With the unofficial start of the summer boating season kicking off over Memorial Day weekend, the National Marine Manufacturers Association put out new data that showed unit sales of new powerboats in the U.S. reached 276,000 in 2018, representing a 4% increase from 2017 and the highest levels the U.S. recreational boating industry has reached in 11 years.
The NMMA also concluded that marine expenditures, including spending on boats, engines, trailers, accessories and related services, jumped 7% last year to hit an all-time high of $42 billion total.
The increase in new powerboat sales was primarily fueled by a 3% rise in outboard boat sales, which represented 85% of traditional powerboats sold. The 177,600 outboard boats sold in 2018 included pontoons, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats and small fiberglass cruising boats.
The largest percentage sales increase last year belonged to wakesport boats, which rose 10% for a total of 10,500 units in 2018. Popular with new and younger boaters who enjoy wakesurfing and wakeboarding, these gains are an encouraging sign that young consumers are increasingly developing a lifelong love affair with boating. Personal watercraft sales, often thought of as a gateway to boat ownership, also spiked significantly, rising 8% to 69,000 units in 2018.
More modest gains were posted by cruisers, sales of which were up 3% to 9,000 units in 2018, and jet boats, which rose 4% to 5,900 units in 2018.
"Sales of new boats and boating expenditures have been on a consistent upward climb for eight years, with some segments reaching pre-recession sales volumes," NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a press release. "As millions of Americans head to the water this summer, marine manufacturers and dealers are preparing for the busy selling season that coincides with peak boating months. With consumer confidence high, unemployment low, wages on the rise and interest rates holding level, we anticipate the recreational boating market to remain healthy in the year ahead with modest growth of up to 2% in new powerboat unit sales in 2019."
Hundreds of thousands of pre-owned boats were also purchased by Americans in 2018, though year-over-year used sales were slightly down. An estimated 976,200 pre-owned powerboats, personal watercraft and sailboats were sold last year, representing a 1% dip from 2017.
The research also found that 95% of all boats on the water in America are small in size, or measuring less than 26 feet in length. NMMA also reported that nearly 12 million boats were registered or documented in the U.S. in 2017, and the organization says that it will make 2018 data available later this summer.
An NMMA representative also reportedly told Trade Only Today that the recently released sales figures included personal watercraft sales, and that the association would soon be releasing "traditional powerboat" sales figures, as well.
NMMA also found that nearly two-thirds of boat owners, or 62%, have a household income that is less than $100,000. With so many middle-class Americans participating in the boating scene, financing continues to be crucial to U.S. boat sales. To win more buyers by providing a comprehensive set of financing options, contact Aqua Finance today.