Sharing the Wealth

Lead Line — September 2003
By Richard Thiel

Sharing the Wealth
Shared owners say the hardest part was finding each other in the first place.
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I figure all powerboaters fall into three groups. According to independent research, some 40,000 of you PMY readers are among the Gotta Go Biggers. You own a perfectly fine boat but are nevertheless planning on buying a new one within the next year. Most of the rest of you are in the Wish I Could But I Can’ts. For a variety of reasons, you’re not actively looking for a new boat—but we know you will be, probably within the next two years.

That leaves a large group of powerboaters called The Practically Constrained, who can’t afford a bigger boat or can’t justify the added expense of a new boat based on the time they use it. You’ve seen them at your marina. They’ve owned the same boat for five years or more and appear to have no intention of trading up. I suspect a lot of them wish there were a way to cast off their concerns and go boat shopping. Well, I think there is: shared ownership.

I’m not talking about interval ownership, where a company purchases a boat, then sells shares to individuals, much like a time-share condominium. Interval boat ownership has been tried and, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t worked. I suspect the reason is that many buyers believe such a scheme doesn’t provide that all-important feeling of ownership, plus there’s the difficulty of getting the days you want.

Shared ownership is simply where individuals or couples buy a boat they couldn’t afford or justify individually, then work out the details of usage among themselves. It works. I know. I co-owned my third boat, a 26-footer, and it worked especially well for a number of reasons. First, Don and I worked different shifts with different days off, minimizing the chance of a scheduling conflict. Second, we were both meticulous about maintenance and took a lot of pride in the appearance of our boat. Experienced boaters, we understood the cost of upkeep inherent in boat ownership and willingly paid it. Third and most important, we trusted each other, so we were able to work out conflicts when they developed.

But Don and I co-owned a 26-footer. Can shared ownership work for a big boat? I think so. I know of three groups—two of which own a powerboat and the third a sailboat, all over 50 feet—who have made it work for at least ten years. All three have owned multiple boats, plan to purchase together again, and recommend the process. Two of the groups didn’t know each other well before becoming involved in the process, yet only one felt the need to involve a lawyer. Everyone says that the conflicts have been relatively minor and easily solved, that they get plenty of use when they want it, and that shared ownership has allowed them to buy a much larger boat than they could have bought on their own. They also say the hardest part was finding each other in the first place, which makes me think maybe PMY needs to devote a spot in the magazine or on our Web site where such people can advertise—a kind of boat matchmaker.

I know the vast majority of PMY readers couldn’t care less about shared ownership. They want to own their own boat and can afford to do so. But I’ll bet there’s a sizeable group of boaters out there who would readily give up a little freedom and their old boat for a bigger, newer one. They just need someone to bring them together.

This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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