Comparing Boats on different Coasts

I began my career as a marine surveyor working for a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida based marine surveying company in 1990. I was born in San Diego to a U.S. Navy family but “grew up” as an active boater in Florida. I moved back to California in 1993 and have lived in San Diego since.
Returning to California as a marine surveyor I noted the difference in the value of boats from coast to coast. I just returned from a trip to Florida where I surveyed a Cabo 35 for a repeat client. I was there for a family wedding and used the job as a therapeutic break and a write off. The job reminded me of the difference between boats on different coasts.
The Coast Guard’s recreational boating statistics (2014) state California has 728,679 registered boats and Florida has 873,507 registered boats. The California number declined significantly from the prior year and the Florida number increased slightly. I found several interesting websites with statistics, links are at the end of this article.
Putting values on boats in the early 1990s included researching B.U.C., N.A.D.A. and A.B.O.S. value guides. The value guides suggested upward adjustments for boats in California.
I independently noticed that vessel values were higher in California, often significantly more than the cost of transporting the boats. My recent survey follows this higher value pattern.
Boats in Florida are exposed to much harsher atmospheric conditions, more sun, heat and often more usage. The very top of Florida is 31 degrees north latitude and Key West is south of 25 degrees north. San Diego is 32 degrees north, the southernmost point of California.
The weather affects the California boating season (May through September) much more than Florida. The air and water temperatures are much higher, the sun does more damage and boats are used more often in Florida. Florida has an intercoastal waterway, allowing usage of many boats when the sea conditions are unfavorable for boating.
I have always noticed a higher valuation for California boats compared to Florida boats, with the delta in values reduced during recession years. Florida brokers report that inventory of quality boats is low, just like California. Both states were affected by the recession and accompanying lack of boat production six to eight years ago.
The takeaway is that a boat’s value is difficult to determine based on year, make and model alone. As we all know, condition is a significant factor and statistically our local boats have a higher value because they are in better condition than boats in Florida. Unfortunately for my recent client, even a California bred boat can be affected by the Florida sun and he passed on the deal.
While researching for this article I found many interesting statistical websites, including the number of registered boats, boats per capita, value of the marine industry overall per state and casualty statistics. One statistic suggested that Arizona has the most registered boats per capita, due to their state requiring registration of all types of watercraft including those without power. I also found it interesting how many more power boats there are than sailboats, also possibly an anomaly affected by the requirement to register boats with power.