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Boating Industry Update: Supply Chain Issues & Rising Prices

Posted on: March 11, 2022

Thanks to supply chain delays, material shortages, and increased demand, the boating industry is facing some challenges right now. 

The biggest challenge, and the one that will ultimately impact boaters, is rising prices. Let’s take a look at why customers are paying more for boats and what to expect if you’re shopping for a new or used boat this year. 

Boats are in higher demand

There has been a boating boom over the past couple of years, mostly due to the pandemic. In light of canceled vacations, closed attractions, travel restrictions, and social distancing guidelines, an unexpectedly large number of Americans decided to take to the water. 

In fact, about 415,000 people were in the market for their first boat in 2020, propelling new boat sales to the highest they had been since the 2008 Recession and 13% higher than in 2019. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), more than 300,000 new powerboats were sold in 2020. In 2021, there was a 4-6% decrease in sales, which still numbered over 300,000. And the momentum is still going strong: the NMMA predicts a 3% year-over-year increase in sales in 2022.

This high demand for boats has been a long-awaited change for the industry, which had never 100% recovered from the Recession. Unfortunately, the boating boom has coincided with COVID-related setbacks and supply chain issues, leading to shortages and production delays. 

There are more boaters in the market and fewer boats available for purchase, making for a competitive — and expensive — marketplace.

Boat manufacturers are raising prices

Last summer, the cost to buy a boat rose about 10% from the year before, and prices are still high as we head into the next boating season. Why? 

Almost every industry is feeling the effects of inflation, and boating is no different. Manufacturers have been increasing their prices to compensate for supply chain delays, material shortages, and rising material costs. 

Supply and demand is also playing a role. With so many new people interested in buying boats, but only a limited supply, manufacturers can raise prices to make up for increased costs and the boats will still sell. A similar situation is happening in the automotive industry. 

The used boat market has become more competitive

Rather than wait for new boats to come back in stock, many boaters have opted to buy pre-owned models, which has sent used boat sales soaring as well. According to Boating Industry, over one million used boats were sold in 2020, 8.6% more than in 2019 and breaking the one million mark, which was last reached back in 2006. 

Due to increased demand, the price of used boats has also gone up — which is great if you’re in the market to sell or upgrade your boat, but not so great if you’re looking for a steal. 

Pre-owned boats are, of course, still less expensive than new models. But buyers should be more careful than ever to select a boat that’s well-maintained and in good condition, to make sure they get the best value for their money. 

The impact on boat buyers

Dealers and marinas have had to raise prices on their boats since it now costs more to stock them. This is an unfortunate but unavoidable result of manufacturers raising their prices. Reputable dealers (like Woodard Marine), however, will only raise prices accordingly and don’t engage in price gouging. 

If you’re looking for a new boat, you’ll likely have to preorder it and wait months for it to arrive, instead of simply buying one off the lot — so it’s important to shop early if you want to be on the water this summer. Keep in mind that there is some pricing uncertainty, especially with longer wait times, so the price you end up paying once the boat arrives could vary. 

Long story short, boating has been — and likely will continue to be — the perfect summer pastime during the COVID pandemic, but the industry hasn’t been immune from inflation, supply chain delays, and shortages. If you’re willing to pay a bit more for your summer fun and order your boat ahead of time (or buy pre-owned), you should be ready to hit the water by the time boating season comes around. 

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