US winter boat show season kicks off in earnest this week generating as much as 50 percent of annual sales for dealers and manufacturers

2019 was the second highest year for US boat sales in more than a decade according the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), and the trade group predicts 2020 sales could jump as much as two percent.

“Sales in 2019 were nearly on par with the 11-year high we saw in 2018,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president of the approximately 280,00 units sold. “Looking at 2020, with the economy on solid footing and key economic indicators like consumer spending remaining strong, we expect another healthy year for new boat sales, which could be up as much as 2 percent,” he added.

Personal watercraft (PWC) and wake sport boat sales were both up 6 percent in 2019 at 73,000 and 11,000 vessels respectively. PWC are looked at as the ultimate entry-level boating experience and often leads to larger boat purchases, while wake sport boats and associated activities generally draw younger and newer boaters to the sport.

An estimated 9,000 cruisers in the 22 to 32-foot range – so called “day cruisers” – were purchased in 2019, up about three percent.

The high-volume freshwater fishing boat category moved 69,000 units, but that represents a decline of 7 percent, which NMMA attributes to “unseasonably cold and rainy weather in spring and early summer.”

The US winter boat show season kicks off in earnest this week, which the association estimates can generate as much as 50 percent of annual sales for dealers and manufacturers.

Total US sales for recreational boating related products and services are estimated at US$42 billion, up slightly from 2018 and about 975,000 pre-owned boats are estimated to have been sold in 2019, down slightly from 2018.

Other highlighted findings include an estimated 11.9 million boats registered in the US in 2019, relatively unchanged from 2018; Ninety-five percent of all boats on the water in the US measure less than 26 feet in length—boats that can be trailered by a vehicle to local waterways and sixty-two percent of boat owners have a household income less than US$100,000, both indicating boating is a solidly middle-class recreational pursuit.