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Boating Sales Up 4 Percent, Expected to Grow


The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has announced that retail unit sales of new powerboats were up an estimated 4 percent in 2018 to approximately 280,000 units, the highest total since 2007.

The outlook for 2019 remains positive with continued growth expected to bring a 3- to 4-percent increase in new powerboat retail sales. NMMA also announced that the recreational boating industry contributes an estimated $170.3 billion in economic activity to the U.S. economy, an increase of approximately $49 billion since the last time the association reported economic impact in 2012.

“The recreational boating industry has been on a seven-year climb that’s expected to continue into 2019, bringing even more people to the water,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Driving these sales is a combination of the economic growth we’ve seen over the past decade, particularly with consumer confidence hovering near all-time highs and consumers seeking out boating as a way to spend quality time with family and friends outdoors. At the same time, over the past five years, marine manufacturers have put a concerted effort on offering new products that attract consumers with different interests and budgets, bringing out new buyers – especially across the watersports, fishing, and pontoon categories – three categories seeing unprecedented sales growth.”

As retail unit sales figures are finalized for 2018, they’re signaling nearly all new powerboat categories saw growth last year:

  • Sales of new freshwater fishing boats are estimated to be up 2-4 percent to 75,000 units in 2018; fishing is the most popular activity done aboard a boat.
  • New personal watercraft sales are estimated to be up 6-8 percent to 68,000 units in 2018; with accessible entry-level price points, personal watercraft are often considered a gateway to boat ownership.
  • New pontoon sales are estimated to be up 4-6 percent to 58,000 units in 2018; the versatility of the latest pontoons offers an all-in-one experience from fishing to cruising to watersports.
  • Sales of new wakesport boats are estimated to be up 9-11 percent to 10,000 units in 2018.
  • New cruiser sales are estimated to be up 2-4 percent to 9,000 units in 2018.

The top ten states for recreational boating economic activity are:

  • Florida: $23.3 Billion
  • California: $13 Billion
  • New York: $8.4 Billion
  • Texas: $7.7 Billion
  • Michigan: $7.4 Billion
  • Washington: $6.9 Billion
  • New Jersey: $6.6 Billion
  • Tennessee: $6 Billion
  • North Carolina: $5.5 Billion
  • Missouri: $4.5 Billion

For a further look at the state of the U.S. recreational boating industry, below are key statistics that provide insights on the industry’s size, make-up and demographics.

  • Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services are estimated to total $41 billion in 2018, an increase of 5 percent from 2017.
  • There were approximately 280,000 new powerboats sold in 2018, an increase of 4 percent from 2017.
  • Recreational boats are uniquely American made with 95 percent of the boats sold in the U.S.
  • It’s not just new boats Americans are buying; there were an estimated 998,000 pre-owned boats also sold in 2018, the highest pre-owned boat unit sales since 2006, totaling an estimated $9.7 billion in sales, an increase of 2 percent from 2017.
  • There were an estimated 12 million registered/documented boats in the U.S. in 2018.
  • Ninety-five percent of boats on the water in the U.S. are small in size, measuring less than 26 feet in length.
  • Sixty-two percent of boat owners have a household income less than $100,000.
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