There’s no doubt that the economic climate of the past several years has had an impact on our hobby. Increased fuel costs, coupled with less spending money, often means less time out on the water or the prospect of downsizing to a smaller boat. As a result, many collectors are looking for a boat that can fill several different roles.
Instead of owning one boat for shows and another to simply enjoy with their children and grandchildren, many enthusiasts are now looking for a multi-purpose vessel. Of course, there’s a classic boat type that lends itself to this practicality – the traditional utility style design. While utilities have long been popular, their open configuration has made them increasingly desirable among new collectors as well as those looking for a multipurpose boat.
Utilities, characterized by their open interiors with an engine box placed near the center of the boat, were an extremely popular design throughout the 1940s and ’50s. Although first developed as a low-cost alternative to the traditional runabout during the Great Depression, the popularity of the utility’s practical design was a reflection of the move toward boating as an activity for the masses following World War II. By the mid-1950s, iconic designs such as the Chris-Craft Holiday could be found in boathouses across America.
While utility values will likely continue to trail boats that are built in a more traditional runabout design, we are beginning to see values regularly top the $50,000 mark for boats that had larger production runs, such as the Chris-Craft Sportsman and Century Resorter. Although we can’t predict if values will continue to climb, there is no question that utilities continue to do a fantastic job of being the rugged, affordable, multi-talented boat their original designers intended, and will no doubt be a popular choice for generations to come.
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