2019 boat sales reach second highest total in 12 years

North American recreational boat, engine and marine accessory manufacturers collectively sold 280,000 units in 2019, the second highest total since 2007, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Personal watercraft sales were up 6% year over year to 7,300 units. The NMMA credited the sales bump to the entry-level price point of personal watercrafts.

Additionally, sales increased for wake sport boats — which are used for activities such as wakesurfing — and cruiser boats. Wake sport boat sales rose 6% to 11,000 units, while cruiser sales increased 3% to 9,000 units.

About 975,000 preowned boats are estimated to have been sold in 2019, “down slightly” from 2018, according to the NMMA. However, OceanPoint Marine Lending‘s used-boat business increased 14% to 16% year over year, and the lender’s portfolio rose 12% compared with the same time last year.

“As new boats are sold, new-boat purchasers very often have a previous boat that they are then turning around and selling,” said Senior Vice Director of Marine and Recreational Lending Larry Reagan. “So, it sort of dominoes into both the growth in the new and the used-boat market, and we saw pretty substantial growth in both ends of it in the finance side.”

While 2018 posted an 11-year high for boat sales, a sales decrease in the freshwater fishing boat segment softened 2019 volume. Freshwater fishing boat sales were down 7% year over year at 69,000 units. Unseasonably cold and rainy weather in spring and early summer led to the drop in fishing boat sales, according to the report.

The NMMA expects new-boat sales to increase as much as 2% in 2020. The positive outlook was echoed by Reagan and Aqua Finance’s Vice President of Recreation Jim Anderson. “If consumer confidence remains strong, people are going to buy boats,” Anderson said. “It becomes a way of life, and they will trade in their boats because the rates are low, and it’s a good time to upgrade what they have.”

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