new boat design trends

Boat Design Trends that Boat Builders are Choosing for New Boats

Each year boat builders choose the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show to debut their latest boat models to the public. The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show (also known as FLIBS) runs the first week of November, making it the ideal time to launch the next model year boats and jumpstart winter boat shopping and buying.

While each boat manufacturer strives to differentiate themselves from the competition by designing boats that are unique to their brand, there are still clear trends in boat design.

When we talk about boat trends it doesn’t necessarily mean it is simply “trendy” to do something with new boat design and it will fade out of favor in a few years. Many of these trends are indicative of how boat design is changing for the long term.

Some of these trends may be due to general market demands (what type of boats are selling the fastest, what buyers are looking for in a boat), while other trends are simply incorporating must-have features that have become a new standard with boat designs. And it’s a smart approach for boat manufactures to cater to these trends if they want to sell more new boats (an of course they do!)

Boat designers put a lot of research into the best components and design features boat buyers want… which is why you’ll often see a design change (or trend) common across multiple brands.

Here are 5 stand-out boat design trends from the 2016 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show:

Powered by Outdrives

The versatility of ordering a new boat with inboards or outdrives is a new trend we have been seeing a lot.

Sea Ray 350 SLX with outboards

In fact, there are several boat brands that debuted an outboard version of an already existing boat model at this year’s FLIBS:

• Sea Ray debuted outboard versions of their popular SLX models with the 350 and 310 SLX with Outboards
• Formula debuted an outboard version of their popular 350 CBR

Many boaters like the speed and convenience of outdrives, and boat builders have recognized that they must meet that demand with power options that allow them to reach more buyers.

Made in the Shade

Recognizing that sun protection is important (and dealing with canvas is a royal pain), a retractable boat shade is an increasingly popular design trend that more brands are adding to boat models.

Obviously as the marketing director for SureShade (the maker of these patented retractable sunshades), it may seem like I am a bit biased in pointing out this trend, but it really is undeniable when walking any boat show these days.

A new “must-have” component, SureShade is a design trend that crosses over boat styles, types and sizes. You see their retractable shades on everything from 30 foot fishing boats to 88 foot luxury yachts. SureShade’s American-made, patented telescoping shades are on over 85 boat models and debuted on 20 new models during FLIBS.

Even though their shades are seen as a factory option on new boats, they can also be installed aftermarket. From electrically powered versions to manual pull-out shades (like their new RTX pull-out shade featured on the new Cobalt R30 below), new boats featuring SureShade are creating huge demand for aftermarket upgrades.

cobalt R30 with RTX shade

Why are so many boat builders picking up on this trend? Because boaters hate dealing with canvas. The retractable shade can easily integrate into many boat styles and solves the age old problem of getting shade where you need it on board – without compromising the aesthetics of a boat’s design.

Coupe is the Scope

With the rise of the hardtop as a new standard option on many cruiser style boats, many manufacturers are taking it a step further with a fully enclosed coupe.

The glass from the windshield goes all the way up to the hardtop as well as on the sides of the hardtop. In most cases there is a sliding door for access to the enclosed part of the cockpit where you’ll find the main salon, galley and helm.

Carver 52 Coupe

This design has many advantages. For one there is more climate control and weather protection. You can use air conditioning or heat, be protected from bad weather and still enjoy the topside view of your boat.

The enclosed coupe is often accompanied by a sliding sunroof for more of an open air option over the helm, as well as a sunshade in the open cockpit to extend that inside/outside feeling on board.

Galley Up

Gone are the days when you need to go down stairs into the boat cabin to access the galley, only to come up again into the cockpit where the real entertaining is happening on your boat. Up & down, up & down – the placement of the galley inside a boat’s cabin can be very inconvenient.

430SSC galley up

Moving the galley up to the main cockpit level is a big trend we are seeing on many boat styles. From enclosed coupe boats to dual consoles you are seeing some, if not all, of the galley moved up to the main cockpit level.

In some cases there is a second refrigerator, sink and BBQ grill for easy access in the cockpit. In other designs the entire galley is moved up to the main cockpit level, with only sleeping quarters and heads below.

Crossover Days

A new boat type term has emerged in recent years – the crossover – and has even become part of official model names.

Similar to a multi-functional crossover SUV, the “crossover” boat offers boaters more flexibility in use. Primarily used for “day boating”, the crossover offers boaters the best of both worlds when it comes to performance and luxury features.

Typical features include spacious, well-equipped cockpits for enjoying a long day on the boat. Inside cabins are more modest, but do provide accommodations for overnights. And of course these boats are all about power – outboards are popular for fast cruising, watersports activities and quick trips.

Azimut 40 Verve

Two popular crossover boats debuting at the 2016 FLIBS include:

  • Azimut Verve 40 with triple Mercury Verado outboards – Italian designed boat promoted as a crossover specifically designed to appeal to the U.S. boating market with American-made components
  • Formula 430 Super Sport Crossover – marketed by Formula as “Have the Best of All Worlds”, the 430 SSC truly incorporates performance, luxury and versatility.

Bonus Trend: Converging Trends

Here’s another noticeable trend – many of these trends are overlapping each other and converging on one boat.

The new Formula 430 Super Sport Crossover is a great example of an exciting new boat design that encompasses all 5 of these highly desirable trends – coupe design, crossover styling, outboard power, sunshade and galley up.

formula 430 SSC

You’ll likely see more than one of these hot 5 trends on one particular boat model with a number of combinations of the above. And if you can hit on more than 1 hot trend on a new boat, then you may have yourself one hot boat.

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Diane Seltzer

Founder & Editor at My Boat Life
Diane is the founder of MyBoatLife.com as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids BoaterKids.com. She is also active in the boating industry, serving as the marketing director for a marine sunshade product, SureShade, and founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.

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