2020 Is a Banner Year for Boat Sales

Outdoors related industries have seen a big boom in business during the global COVID-19 pandemic. People have been searching for ways to get out of their homes without being in stuck in masses at airports, bus stations, and cruise ships. We’ve already covered how RV manufacturers have had to balance shutting down plants while trying to meet the demand for increased sales. In fact, the terms Corona Campers and COVID Campers have become part of the RV sales language. Now, statistics have surfaced, showing that boat sales are also up. Indeed, even Motorbiscuit has seen reader interest in boat-related stories rise.

New boat registration statistics

People going for a ride in a Bayliner boat
A family going for a ride in a boat | GettyImages

Data from new powerboat registrations show that sales are up when compared to a year ago. According to a press release from the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, a boating industry organization, the sales spike has crossed multiple marine industry categories. The data shows,

  • PWC, or Personal Water Craft, sales are up 2 percent
  • Pontoon sales are up 9 percent
  • Fishing boat sales are up 10 percent
  • Saltwater fishing boats, tow boats, cruisers, and yacht sales are up 11-15 percent
  • Outboard engine sales were up 15 percent in August when compared to last year.

Taking time during the pandemic on the water

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The overall picture is showing that people have been enjoying some of the pandemic-pause on the water when possible. Of course, the warmer weather months are now changing to winter weather months. So, sales are expected to trail off a bit, as per usual. But, so far this year, boat sales have been strong. Vicky Yu, the NMMA Business Intelligence Director says,

“All new powerboat segments have recovered from any pandemic-related losses, with double-digit growth in six segments, surpassing pre-pandemic expectations. 2020 has been a banner year for new powerboat retail sales, and we expect that we’ll end the year with annual boat sales reaching a 13-year high.” 

A shortage of boats exists

The marine industry as a whole is also trying to balance the COVID-related factory shutdowns and increased sales. In fact, the slow re-start of plants has caused a situation where high demand has been soaking up much of the existing supply. Boat dealers were surveyed for a Pulse Report in September. According to Trade Only today, a marine industry organization, that survey found, “82 percent said new-boat inventory was too low”. In fact, some dealers acknowledged that they had actually lost sales due to a lack of inventory. 

2020 Toyota Tacoma towing a boat
2020 Toyota Tacoma | Toyota

Used boat sales have also seen buyers en masse this year. The same Pulse report went on to say that “used inventory also remained near record lows, with 89 percent of retailers saying it was too lean” and quoted one boat dealer saying, “Never seen an inventory situation like we are experiencing in 30 years of sales.”

People are buying almost any marine vessel

In a nutshell, people are buying almost any marine vessel. It doesn’t matter if it is new or used. Consumers want their boating adventures to break up their lockdown. Also, marine-related factories are getting back up to speed but have to clear up a backlog of orders that stacked up during the regional pandemic lockdowns. So, while demand is high, the supply chain is catching up. This means that it is a good time to be a manufacturer but a hard time for those that are looking to buy a specific boat as its availability may be questionable. Either way, sales are up.