Dealer Outlook

Trade Only Dealer Outlook Blog

Boaters starting to talk up gas prices again

It was to be expected. The prime boating season is upon us and boaters are talking about the cost of gasoline – if for no other reason than because high gas prices are reported in the nightly news. No surprise . . . that leaves the public very unhappy.

As an aside, I find a bit of humor in this watching all the politicians scrambling to blame somebody else, anybody else, from the oil companies to speculators to some other party or politicians.

That said, with the national average at gas stations for regular at $3.83/gallon, and California leading all states at $4.35 (Hawaii $4.48 notwithstanding), we’re pushing toward the record high of $4.11 seen back in July, 2008. Of course, gas at marina fuel docks here in Florida is higher, currently averaging $4.72/gallon, but is predominantly ethanol-free, 90 octane with some including ValvTech. It’s no surprise, then, boaters are starting to talk about high gas prices and boating. So, it seems a good time to pause and recall some important facts and talking points we should keep in mind to allay customer concerns about boating and gas prices:

1. As we learned in the past, boaters and anglers remain boaters and anglers regardless of what happens at the pump. Boaters are reluctant to give up their time to relax, fish and enjoy their chosen recreation on the water. In fact, prior studies have shown the primary motivators for boating include fishing, relationship building, reducing stress and being outdoors. Previous high gas prices didn’t change those drivers.

2. In fact, while $3.83/gallon is being proclaimed very high by newscasters, it’s actually only 29 cents higher than a year ago. For the average boater, at least, this relatively small increase should not be expected to materially limit their time on the water.

3. In actuality, higher gas prices present only a marginal increase in the operating cost of an average boat. Most boats in use today are under 21 feet and simply don’t use very high amounts of gas. If a boating outing last year at this time used, say, 25 gallons of gas, that same outing today would cost just $7.25 more. It defies logic to think a boater would give it up for such a nominal increase.

4. Unlike a car, boating isn’t usually an activity where gas is being consumed all the time. During the many hours spent fishing, swimming, beaching and the like, the boat engine isn’t running at all. A sailboat with a motor uses even less!

5. Finally, we know boating habits can be modified by higher gas prices. For example, anglers may choose to fish closer to shore instead of running 20 or 30 miles offshore. Some may make cut down some mileage on vacation cruises. Others may opt to spend more time pulled up to a good beach closer to their launching ramp or marina. But, predictably, most boats will leave their trailers or slips as they have in past summers.

Finally, every customer deserves good advice about ways to reduce gas consumption. The service department, for example, should be advising that tuned up motors use less gas, their props should be checked, their hull bottoms must be kept clean and their trim tabs should be used properly, among other tips. It will all help make their boating better, regardless of the cost of gas.


7 comments on “Boaters starting to talk up gas prices again

  1. Ed

    This puts high fuel prices in their proper perspective. The sky is not falling. Every boat salesperson should read this.

  2. Tom Delotto,CMM

    Over the winter I had the opporutnity to attend several fishing seminars in New England to tune up my skills and learn new tactics. One of the best I attend is something called the Big Game Bash hosted by Eric Stewart and Damon Sacco from the Cape and Boston area. 300 focused tuna fisherman in one place over 2 days. Very interesting to hear fishermanin the audience discussing fuel but not complaining – the discussions all center around intel, know where to go to target fish using chatter but also temp charts and history, how important recon and dock informaiton is as we cut down on the random trips we used to make and how we will not spend lots of time and fuel just roaming aorund looking for fish. Norm hits it on the head – we are not willing to give up our recreation. We simply adjust to the new normal and get smarter about how we fish and out battle tactics.

  3. enginecom

    More need to consider upgrades when it is time to repower. The new 4 stroke outboards are very efficient. Unfortunately the cost of repowering with gas is rapidly increasing with the advent of CO regulations. A consideration is repowering with diesels. The new diesels are very light and in most cases will perform as good or better than gas engines. With smaller boats being the bread and butter for the boating industry there are instances that diesels make sense. I currently have a CC boat being repowered using one of Cummins Mercruiser’s diesels. It is as powerful and light as a small block v8. A while back did an older 28′ that was twin gas now single diesel. It uses 1/3 the fuel and is 3mph faster! Each boat needs to be evaluated by a professional prior to any repower. Any changes will cost more than a simple repower. Do your homework and your days on the water will be rewarding!

  4. Pat

    The thing you are forgetting in your article is that the higher gas prices dont just come into play on the boat trip, they come into play on the boaters everyday life, If everyday vehicle use goes up that has to come into play as well and is isnt always just the true $ impact, it can be the mental impact, the idea that filling the tow vehicle now cost $100 per fill vs $90, then to fill the boat costs another $100, all of a sudden the weekend boat trip costs $200 in your mind, even though the fuel used to get to the lake was only $10 of the trucks $100 and the $100 in the boat will last for 3-4 weekends. We can talk all we want about the minimal true $$ impact of the higher gas prices that isnt the impact we need to worry about it is the one in the consumers head that will be what hurts us

  5. Philip Topps, AMS

    As a Marine Surveyor, I see no marked decrease in business so far this year in a year-over-year comparison. It wasn’t so in 2008, when the “sticker shock” of the first real price hikes came about. That said, the statement that no boater/fisherman is going to forgo their recreation for an increase of 10-20 Dollars is likely true.
    I know that obama wants a society where people only go to work and back home, and pay taxes, with no activities, and his hatred of fossil fuels is well known, but, as with most boaters, I simply won’t play that tune, and apparently, a good many others won’t either.

  6. warren

    Pat makes a good point.. consider the boaters every day expenses groceries and perhaps commuting that will strain his wallet.what are you paying for milk etc at the grocery store?? all the price increases being blamed on the high cost of fuel. there may not be any money left to “gas up” the boat for that wekend fishing trip.secondly what about the price of diesel at the pump.outrageuos.. the price of gas and diesel WILL effect boating period..Dont worry !!.. the price will continue to rise until enough complaints are made and the oil companies will then know what our “breaking point “is and freeze the price there .. P.S. thanks enginecom. I will just repower with you and solve my money problems .I for one have had it .I think I will go camping this weekend.. oops .. the state owned park may be closed due to cutbacks .. wonderful!!

  7. CaptA


    I am in total agreement with your article. The fact of the matter is if a boater has to worry about a $1.00 per gallon increase in fuel costs, then he/she should probably never have bought the boat in the first place.

    Those who can afford a boat (whatever size) should have very little problems using it.

    This is a none issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments Policy.