Affluent women show strong interest in boating

CLEVELAND – More than one quarter of affluent Americans already own or are planning on buying a boat in the near future, and affluent women are nearly as interested in boat ownership as affluent men, according to the findings of a recently released survey by Key Recreation Lending.

The marine lending division of KeyBank NA, released the results of its latest survey on national boating trends, conducted in conjunction with the McDonald Financial Group Affluent Consumer Confidence Index – a quarterly survey that gauges the economic confidence and spending and investing sentiment of affluent Americans.

Key’s survey found that 26 percent of affluent Americans own or are planning to buy a boat in the near future, and that affluent men are only 4 percent more likely than affluent women to be interested in boating. Twenty-seven percent of affluent men said they own or are planning to buy a boat soon, compared to 23 percent of affluent women.

But despite the interest affluent women have in boating, the KRL survey showed that men are more likely to make the final decision on whether or not to buy a new boat. The survey found that only 17 percent of women polled answered they would make the final buying decision on their boat, as opposed to 64 percent of men.

The survey also found that, although rising fuel costs have posed a concern to many average consumers, among affluent Americans rising prices have not had a significant impact on their views of boating. When asked if rising fuel costs would impact their plans to buy a boat in the next 12 months, 76 percent answered that it did not have a direct bearing on this decision. A total of 69 percent of affluent Americans also answered that rising fuel costs did not affect how much time they planned to spend using their boats.

“Despite tempered expectations of the overall national economy, our survey revealed that a significant percentage of affluent Americans show enthusiasm for boating, and their interest in purchasing a boat continues to be a positive sign for dealers and manufacturers,” said Ken Landon, chairman of KRL.

Other findings
The survey found that affluent Americans in the highest income bracket were the most likely to buy a boat. Of those Americans who make $500,000 or more, 29 percent either own or plan to own a boat; whereas 26 percent of those polled in the $150,000 to $500,000 income bracket gave that response; and 24 percent of those making under $150,000 answered in the affirmative.

Aside from those polled who were simply not interested in boating (48 percent), lack of time seemed to be the single greatest barrier to purchasing a boat.

According to the survey, 10 percent of affluent Americans answered they simply “don’t have time” to go boating. Other barriers to boating noted by respondents included: overall high costs of boating (6 percent); “no access to marine facilities” (5 percent); “prefer to use someone else’s boat” (4 percent); “operating costs too high” (3 percent); “not the time of year” (2 percent); “high interest rates” (2 percent); “unfavorable economy” (1 percent); and “no good deals” (1 percent).

“It is our job in the marine industry to get the right messages out to those people who think they are too time-challenged to experience the joys of boating,” said Grant Skeens, president and CEO of KRL. “For example, affluent business owners and top executives may not be thinking of the value of yacht ownership as a business entertainment tool rather than just leisure activity. Many important deals get sealed while out on the water fishing or cruising and there may also be ways to defray some costs when boats are used for business purposes.”

What boats do the affluent want?
Key said the popularity of sailboats was up 5 percent over last year’s survey, and found that 18 percent of women prefer a runabout/ski boat vs. 16 percent of men.

When asked the question, “If money were no object, and you could purchase any boat you wanted — what type of boat would it be?,” 30 percent of respondents chose a motor yacht or cabin cruiser — the highest of any other category. However, this percentage is actually down 15 percent from the 2004 KeyBank survey, which found that 45 percent of affluent Americans preferred a motor yacht or cabin cruiser.

A surprising 25 percent of those polled selected a sailboat as their boat of choice, which is up 5 percent over the 2004 survey results. Runabouts and ski boats earned 17 percent and fishing boats were chosen by 9 percent of those polled.

The survey also showed a slight difference in the choice of “dream boats” between affluent Americans in different income brackets. According to the survey, the more money you make, the more likely you are to desire a motor yacht, as 39 percent of those earning $500,000 or more and 32 percent of those earning between $150,000 – $500,000 chose this category.

Only 23 percent of those polled who make $150,000 or less said they would prefer a motor yacht or cabin cruiser. But, 27 percent of those in this same income bracket chose a sailboat as their boat of choice.

Overall, affluent men and women had a similar taste in boats, with two minor variations worth noting:

– More women than men listed a runabout or ski boat as their boat of choice: 18 percent of women versus 16 percent of men.
– Fewer women chose fishing boats: 3 percent of women compared to 11 percent of men.

Survey Methodology
The survey, conducted by the independent research firm Penn, Schoen and Berland, polled randomly selected individuals with investable assets of $500,000 or more, and/or personal annual income of $150,000 or more.

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