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First-Time Boat Buyers Leap in 2020

Almost all of the surge in demand can be attributed to first-time buyers.
First-time buyers comprised the bulk of surging new boat demand.

First-time buyers comprised the bulk of surging new boat demand.

First-time boat buyers accounted for 31 percent of new boat sales, further spiking after years of declines in such consumers, according to Info-Link Technologies Inc., a Florida firm that tracks new and used boat registrations.

This year is tracking to see roughly 25,000 more new boat purchases this year compared to last year — and more than 24,000 of those can be attributed to first-time buyers, according to Info-Link managing director Jack Ellis.

“In fact, if we look at the two buyer groups, there was a 35 percent increase in the number of purchases by first-time boat buyers, while purchases among repeat buyers was essentially flat,” Ellis told Trade Only Today. “I mean, it’s amazing. Talk about taking a real hard turn. We’d already seen it, as of June, it had gone up to 29 percent, which I thought then, ‘Wow, that’s phenomenal,’ when you consider that it had declined year after year.”

But that number actually increased more through September, and represents about 90 percent of the year’s sales.

Used boat buyers were about the same ratio.

Used boat buyers were about the same ratio.

Used boat buyers were also more first-time owners; that group made up 37 percent of all preowned sales, versus 34 percent the year prior.

“You had all these people sitting on the sidelines” who opted to get in this year during the pandemic, said Ellis. Because the preowned market is also tight, many opted to buy new.

“I think one of the things that happened here is the repeat boat buyers, plenty of them bought boats, but some of them stepped aside and let the feeding frenzy go on,” said Ellis. “For people who don’t have a boat, and want a boat, they’re out there presumably paying sticker. If you own a boat, do you want to be out there paying sticker or driving up the price? No, you’re probably going to decide to live with your boat this year.”

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