U.S. Powerboat Sales Up, Increase Expected to Continue in 2018

As the industry prepares for a busy winter boat show season—a crucial selling period—The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) announced this week that unit sales of new powerboats are expected to be up 6 percent in 2017, marking an estimated 260,000 new powerboats sold last year. As consumer confidence continues to rise and boat manufacturers introduce products and experiences to attract younger boaters, the outlook for 2018 new powerboat sales is another 5 to 6 percent increase. 

“The close of 2017 marked our sixth consecutive year of growth in new boat sales and recreational boating expenditures, and we expect that trend to continue through 2018, and possibly beyond,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “On the horizon, if economic indicators remain favorable to the recreational boating market with strong consumer confidence, a healthy housing market, rising disposable income and consumer spending, and historically low interest rates, the outlook is good for boat sales.”

Expect to get a read on buyer trends and sales for the year ahead at this winter’s boat shows, including:

  • Versatile family fun boats: As manufacturers continue to build more accessible and versatile watercraft to attract new and younger boaters, sales are expected to be up for ski and wake boats (7 percent), pontoons (7-8 percent) and personal watercraft (5-6 percent) in 2017.
  • Fishing boats: Fishing boat sales are a major driver of the industry’s sustained momentum. Sales estimates for 2017 show saltwater fishing boats up four percent and freshwater fishing boats up 2 percent.
  • Cruisers: Boats between 22 and 32 feet are on the rise with estimated gains of 9-10 percent in 2017. With consumer confidence and consumer spending at strong levels, sales of these mid-sized powerboats are expected to continue the upward trend in the year ahead.
  • More boating experiences for new boaters: Boat clubs, rentals and fractional use companies continue to grow in popularity as new boaters explore ways to get on the water. Boating experiences provide a gateway to ownership and companies like Boatsetter, Freedom Boat Club, SailTime and Carefree Boat Club help beginners find ways to go boating.

U.S. Recreational Boating by the Numbers

  • Annual U.S. consumer spending on boats, marine products and services totaled $36 billion in 2016 and are expected to have climbed 3 percent in 2017 to $37 billion.
  • Sales of new powerboats in 2017 are estimated to exceed 260,000 units with continued sales growth of 5-6 percent expected in 2018.
  • The recreational boating industry in the U.S. supports 650,000 direct and indirect American jobs and nearly 35,000 small businesses.
  • Recreational boats are uniquely American made with 95 percent of the boats sold in the U.S, made in the U.S.
  • Leading the nation in sales of new powerboat, engine, trailer and accessories in 2016 were the following states:
    1. Florida: $2.5 billion, up 5 percent from 2015
    2. Texas: $1.4 billion, up 5 percent from 2015
    3. Michigan: $868 million, up 9 percent from 2015
    4. Minnesota: $710 million, up 9 percent from 2015
    5. North Carolina: $689 million, up 11 percent from 2015
    6. New York: $688 million, up 14 percent from 2015
    7. Wisconsin: $622 million, up 9 percent from 2015
    8. California: $615 million, up 15 percent from 2015
    9. Georgia: $551 million, up 11 percent from 2015
    10. South Carolina: $544 million, up 10 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.
  • There were an estimated 11.9 million registered/documented boats in the U.S. in 2016.
  • 95 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.