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US boat sales expected to remain strong in 2023

Sales were down some in 2022 after a record 2021, but still above pre-pandemic years as the country's love affair with boats continues.

Alumacraft fishing boat
Fishing and pleasure boats 26 feet and under, like this Alumacraft model, are expected to lead the U.S. boating industry in sales in 2023.
Contributed / Alumacraft Boats

DULUTH — Boat sales across the U.S. were down some in 2022 after record years during the height of the pandemic, but were still above the average from pre-pandemic years, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

New powerboat retail unit sales for 2022 hit 250,000 new units sold, down about 17% from an all-time record in 2021, but still 25% above the 2008-14 average.

In fact, industry experts predict 2023 will beat 2019 boat sales by 2%. That would bring the number of projected new boat sales to approximately 285,900 boats this year. That amounts to 782 new boats sold per day, or about one boat sold every other minute.

Boats will be one of the big draws to next week’s Duluth Sport Show, with boat retailers nationally saying they generate 30%-50% of all new sales at boat shows.

It runs Feb. 16-19 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Industry experts say Americans having been buying boats at a breakneck pace as they continue the pandemic-fueled rush to get outdoors and have fun, with the industry led by so-called entry-level boats like personal watercraft, pontoons and smaller (26 feet and under) aluminum and fiberglass boats used on freshwater lakes.


Lund fishing boat 2023 model
U.S. boat sales were down some in 2022 after a record 2021, but were still higher than pre-pandemic years. The most popular boats for 2023 are expected to be personal watercraft, pontoons and aluminum and fiberglass boats under 26 feet long.
Contributed / Lund Boats

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesotans registered 822,126 watercraft in 2022, down just a bit from the pandemic-fueled high of 830,767 in 2021. That was the highest number of boats registered in the state in more than a decade, with the all-time high set in 2008 at 868,348.

The recession then hit hard and registrations plummeted to just 812,325 by 2009.

Minnesota ranks fourth behind California, Michigan and Florida for most boats registered in the U.S., with Wisconsin coming in fifth. But Minnesota has the most boats per capita of any state.

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U.S. recreational boating by numbers

  • Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services totaled $56.7 billion in 2021, up 12.7% from 2020.
  • An estimated 1.15 million pre-owned boats were sold in 2021, up 9.2% over 2020.
  • 95% of boats sold in the U.S. are made in America.
  • An estimated 100 million Americans go boating annually.
  • 61% of boat owners have an annual household income of $100,000 or less.
  • 95% of boats on the water in the U.S. are less than 26 feet — boats that can be trailered by a vehicle to local waterways.

2021 boat sales: Minnesota 5th, Wisconsin 8th*

Leading the nation in sales of new powerboat, engine, trailer and accessories were the following states:

  1. Florida: $5.4 billion up 3.7% from 2020
  2. Texas: $2.4 billion, up 2.6%
  3. Michigan: $1.5 billion, up 16.3%
  4. North Carolina: $1.24 billion, up 2.8%
  5. Minnesota: $1.2 billion, up 13.8%
  6. New York: $1.16 billion, up 10.5%
  7. California: $1.1 billion, up 17%
  8. Wisconsin: $1 billion, up 17%
  9. Georgia: $924 million, up 1.9%
  10. Alabama: $898 million, up 7.4%

    *Most recent data available
    Source: National Marine Manufacturers Association

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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