Are skyrocketing boat sales a sign of a rebounding economy?

A big indicator that the economy is improving may be boat sales; and those are up this year both in Central Florida and throughout the state.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association said sales totaled nearly $2 billion in 2013 and they expect even higher when this year ends.

It’s hard to pinpoint just one reason for why more people are choosing to become boat owners, especially when the prices to own are on the rise. But retailers at the Orlando Boat Show said it’s the banks that are now more willing to lend the cash for your dream at sea.

“We’re having a banner year,” Eric Mannino, a representative for ShearWater and SeaFlex said. “We’re up over 30 percent in boat sales. That’s a big number.”

Mannino said it’s a sure sign the economy is making a strong comeback.

“It’s not climbing slowly, it’s actually running up,” he said.

Same can be said for Bryan Douglas, general manager for MarineMax in Orlando. His sales are up 20 percent since last year.

“SeaRay sport boats have certainly done well,” Douglas said. “We also sell a lot of center console fishing boats.”

A Boston Whaler can go for $34,000, and an upgraded look by ShearWater can cost upwards of $100,000. Retailers said buyers are snatching them up. They estimate half of their customers pay in full, while the other half go through financing.

“Just a few short years ago, the banks really pulled back,” Douglas said. “Definitely not the case today. The money is there, the lending power is there.”

“Matter of fact the banks are even here,” added Mannino. “Which they were never at the boats shows for the past two years.”

 So these retailers agree that Floridians are putting their hard-earned money that was tucked away for a rainy day and putting it on the water.

“Whether you’re on a lake or whether you’re going to be on the ocean, you’re in Florida – you have to own a boat,” Mannino said.

Speaking of that money for a rainy day, experts said the weather has also been a big influence on the boating economy. There have been no serious hurricanes in the Sunshine State this summer or for the past couple of years.

The Orlando Boat Show will continue through the weekend at the Orange County Convention Center. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors 60+ while children 12 and under are free.

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