Boat Sales on the Rise Heading into Summer

Memorial Day weekend signals the start of the summer boating season, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has reported boat sales are strong for the $35.9 billion U.S. recreational boating industry. An estimated 238,000 new powerboats were sold in 2015, an increase of 8.5 percent compared to 2014. NMMA anticipates sales of new powerboats to increase in 2016 as much as 5 to 7 percent.

“New boat inventories are at historically low levels and production is on the rise, driven by an acceleration in demand for new boats,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Summer is a heavy selling season for recreational boats, accessories and services throughout the U.S. and we anticipate sustained steady growth across most boat categories during the busiest boating months of the year.”

Demand continues to grow across nearly all powerboat segments. Outboard boat sales, which represent 85 percent of new traditional powerboats sold, and include pontoons, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats, as well as small fiberglass cruising boats, were up 7.6 percent in 2015 to 155,800 units.

Sales of new ski and wakeboard boats, used for popular watersports such as wakesurfing and wakeboarding, were up 9.9 percent to 7,800 units. New personal watercraft sales, often considered a gateway to boating, rose 14.6 percent to 54,900 units, and jet boats saw a sales increase of 25.7 percent to 4,400 units. Sales of inboard cruisers, traditionally larger boats, held steady, totaling 2,200 units in 2015.

“Weather also plays a role in seasonal boat sales and we’re looking for a sunny and warm summer to further bolster boat sales and activity,” noted Dammrich. “Lower gas prices may provide a significant tailwind for recreational boating by increasing disposable income and consumer spending on recreation, encouraging boaters to get on the water this summer.”

Helping more Americans get on the water is a priority for the recreational boating industry, with boat manufacturers, dealers, and other marine organizations joined together under the industry-wide campaign, Discover Boating, created to help people get on the water and experience the fun and excitement of the boating lifestyle. The campaign provides boating enthusiasts with resources, interactive tools and directories, from researching how to buy a boat to identifying local boating hot spots via DiscoverBoating.com.

Boating by the numbers

  • Annual U.S. retail sales of new boats, marine engines and marine accessories totaled $17.4 billion, an increase of 6.9 percent.
  • Boats are made in America: 95 percent of powerboats sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S.
  • The recreational boating industry in the U.S. has an annual economic impact of more than $121.5 billion (includes direct, indirect and induced spending), supporting 650,000 direct and indirect American jobs and nearly 35,000 businesses.
  • Leading the nation in sales of new powerboat, engine, trailer and accessories in 2015 were the following states:
    1. Florida: $2.6 billion, up 11.4 percent from 2014
    2. Texas: $1.4 billion, up 8.2 percent from 2014
    3. Michigan: $842.5 million, up 10.5 percent from 2014
    4. Minnesota: $661.5 million, up 10 percent from 2014
    5. New York: $643.3 million, up 7.6 percent from 2014
    6. North Carolina: $634.6 million, up 9.4 percent from 2014
    7. Wisconsin: $616.5 million, up 10 percent from 2014
    8. California: $576.3 million, up 5.4 percent from 2014
    9. Louisiana: $528.1 million, down 0.3 percent from 2014
    10. Alabama: $512.3 million, up 11.9 percent from 2014
  • It’s not just new boats Americans are buying; there were an estimated 958,000 pre-owned boats (powerboats, personal watercraft, and sailboats) sold in 2015, an increase of 1.9 percent.
  • There were an estimated 11.8 million registered boats in the U.S. in 2014. Ninety-five percent of boats on the water (powerboats, personal watercraft, and sailboats) in the U.S. are small in size at less than 26 feet in length—boats that can be trailered by a vehicle to local waterways.

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