Boating Business

Boat Sellers' Market Predicted To Continue Through 2023

Boat Sellers Market

Fiberglass boat production is a relatively slow process even in times of high demand.

Yesterday, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) issued a December boat shipment report saying it was up 17% over November. Importantly, it also said that current wholesale boat inventory levels were down 20% to 60% over normal December levels. The fact is that U.S. boat building production is down significantly from its recent high in 2018.  A confluence of factors is contributing to new boat scarcity: 1) A shortage of key components from equipment vendors, who say there is difficulty getting component parts from China; 2) Lack of trained shopfloor personnel; 3) The ripple-effect of the two-month COVID-related shutdown in 2020; 4) Shopfloor absences due to COVID-19 and 14-day quarantine requirements; 5) COVID staff-distancing protocols in manufacturing.

Most builders we talk with tell us that they are sold out at wholesale through the end of 2021, but there is still some product available at retail.  NMMA forecasts suggest that his supply short-fall will continue until 2023. 

2020 was both a historic year for retail boat sales and a disruptive year for boat builders working to meet the heightened demand and replenish record low inventories amid challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to NMMA’s latest Monthly Shipment Report, wholesale shipments of new powerboats during December gained momentum compared to November to close out 2020 down 15% for the year compared to 2019.

Of note in the December Monthly Shipment Report, manufacturing of personal watercraft, outboard boats, jet boats and sterndrive boats ramped up in December, boosting powerboat wholesale shipments up 17% compared to November. However, current inventory levels are tracking 20%-60% below normal levels.

“Boatbuilders are shipping approximately 20,000 new boats monthly and operating at 13% above normal levels to restock anemic inventories ahead of peak selling season,” said Vicky Yu, NMMA's Director of Business Intelligence. “Continued supply chain disruption and workforce issues, combined with an average order backlog of up to six months, will challenge manufacturers to keep up with new orders through at least 2021.”

ITR Economics’ January 2021 forecast on boat building production is also available on The latest report projects that by the end of 2021, boat production in the U.S. will steadily rebound through 2021 and remain at near 2019 production levels through 2023.

“Wholesale shipments of new powerboats are currently outpacing growth in ITR Economics latest forecast an average of 12% with an encouraging uptick in shipments in December,” noted Yu. “We expect production levels to ebb and flow this year as manufacturers work to get back up to speed and supplier deliveries stabilize. A lot will depend on what type of buying activity we see this spring and summer as things start to open up.”

To access the Monthly Shipment Report and ITR Economics forecast, visit