You’ve done your homework, read through our boat buyer’s guide, and left your checkbook sitting in a dusty old drawer—because you’re going to buy your next boat with Bitcoin. Could this crypto-currency concept work for watercraft? Can you actually ride off on a new yacht following a transaction completed purely in the ethereal realm? Boat dealers are beginning to say yes.
Early Bitcoin Adaptors
Denison Yachting was one of the first in the marine industry to jump aboard the Bitcoin bandwagon, having accepted it for over two years at this point. Then this winter, they facilitated a boat-buying Bitcoin exchange at the Miami International Boat Show. They publicly announced that they would allow for the digital currency to purchase the Hatteras, Beneteau, and Fountaine Pajot yachts they sell—but Bitcoin is just the beginning of the story. Denison also says they’ll accept alternative cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Tron.
Another potential surreal shopping spree lies on BitPremier, which lists a number of yachts for sale via either Bitcoin or regular old dollars and Euros. Prices range from 6,485.392 Bitcoin (a little over 25 million dollars) for a 182’ superyacht built in Turkey, to a 24’ Hydrasports center console listing at a mere 9.279 Bitcoin ($35,000).
Boatshed, based in the UK but selling yachts internationally, including in the US, has picked up on the trend as well. A Bitcoin icon now appears in its currency calculator, allowing prospective buyers to check out pricing by the bit. There’s no mistaking the international nature of the Bitcoin bonanza, either. As well as Boatshed, plenty of far-flung industry participants are getting into the act. Royal Yacht Brokers in Monaco has announced a willingness to accept Bitcoin. Of course, they’ve always been forward-thinking and slightly unconventional when it comes to the tender they’ll exchange, including a willingness to trade yachts for precious metals including gold and platinum. Bellini Nautica is another Bitcoin player, having recently completed what’s believed to be Italy’s first crypto-currency yacht sale with an 11-meter Cranchi changing hands this past February.
Even boat builders are getting into the act, as evidenced by SVP Yachts, which created the forward-thinking Greenline 48 as well as other boats in the Greenline range. “At SVP Yachts we believe the only constant thing in life is change,” said Vladimir Zinchenko, CEO of SVP Yachts, which are built in Slovenia. “And as our company strives towards technological development on the sustainability of powering our leisure time on the water, we also follow and encourage technological development and disruption in other industries.”
While there's no doubt that Bitcoin is for real and is here to stay, there are some downsides to counting on cryptocurrency as compared to cash. The biggest is its market volatility. If you spend a few hours boat-shopping—much less a few weeks or months—you might go to pay for Mom's Mink and discover that your same Bitcoin which covered a sailing yacht at one moment can only purchase a small skiff at the next. On the flip side, of course, while the single $987 Bitcoin you kept in your virtual wallet back in February of 2017 would barely have paid for a well-shellacked paddle, in December of the same year it might have bought you a $20,000 runabout.
According to Forbes, a big part of the problem is the intrinsic lack of government regulation, which begs for black-hat maneuvers like price manipulation, fraud, and scam artists. Some other traders, of course, see the absence of any government fiddling as an asset.
Still, all things considered, as far as cryptocurrency goes Bitcoin is actually the least volatile of them all. “Experts” have been predicting its demise since its $14 value plummeted to $2.37 in November of 2011, and that same mythical money is now worth $11,148 – no, wait, $12,877—no, wait—$9,677—today. Any way you look at it, despite the volatility issues this cyber cash has out-performed all expectations.
Taxation is another potential down-side that Bitcoin users have to deal with. In the eyes of the IRS Bitcoin isn’t money, but property. That means any transactions you make are seen as a sale of property. If you bought low and then use your Bitcoins to purchase something after a big increase in value, to the tax-man that equates to capital gains and should be taxed accordingly. At this moment in time no one has a good read on exactly what percentage of Bitcoin users even realize this and are acting accordingly, but since all transactions are digitally recorded, the IRS does have a way of doing some data mining of their own.
The Bitcoin Bonus
On the positive side, at least for now using Bitcoin is the ultimate in discreet. It essentially allows you to make a cash-like purchase digitally, without carrying around a stack of bills and showing up in person. Third parties can't interrupt the transaction, nor can they freeze Bitcoin accounts. There's no personal information associated with the "purchase," which not only allows a user to remain anonymous but also prevents against identity theft.
There may also be a savings on transaction fees, depending on how you might otherwise make your purchases. Wire transfers and credit card purchases, for example, involve fees that can become significant. But Bitcoin changes hands without any cost. It also doesn't require waiting for authorization, paperwork, or other potential hold-ups to the transaction.
There are advantages for the seller, as well. In areas where fraud and crime are an issue, working with Bitcoin may be safer than other forms of currency. You can do business on bank holidays or weekends, across any borders at any time. And Bitcoin transactions can't be reversed, so a buyer can't break the deal after it's completed.
Another often-cited advantage of Bitcoin is that its digital records are private. But this isn't an entirely ironclad claim, as the IRS has already been successful at seeking a summons for some of those records. Approximately 14,000 of them regarding specific transactions in 2013, 2014, and 2015, have been subject to inspection according to the Klasing Associates Tax Law Office in Irvine, CA. Still, the books aren't exactly "open" and the original IRS request was to look at over 480,000 user records.
The Bottom Bitcoin Line
The bottom line? In this day and age, Bitcoin is a perfectly acceptable way to buy a boat - just as long as the organization or person selling the boat agrees. And while the practice is essentially still in its infancy, more and more boat sellers and boat builders are seeing Bitcoin as an acceptable option every day. Plus, there's one more bonus for boaters: stick with Bitcoin, and you'll never again have to worry about getting that checkbook in your pocket all wet and soppy, when the seas kick up.
Editor’s Note: To translate any boat listing on boats.com into Bitcoin, simply go to the Coindesk Bitcoin Calculator.