Standing Watch

Standing Watch: Record Boat Sales in 2020 Will 2021 Follow Suit?

STATEWIDE—It was said time and time again, 2020 was an unprecedented year. For boat sales nationwide and here in California it was certainly an unprecedented year. Will 2021 continue to set boat sales records?

The National Marine Manufacturers Association reported retail unit sales of new powerboats nationwide increased last year by an estimated 12 percent compared to 2019. More than 310,000 new powerboats were sold in 2020, levels the recreational boating industry had not seen since before the Great Recession in 2008, according to the NMMA.

“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,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president in a Jan. 6 released statement.

Sarah Salvatori from NMMA said in an email initial intel was coming in for California boat sales for 2020 and data on total sales and expenditures would be available later this spring. She did say retail sales of new powerboats in California grew for the ninth consecutive year in 2020 to a twelve-year high, on par with levels from 2008. She also said California was among the top ten states for consumer purchases of new powerboats, engines, trailers, and aftermarket accessories, and ranked sixth in 2019.

According to NMMA, 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 curbed powerboat production and shipments for several months in 2020, which are expected to subside and restore marine manufacturing to normal levels this year, NMMA said. With social distancing measures and COVID-19 related closures still in place two months into the new year, NMMA predicted additional interest in safe outdoor recreation activities including boating would continue.

“We expect consumer interest in boating to remain strong through 2021 and beyond, with millions of Americans discovering the mental health benefits and joys of being outside and on the water,” said Hugelmeyer in the Jan. 6 released statement.

In a strange contradiction, numbers provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles showed registration numbers for 2020 were actually down from 2019. Numbers from the DMV and Department of Boating and Waterways showed 717,016 boat registrations in California in 2019 through Nov. 30 and 642,203 boat registrations in California in 2020 through the same date.

The Log is waiting for recreational boat documentation numbers for 2020 from the U.S. Coast Guard to provide a full scope of California boat registrations for the year. Recreational vessels in California are eligible to be documented with the USGC and not registered with the state if they are wholly owned by a citizen or citizens of the United States and measure at least 5 net tons.

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