Tuesday, February 7th, 2023
Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

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Thanks in large part to Great Lakes region numbers, boating industry sales at 10-year high

Data released by the National Marine Manufacturers Association from the 2017 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract show that unit sales of new powerboats increased 5 percent in 2017, reaching 262,000, the highest level the U.S. recreational boating industry has seen in 10 years.

Those healthy numbers were most evident in the Great Lakes region: Of the top 10 states in sales of new powerboats, engines, trailers and accessories in 2017, four were from the region (Michigan, third; Minnesota, fifth; New York, sixth; and Wisconsin, eighth).


Also in 2017, total marine expenditures were at an all-time high at $39 billion (spending on new boats, engines, trailers, accessories and services), up 7 percent from 2016, according to the data.

Demand is growing for nearly all powerboat segments, including small sterndrive (boats with engines that are partially in and out of the boat – inboard-outboard) cruisers of 22 to 32 feet, a segment that has lagged since the recession. Small sterndrive cruisers rebounded to a three-year high, up 5 percent from 2016, accounting for 52 percent of all sterndrive boat sales. Outboard boat sales, representing 85 percent of new traditional powerboats sold, and include pontoons, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats, as well as small fiberglass cruising boats, were up 5 percent in 2017.

Sales of new ski and wakeboard boats, popular for watersports, were up 8 percent in 2017; new personal watercraft sales, often considered a gateway to boat ownership, rose 5 percent; and jet boats, smaller fiberglass boats that use jet engine technology to propel the boat, saw a sales increase of 8 percent.

Leading the nation in sales of new powerboat, engine, trailer and accessories in 2017 are the following 10 states, nine of which saw double-digit growth:

  • Florida: $2.9 billion, up 10 percent from 2016
  • Texas: $1.7 billion, up 12 percent from 2016
  • Michigan: $982 million, up 12 percent from 2016
  • North Carolina: $838 million, up 16 percent from 2016
  • Minnesota: $807 million, up 12 percent from 2016
  • New York: $735 million, up 4 percent from 2016
  • California: $718 million, up 14 percent from 2016
  • Wisconsin: $713 million, up 12 percent from 2016
  • South Carolina: $637 million, up 12 percent from 2016
  • Georgia: $632 million, up 11 percent from 2016

And it’s not just new boats that Americans are buying; there were an estimated 988,200 pre-owned boats (powerboats, personal watercraft, and sailboats) sold in 2017, the highest pre-owned boat unit sales since 2006, totaling $9.3 billion in sales, an increase of 2 percent from 2016.

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. Also according to the data, boating is predominantly “middle-class,” with 62 percent of boat owners having a household income less than $100,000.

The 2017 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract will be available in its entirety later this summer.

— National Marine Manufacturers Association

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