By John Myers
DULUTH — Boat sales across the United States 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.
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.
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.
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.
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune.