- and 23-foot Sports present economic options for our customers,” says Johnny Walker, Pro-Line vice president. “Fuel-efficient operation will allow boaters to spend more time on the water.”

The 20 Sport is fairly beamy at 8 feet, 5 inches, with 81 square feet of cockpit space and a standard 25-gallon fishbox. Standard fishing equipment includes a lighted 18-gallon bait well with raw-water washdown, casting deck with storage, and rod holders and cockpit rod racks.

Other standard equipment includes a stainless steel grab rail at the windshield, a stainless steel bow rail, enclosed head compartment in the console, and swim platform. Options include bow cushions, spotlight or spreader lights, an anchor roller with a cleat, aluminum leaning post with backrest and rod holders, hydraulic tilt steering, Bimini or T-top, stereo system, and an electronics package.

The 20 Sport has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $29,995 with a 135-hp Honda 4-stroke. The 23 Sport with a 250-hp Suzuki 4-stroke comes in at $46,629.

Century 2001SV

Century’s new SV Series includes the $20,000 1701SV and $30,000 2001SV center consoles, both of which use the same hulls as the more expensive 1701CC and 2001CC, according to the builder. “As far as the hull and construction and building materials — fiberglass, resin, etc. — it is identical in every way to the current line,” says Century’s Burnett. The savings come in lower-cost components and less-expensive carbureted Yamaha 2-stroke outboards, he says.

The 2001SV measures 20 feet, 2 inches in length and is designed to “tackle big bays or reach nearby offshore fishing spots,” according to the company. Power comes from a Yamaha 150TXR with a fuel/water separator, oil system and stainless steel propeller.

For fishing, it has a 19.4-gallon aft bait well, four rod holders on its leaning post, a pair of gunwale-mounted rod holders, and four rod holders and an aft spreader light on the standard T-top. It also has storage compartments aft (77.6-quart) and in the bow (50.8-gallon).

Other standard features include a 72-quart cooler beneath the leaning post, hydraulic steering, battery switch, three-step ladder, aft seat cushions, and a portable marine head in the center console. Hull color options include white, light blue and yellow.

The 1701SV has a 12-gallon aft bait well, 48-quart tub storage, 45-gallon bow storage compartment, and insulated 68-quart combination icebox/helm seat. The boat has a beam of 7 feet, 2 inches, a 10-inch draft, and a 36-gallon fuel tank. Power comes from a 90-hp Yamaha outboard.

The SV boats have the same transferable warranty as all Century models, according to the builder.

Angler 204 WA

Angler is known for its low prices and special promotions. “We’re all about affordable boats here,” says company president Walsh. Although it sometimes gets compared to “chopper gun companies,” Angler uses a hand-laminated construction process for its wood-free boats, he says. The boats are foam-filled, have aluminum fuel tanks, and are built with quality components, Walsh says.

The company also does all of its tooling in-house. “We don’t farm anything out,” says Walsh. “It gives us the ability to be really involved, really hands-on. Having it here, you’re better assured that you’re going to get what you want.” And there are fewer delays, he says, as the company can make minor changes and enhancements as it builds the tooling. “And designing boats is fun. I get to indulge myself,” he says.

The builder last year reintroduced its 204 Walkaround, which carries a price of $25,995 equipped with a Bimini top with front, side and aft curtains, portable marine head, choice of colored hull sides, and a 150-hp EFI 2-stroke. Other features include aft seat cushions, cockpit bolsters, rod holders and a stainless steel propeller. In addition to EFI and carbureted 2-strokes from Mercury or Yamaha, Angler offers a Mercury OptiMax direct-injection 2-stroke or Yamaha 4-stroke.

Angler’s 204FX center console sells for $24,995 with a T-top, rocket launchers and spreader light, leaning post with rod holders, and portable in-console marine head. The builder also offers a 22-foot center console that comes in at $34,995, while on the low end the Angler 173FX center console with a 50-hp outboard sells for $11,995.

Triumph 215 CC

With a base price of $33,827 the 215 CC is one of Triumph’s top-selling models. Standard features include a bow pulpit with anchor roller, 316 stainless steel bow rail and console grab rail, four insulated fishboxes, in-gunwale rod storage, four gunwale-mounted rod holders, tackle storage, lockable console electronics box, hydraulic steering with stainless steel wheel, acrylic windshield, Pompanette ladder-back helm and companion seats, and stern seats.

Even with such optional equipment as a T-top, fishing package and trailer it still comes in below $40,000. The optional fishing package includes bow and stern cushions, coaming bolsters, a 100-quart cooler seat, raw-water washdown, and dual battery switch. Other options include a portable marine head, leaning post with rocket launchers and a Bimini top.

And Triumph touts the ride of its Roplene rotomolded hulls. “We claim it provides a better ride because it’s one piece instead of two and it’s naturally buoyant,” says Davis, the national sales manager.

The company plans to introduce a 23-foot center console at the Miami International Boat Show in February.

Parker 2120 Sport Cabin

The 2120 Sport Cabin embodies the functionality that Parker Marine espouses. “Everything that goes into a Parker has a function,” says Robin Parker. “This straight-forward building process provides a boat that requires little to no maintenance, allowing the customer to focus on using and enjoying the boat.”

The $38,667 21-footer has a forward cabin containing twin berths with storage beneath, a portable marine head, anchor locker access and a privacy curtain. The enclosed, lighted pilothouse has a pedestal helm seat with footrest to starboard, portside lounge seat with storage that includes three tackle trays, and more storage abaft the helm seat.

Standard equipment includes hydraulic steering with a stainless steel wheel, stainless steel grab rails on the top and sides of the pilothouse, a one-piece welded stainless steel bow rail, stainless steel hardware, and a lockable pilothouse door. (A pilothouse that’s open to the cockpit, with drop curtains, can be ordered.) The self-bailing cockpit is lighted and has a non-skid surface. Port and starboard stern jump seats are standard, as are a molded splash well and boarding platform with ladder.

Options include a second helm station (in the cockpit at the pilothouse bulkhead), cockpit coaming bolsters, cockpit sunshade, aluminum rocket launchers for six rods, and a bow pulpit.

The 2120 has foam flotation, a through-bolted hull-to-deck joint, and a transferable five-year limited hull warranty.

Sea Pro 220 Center Console

Sea Pro Boats of Newberry, S.C., offers a dozen boats under $40,000, including bay boats, center consoles, dual consoles and walkarounds. The Sea Pro 220 Center Console has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $36,995 with a 225-hp Mercury OptiMax direct injection 2-stroke, or $39,995 with a 200-hp Mercury Verado supercharged 4-stroke.

The 21-foot, 6-inch fiberglass hull is hand-laid and carries a 10-year transferable warranty. The boat has a fiberglass stringer system, full inner liner, and self-bailing cockpit. Standard features include a pair of 20-gallon live wells, a washdown system, insulated fishbox with overboard drain, four flush-mounted stainless steel rod holders, and stainless steel hardware and through-hulls. The boat has a raised casting platform and recessed bow rail, and the console has a Plexiglas windshield.

While swiveling helm and companion seats are standard, a leaning post with rocket launchers is available as an option. A Bimini or T-top can be added to the 220, and the T-top can be outfitted with outriggers, electronics box and rocket launchers. Other options include electronics, a full bow rail, portable marine head, freshwater shower, trim tabs, half swim platform, canvas dodger, and hull colors. The Sea Pro line ranges from 17 feet to 27 feet.

Eastern 22

Eastern Boats offers several Down East-style boats that come in under $40,000. Its 20-foot center console typically is priced in the mid- to upper $20,000s, according to company owner Bourdeau, and most of its 22-foot cabin boats are below $40,000.

“I have to consider that an exceptional value,” Bourdeau says of the cabin boat price. The base 22 Lobsterfisherman, with cabin and hardtop, sells for around $22,000, he says. Add about $10,000 for a 115-hp Honda 4-stroke, then equip it with features like seat boxes, a V-berth, bilge pump, opening windshield, side and aft curtains, and no-feedback steering, and the price is about $35,640.

Bourdeau says the price is the result of hard work on Eastern’s part, especially in the face of rising materials costs in recent years.

“We’ve been fighting price increases through the last three years,” says Bourdeau. “And I get nervous about keeping our costs down and holding the line. Then I look at some of our competitors and say, ‘Wow, we’re much lower than that.’ But everybody’s fighting the same increases.”

The company also keeps prices low by sticking with designs rather than retooling as trends dictate. “That 22 is basically the same boat we’ve been building since 1984,” says Bourdeau. He describes it as a “mixed usage” boat, available in center console as well as cabin configurations. Owners use them for day cruising, fishing or shuttling to and from island homes.