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Outboard power dominates sales at end of 2017

The data represent 32 states - approximately 58.73% of the U.S. Boat Market. Coast Guard (Documented Vessels) information is complete.

The data represent 32 states - approximately 58.73% of the U.S. Boat Market. Coast Guard (Documented Vessels) information is complete.

If you have any questions, please contact Statistical Surveys, Inc. Phone: (616) 281-9898 Website:

Outboard-powered fiberglass and aluminum boats, pontoons and personal watercraft continued to carry the industry as 2017 came to a close.

“This has been a trend that we’ve been seeing the past few years,” said Ryan Kloppe, director of sales at Statistical Surveys.

Each segment had total units sold for the year topping 50,000, with PWC standing alone above 60,000 units sold at 61,503, a 4.8-percent increase from 2016. For the month of December, PWC sales numbered 684, a slight reduction compared to the 713 units sold in 2016.

Overall sales for the year for the 32 states reporting finished at 263,213, a 3.8-percent increase over 2016’s 253,537. Among individual categories, the sales leader for December 2017 was outboard-powered fiberglass boats, with a total of 1,927 units. That’s a 0.3-percent increase compared to 2016, when 1,922 boats were sold. In 2017, 51,376 outboard-powered fiberglass boats were purchased, a 5.3-percent jump from 48,767 in 2016.

In 2017, aluminum fishing boats totaled 1,049 units compared to 983 for 2016, a 6.7 percent increase. Aluminum boats smaller than 16 feet, though, were down compared to 2016: 462 versus 493, a 6.3-percent drop. For the year, outboard-powered aluminum boats longer than 16 feet finished at 47,692 units compared to 45,863 in 2016, for a 4-percent increase. Combine that with aluminum boats less than 16 feet, which numbered 14,838 in 2017, and you get more than 50,000 aluminum boats sold.

Staying with aluminum, pontoon boats continue to be strong sellers, with 51,464 boats sold in 2017, a 7.2-percent boost compared to 2016. Comparing year-to-year, 545 pontoon boats were sold in 2017 versus 515 in 2016.

At the end of 2017, manufacturers of aluminum boats were watching the U.S. Department of Commerce and potential duties on aluminum imports from China. Sheet aluminum could face a price increase of more than 60 percent.

Looking at other segments, ski and wake boats showed strong growth of 23.7 percent when comparing December 2016 and 2017, and an increase of 7 percent for year-end sales: 9,284 for 2017 compared to 8,676 in 2016. Sterndrive runabouts showed a slight rebound for December, with 127 units sold compared to 113 in 2016, but year-end numbers continued to show a decline, dropping from 11,212 in 2016 to 10,715 in 2017.

Cruisers were down for December and for the year 2017, but yachts measuring 41 to 65 feet were up 65 percent for the last month of 2017, with 81 sold compared to 49 in December 2016. Semi-custom and custom yachts more than 65 feet long had a strong December and a strong 2017, with sales of 19 boats and 159 boats, respectively. Those figures may not sound like much, but larger custom boats can sell for more than a million dollars, so one or two can keep a company in business.

On the propulsion side, electric propulsion sales were up 25 percent in 2017, with 280 units purchased last year compared to 224 in 2016. Again, it’s not a huge number, but it shows continued positive growth for green propulsion. Jet boats were a dead heat for December 2016 and 2017, with 52 boats sold in each month, but for the year, the segment experienced a 6.3 percent increase, 4,952 versus 4,659.

The sailboat segment continued to struggle with a drop of 9.3 percent for the month of December and a 28 percent decrease from 2016 to 2017.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue.


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