As the industry prepares for Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of boating season, NMMA reports that the $36 billion U.S. boating industry is seeing some of its highest sales in nearly a decade. According to new data from the 2016 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, 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 fee.”
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:
- Florida: $2.5 billion, up five percent from 2015
- Texas: $1.4 billion, up five percent from 2015
- Michigan: $868 million, up nine percent from 2015
- Minnesota: $710 million, up nine percent from 2015
- North Carolina: $689 million, up eleven percent from 2015
- New York: $688 million, up 14 percent from 2015
- Wisconsin: $622 million, up nine percent from 2015
- California: $615 million, up 15 percent from 2015
- Georgia: $551 million, up eleven percent from 2015
- 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.
NMMA will continue to release its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract data by section throughout the summer. For more information, to access current Abstract sections,and pre-order the complete 2016 Abstract, visit www.NMMA.org's new Statistics section.