U.S. Boating Industry Cruises into Summer with Highest Sales in Nearly a Decade

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Memorial Day weekend signals the start of summer boating season in the
U.S., and today the National
Marine Manufacturers Association
(NMMA), representing the nation’s
recreational boat, engine and marine accessory manufacturers, reports
the $36 billion U.S. boating industry is seeing some of its highest
sales in nearly a decade. Unit sales of new powerboats increased six
percent in 2016, reaching 247,800 boats sold, and are expected to
increase an additional six percent in 2017 – a trajectory NMMA
anticipates to continue through 2018.

“Economic factors, including an improving housing market, higher
employment, strong consumer confidence, and growing disposable income,
are creating a golden age for the country’s recreational boating
industry,” notes Thom Dammrich, president of NMMA. “Summer is a busy
selling season for our industry, and we expect steady growth to continue
across most boat categories through 2017—and into 2018—to keep up with
the acceleration in demand for new boats.”

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 6.1 percent in 2016 to
160,900 units.

Sales of new ski and wakeboard boats, used for popular watersports such
as wakesurfing and wakeboarding, saw a double-digit increase, up 11.5
percent to 8,700 boats. New personal watercraft sales, often considered
a gateway to boat ownership, rose 7.3 percent to 59,000 craft, and jet
boats, smaller fiberglass boats that use jet engine technology to propel
the boat, saw a sales increase of 8.7 percent to 5,000 boats.

Sales of yachts (33’ and higher) saw gains of 3.5 percent, reaching a
seven-year high of 1,715 units in 2016.

“One of the standout areas of growth in 2016 was among yachts—a category
that has been slower to rebound as high net worth individuals looked to
remain more liquid post-recession,” notes Dammrich. “Additional trends
driving economic growth for the industry include the creation of more
affordable, versatile boats manufactured to appeal to a new generation
of boaters, more intuitive marine technology making it easier to get on
the water and operate a boat, and an emphasis on shared experiences with
the introduction of more boat rental and shared boat ownership apps as
well as boat clubs that offer access to boats as part of a membership

U.S. Recreational Boating by the Numbers (Source: NMMA’s 2016
Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract

  • Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services totaled $36
    billion in 2016, an increase of 3.2 percent from 2015.
  • There were approximately 247,800 new power boats sold in 2016, and
    increase of six percent from 2015.
  • 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 small businesses.
  • Leading the nation in sales of new powerboat, engine, trailer and
    accessories in 2016 were the following states:
  1. Florida: $2.5 billion, up five percent from 2015
  2. Texas: $1.4 billion, up five percent from 2015
  3. Michigan: $868 million, up nine percent from 2015
  4. Minnesota: $710 million, up nine percent from 2015
  5. North Carolina: $689 million, up eleven percent from 2015
  6. New York: $688 million, up 14 percent from 2015
  7. Wisconsin: $622 million, up nine percent from 2015
  8. California: $615 million, up 15 percent from 2015
  9. Georgia: $551 million, up eleven percent from 2015
  10. South Carolina: $544 million, up ten percent from 2015
  • It’s not just new boats Americans are buying; there were an estimated
    981,600 pre-owned boats (powerboats, personal watercraft, and
    sailboats) sold in 2016, totaling $9.2 billion in sales, an increase
    of two percent from 2015.
  • There are an estimated 12.1 million registered/documented boats in the
    U.S. in 2015.
  • Ninety-five percent of boats on the water (powerboats, personal
    watercraft, and sailboats) in the U.S. are small in size, measuring
    less than 26 feet in length—boats that can be trailered by a vehicle
    to local waterways.
  • Sailboat sales rebounded in 2016 with 6,500 sailboats sold, an
    increase in unit sales of 16.1 percent over 2015 driven by a 23.4
    percent increase in the ‘20 ft. or less’ category.
  • Boating is predominantly “middle-class” with 72 percent of boat owners
    having a household income less than $100,000.

About NMMA: The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)
is the leading trade organization for the North American recreational
boating industry. NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of
the boats, engines, trailers, marine accessories and gear used by
millions of boaters in North America. The association serves its members
and their sales and service networks by improving the business
environment for recreational boating including providing domestic and
international sales and marketing opportunities, reducing unnecessary
government regulation, decreasing the cost of doing business, and
helping grow boating participation. As the largest producer of boat and
sport shows in the U.S., NMMA connects the recreational boating industry
with the boating consumer year-round. Learn more at www.nmma.org.

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