With heightened interest in outdoor recreation activities and ways to socially distance outdoors, consumer demand for new boats surged throughout the United States in 2020. Representing North American recreational boat, engine and marine accessory manufacturers, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) reports that retail sales of new powerboats increased last year by an estimated 12% compared to 2019. More than 310,000 new powerboats were sold in 2020, levels that hadn’t been seen since the recession in 2008.
Success Across the Board
NMMA president Frank Hugelmeyer said 2020 was the first year in more than a decade that the organization saw an increase in first-time buyers, which is critical to growing the activity. He said the new blood “helped spur growth of versatile, smaller boats — less than 26’ (7.93 m) — that are often towed to local waterways and provide a variety of boating experiences from fishing to watersports.”
Looking at individual categories, sales of personal watercraft were up 8 percent, with 11,000 units solid in 2020. PWC are often seen as a gateway to boat ownership. Wakesports boat sales increased by 20% in 2020 with 13,000 new units sold. Finally, freshwater fishing and pontoon boats accounted for 50% of new units sold in 2020 and closed out the year being up 12% with 143,000 units delivered.
Continued Positive Numbers
New-boat sales are expected to remain strong in 2021 with manufacturers continuing to fill back-logged orders from 2020. Pandemic-related supply chain constraints curbed powerboat production and shipments for months in 2020. These conditions are expected to subside in 2021 and restore manufacturing to normal levels. With the continuation of social-distancing measures likely to continue, interest in boating is expected to remain strong.
“We expect consumer interest in boating to remain strong through 2021 and beyond with millions of Americans discovering the mental-health benefits and joys of being outside and on the water,” said Hugelmeyer.
Looking at some other statistics, annual sales of boats, marine products and services are estimated to total $47 billion, a boost of 9% over 2019. The average retail price of a new aluminum boat, engine and trailer package was $36,000 and a new PWC averaged $13,000. An estimated 100 million Americans went boating and 61% of those boaters have an annual household income of $75,000 or less, according to the United States Coast Guard.
Keeping things close to home, 95% of the boats sold in the U.S. are domestic products and the recreational boating industry supports 691,149 American jobs (511,117 direct jobs and 180,032 indirect occupations) as well as 35,277 businesses. Finally, boating and fishing are the largest outdoor recreation activities in the U.S., totaling $23.6 billion in current-dollar value added according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.