U.S. Powerboat Sales Highest Since Great Recession

NMMA says boat shows can generate as much as 50 percent of annual sales for dealers and manufacturers. Photo: Baltimore Boat Show

The boating industry is booming again, according to the National Marine Manufaturer’s Association (NMMA).

In 2018, retail sales of new powerboats grew for the seventh straight year. And sales hit their highest total since 2007, just before the Great Recession hit.

Retail unit sales rose about four percent, to about 280,000 powerboats and personal watercraft sold last year. Freshwater fishing boats make up the largest chunk of sales, with personal watercraft next highest. Wakesport boats saw the largest increase percentage, with 9 to 11 percent more wakesport boats sold in 2018 than 2017.

“The recreational boating industry has been on a seven-year climb that’s expected to continue into 2019, bringing even more people to the water,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “Driving these sales is a combination of the economic growth we’ve seen over the past decade, particularly with consumer confidence hovering near all-time highs and consumers seeking out boating as a way to spend quality time with family and friends outdoors.”

NMMA says the growth is expected to continue in 2019, forecasting an additional three to four percent increase in new powerboat sales.

The Association’s newest report also shows the recreational boating industry contributes an estimated $170.3 billion to the U.S. economy— $49 billion more than the economic impact when it was last measured in 2012. That includes output generated by boat, engine, and accessory manufacturers; their suppliers, dealers and retailers; services like repairs and marinas; boating activities and trips; and, business tax revenue.

-Meg Walburn Viviano