History would suggest that a slowdown in pontoon sales trends is imminent, but the most recent data from Info-Link suggests that it won’t be happening anytime soon.
“Pontoon sales are up and they’re up everywhere,” Info-Link Technologies managing director Jack Ellis told Trade Only Today. “We’ve had at least four years of solid growth in the pontoon market. Everyone knows this. We’ve gone from just under 25,000 units in 2010, and now it looks like we may soon go up over 40,000 units.”
It seems inevitable that a slowdown will come, Ellis said. “We’ve been selling the heck out of these things, and eventually you saturate the market. Then a lot of these pontoons will be available in the pre-owned market. But this past year, if we look at this based on full year over full year, they haven’t slowed yet.”
Ellis speculates that this is because pontoons are “dead-on” for doing what people want to use boats for these days.
“You can still get an inexpensive pontoon boat, but likewise you’ve got folks selling these really high-end pontoon boats,” he said. “I think they’re meeting the needs of consumers on both ends.”
Pontoons also offer many amenities found on a large cruiser, but without the cabins that buyers seem to be continually moving away from.
“It’s to get together. It’s another social opportunity. And I think part of it is, and I’m talking from the perspective of a New England saltwater guy, I think some of the stigma associated with pontoons among the traditionalists has faded away.”
The leap of pontoon sales between 2013 and 2014 wasn’t as dramatic as that from 2012 to 2013, when the segment added roughly 7,000 units. But considering that other segments are still flat or up slightly, it’s noteworthy, particularly as units grow in saltwater markets that traditionally are not associated with pontoons.
Year-over-year sales in January were up modestly, although Ellis said that in such a slow month the units attached to the gains are somewhat nominal.
On a 12-month rolling basis through January of this year, the largest increase in sales among powerboats 15 feet and larger occurred among outboard-powered boats. Sales rose from slightly more than 100,000 units to nearly 118,000, data showed. Inboards also saw slight gains, although the overall numbers remained small.