Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Other People’s Boats

NMMA Report: Boating is up, but boat sales are down. Will gas prices keep you out of the water?

USCG photo by Ensign Ryan Beck
Every year the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the recreational boating industry’s leading trade group, produces something it calls the Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract. Yesterday, the NMMA put out a summary of its findings from its latest report along with some predictions for the 2011 boating season.

We reviewed their announcement to see what was in there that affects YOU, the recreational boater, and to see if there were any surprises. Boat sales, fuel prices, and the number of boaters were all studied.

Bottoming Out
Boat sales were down last year. “No kidding,” you say. But there is a positive spin to this. The industry saw a 10% decrease in new boat sales in 2010 compared to 2009. But this is much less severe than the previous year’s report which showed a 35% decrease, so the decline in boat sales looks like it may have gone as low as it is going to go. As for used boats, there was a 2.4% decrease in sales in 2010 compared to 2009. We call that “flat”, and again, looks to us like it has bottomed out.

Good for buyers
Remember that you have the advantage if you are buying a boat this spring. Boat sales may be down less than previous years, but they are still down and dealers will be looking to make a deal. This may not be the case in the spring of 2012 if the trend continues, so 2011 may be your best time to buy a new boat at a bargain price.

More boaters on less boats?
Now for one of the surprises we found in the report. The NMMA states that 75 million Americans participated in recreational boating, an increase of 14 percent compared to 2009, which saw 65.9 million boaters. If boat sales were down, but the number of people who boat went up, what did they boat on? Does this just represent existing boaters who didn’t use their boats the previous year? Or was there an increase in alternative forms of boating, such as kayaking and canoeing (not counted in boat sales figures), or shared boating programs like SailTime where a half dozen people take turns boating on one existing boat over the course of the season? Perhaps more people simply went boating with friends in 2010 than in previous years.

Five bucks a gallon? No problem!
Another surprise in the NMMA’s report is the expected effect of fuel prices on boating. The last time fuel prices were over $4/gallon, the NMMA saw no negative impact on boating and they don’t expect to see one this summer either.

What’s your take?
Did you boat without owning a boat last year? Did you go boating on a boat that you didn’t use the previous season? Will fuel prices keep you from boating this summer? Are you buying a new or used boat? Comment here or on the FirstBoat facebook page.