Growth in U.S. recreational boat sales slowed during the fourth quarter, but builders and dealers sold 15,477 more boats in all of 2015 than they did the year before, marking the fourth straight year of gains for the recovering industry.
Full-year sales rose 6.2 percent to 159,116 boats in the main segments and 6.8 percent to 244,116 industrywide from 2014, Statistical Surveys reported today.
The data are from all 50 states and include up-to-date reports from the Coast Guard on documented vessels, providing a complete picture of the industry’s 2015 performance.
“It’s continual moderate growth, like we’ve been seeing for the past few years,” Statistical Surveys sales director Ryan Kloppe said.
Fourth-quarter sales were 5.3 percent higher in the main segments, but up just 2.8 percent overall, leaving the industry slightly below the high-end forecast of an 8 percent gain for the year.
Forecasts are for a sales gain of 5 to 6 percent this year.
“I think that is very doable,” Kloppe said. “I think you’ll see those segments continue to strive. The bigger-boat categories are doing well, and the mainstays continue to do so as well.”
Three categories from the main segments — aluminum fishing and pontoon boats, and 11- to 50-foot fiberglass outboard boats — and personal watercraft carried the industry last year, accounting for more than 191,000 sales, or more than three-fourths of the nationwide total.
Fiberglass outboard boats were the top seller among the main segments: 47,021 were sold, an 8.7 percent gain from the prior year. A total of 45,104 fishing boats were sold, representing a 6.6 percent increase, and 44,406 pontoon boats were sold, giving that category a 6.9 percent gain.
PWC led all categories across the industry as 54,934 were sold. That segment was the only one that topped 50,000 sales.
Sales of ski and wakeboard boats rose 9.7 percent to 7,825 and jetboat sales climbed 24.9 percent — the highest percentage gain of any category — to 4,446.
The only category in the main segments that posted lower sales was 14- to 30-foot inboard and sterndrive boats, a lagging group that has shown signs of life in recent months. Sales in the category were 7.4 percent lower for the year, at 12,061.
Florida, which leads the nation nearly every month, finished the year atop the states with 29,252 sales. Texas was second with 21,129, Michigan was third with 13,530, Minnesota was fourth with 11,094, and Wisconsin was fifth with 10,214.
The rest of the top 10 were North Carolina (9,130); New York (8,612); Alabama (8,209); Louisiana (7,914); and California (7,469).
Among the top 10 states, only Louisiana had fewer sales in 2015 than the year before, and Kloppe said 18 of the top 20 exceeded their 2014 totals.
Sales in all three of the industry’s bigger-boat categories were higher. Among 31- to 40-foot cruisers, sales rose 1.1 percent to 1,464. Sales of 41- to 65-foot yachts rose 10.6 percent to 1,045 and sales of 66-foot and larger yachts rose 8.6 percent to 190.
Sailboat sales fell 7.7 percent for the year to 2,411.