U.S. Recreational Boating Industry Sees Seventh Consecutive Year of Growth in 2018, Expects Additional Increase in 2019

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–lt;a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/NewYear?src=hash” target=”_blank”gt;#NewYearlt;/agt;–The National
Marine Manufacturers Association
(NMMA), representing the nation’s
recreational boat, engine and marine accessory manufacturers, announced
today that retail unit sales of new powerboats were up an estimated 4
percent in 2018 to approximately 280,000 units, the highest total since
2007. The outlook for 2019 remains positive with continued growth
expected to bring a 3-4 percent increase in new powerboat retail sales.
As one of the country’s growing outdoor recreation activities, NMMA also
announced that the recreational boating industry contributes an
estimated $170.3 billion in economic activity to the U.S. economy, an
increase of approximately $49 billion since the last time the
association reported economic impact in 20121.

“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. At the same time, over the past five years, marine
manufacturers have put a concerted effort on offering new products that
attract consumers with different interests and budgets, bringing out new
buyers—especially across the watersports, fishing, and pontoon
categories—three categories seeing unprecedented sales growth.”

As retail unit sales figures are finalized for 2018, they’re signaling
nearly all new powerboat categories saw growth last year, with the
following categories leading the charge:

  • Sales of new freshwater fishing boats are estimated to be up
    2-4 percent to 75,000 units in 2018; fishing is the most popular
    activity done aboard a boat.
  • New personal watercraft sales are estimated to be up 6-8
    percent to 68,000 units in 2018; with accessible entry-level price
    points, personal watercraft are often considered a gateway to boat
  • New pontoon sales are estimated to be up 4-6 percent to 58,000
    units in 2018; the versatility of the latest pontoons offers an
    all-in-one experience from fishing to cruising to watersports.
  • Sales of new wakesport boats—popular for wakesurfing and
    wakeboarding and attractive to new and younger boaters—are estimated
    to be up 9-11 percent to 10,000 units in 2018.
  • New cruiser sales—boats between 22 and 32 feet, popular for
    relaxing, entertaining and ‘cruising’—are estimated to be up 2-4
    percent to 9,000 units in 2018.

With recreational boating contributing an estimated $170.3 billion to
the U.S. economy (which includes direct, indirect and induced output
generated by marine manufacturers (boat, engine, and accessory); their
suppliers, dealers and retailers; services such as repairs and marinas;
boating activities and trips; and, business tax revenue), NMMA reports
that combined activity supports an estimated 35,000 marine businesses
and 691,000 direct and indirect American jobs.

The top ten states for recreational boating economic activity are:

  1. Florida, $23.3 Billion
  2. California, $13 Billion
  3. New York, $8.4 Billion
  4. Texas, $7.7 Billion
  5. Michigan, $7.4 Billion
  6. Washington, $6.9 Billion
  7. New Jersey, $6.6 Billion
  8. Tennessee, $6 Billion
  9. North Carolina, $5.5 Billion
  10. Missouri, $4.5 Billion

Given the health of the industry, U.S. boat manufacturers and dealers
are preparing for a solid winter boat show season around the country – a
critical selling period. Beyond being an important marketing venue where
manufacturers introduce their latest products, boat shows are where
consumers come to buy. In fact, boat shows can generate as much as 50
percent of annual sales for exhibiting dealers and manufacturers.

Shoppers at a boat show can expect to find some of the best deals of the
year with the convenience of comparing different boat models, and
different dealers, in one location.

U.S. Recreational Boating by the Numbers

For a further look at the state of the U.S. recreational boating
industry, below are key statistics that provide insights on the
industry’s size, make-up and demographics.

  • Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services are estimated
    to total $41 billion in 2018, an increase of 5 percent from 2017.
  • There were approximately 280,000 new powerboats sold in 2018, an
    increase of 4 percent from 2017.
  • Recreational boats are uniquely American made with 95 percent of the
    boats sold in the U.S, made in the U.S.
  • It’s not just new boats Americans are buying; there were an estimated
    998,000 pre-owned boats (powerboats, personal watercraft, and
    sailboats) also sold in 2018, the highest pre-owned boat unit sales
    since 2006, totaling an estimated $9.7 billion in sales, an increase
    of 2 percent from 2017.
  • There were an estimated 12 million registered/documented boats in the
    U.S. in 2018.
  • 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.
  • Sixty-two percent of boat owners have a household income less than

About NMMA: The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)
is the leading trade organization for the North American recreational
boating industry. NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of
the boats, engines, trailers, marine accessories and gear used by
millions of boaters in North America. The association serves its members
and their sales and service networks by improving the business
environment for recreational boating including providing domestic and
international sales and marketing opportunities, reducing unnecessary
government regulation, decreasing the cost of doing business, and
helping grow boating participation. As the largest producer of boat and
sport shows in the U.S., NMMA connects the recreational boating industry
with the boating consumer year-round. Learn more at www.nmma.org
and get engaged with us on Twitter
and LinkedIn.

1 This figure includes $20.5 billion of business tax revenue,
which was not included in the NMMA’s 2012 economic impact study.


National Marine Manufacturers Association
Kelly Kaylor, kkaylor@nmma.org