Freshwater fishing and pontoon boats accounted for 50% of new powerboats sold in the US in 2020, with sales in the category expected to increase by 12%.
Buoyed by heightened interest in outdoor activities, consumer demand for new boats surged across the country, reaching levels not seen by the recreational boating industry since before the 2008 recession. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) reports that more than 310,000 new powerboats were sold in 2020, an increase of 12% over the previous year and easily surpassing pre-pandemic expectations of a 2% increase.
Annual US sales of boats, marine products and services are estimated to be $47 billion in 2020, up 9% from 2019. “Last year was extraordinary for new powerboat sales as more Americans took to the water to escape pandemic stress and enjoy the outdoors safely,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA President.
“For the first time in more than a decade, we saw an increase in first-time boat buyers, who helped spur growth of versatile, smaller boats – less than 26 feet – that are often towed to local waterways and provide a variety of boating experiences, from fishing to watersports.”
Other powerboat categories that drove record retail unit sales were personal watercraft, including Jet Ski, Sea Doo and Waverunner, and wake boats, popular for wakesurfing, skiing and waterboarding.
Boat sales are expected to remain at historic levels in 2021 as manufacturers continue to fill a backlog of orders from 2020. Pandemic-related supply chain constraints that curbed powerboat production and shipments for several months in 2020 are expected to subside and restore marine manufacturing to normal levels this year.
Additionally, social distancing measures are likely to continue well into the latter months of 2021, spurring additional interest in safe outdoor recreation activities like boating. Fishing and boating are the largest outdoor recreation activities in the US, totalling $23.6 billion in value.