By Brady L. Kay
Captain’s Chair
“It was a little eye-opening that center console boats and bass boats combined still came in significantly behind pontoons. This really emphasizes how popular pontoon boats have become.”
Brady Kay in blue Pontoon t-shirt
By The (NMMA’s) Numbers
Each spring the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) releases its U.S. Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, the most comprehensive industry data for recreational boating. The data presented in the report spans 2008-2022, compiled to help NMMA members and industry stakeholders better understand the industry trends and shifts in market behavior. For me, I just like looking for stats that reassure me the popularity of the pontoon segment in the boating industry is trending up and remaining strong.

The report is a summary of statistics on the recreational boating industry in the United States and presents detailed data for boat registrations, boat engine and accessory sales, expenditures, and the retail and pre-owned markets. It also features an in-depth look at the import/export marketplace focusing on product categories, trade partners, and regional analysis.

group of people sitting on a boat
If I’m being honest, I skim read most of it as it tends to read like a 300-page phone book. (If you’re not sure what a phone book is, Google it). I’m only interested in the data that directly ties into pontoons, deck boats and outboard engines. I’ve known for years the pontoon segment was trending in the right direction, but it’s comforting when reports such as this one from the NMMA have hard numbers to back it up.

In 2022, pontoon boats had the largest increase in the aluminum outboard boat market. According to the report, pontoon boats made up 37.2 percent of the market share for all outboard boats in 2022. The next closest was center console boats at 14.9 percent followed by bass boats at 13.5 percent. It was a little eye-opening that center console boats and bass boats combined still came in significantly behind pontoons. This really emphasizes how popular pontoon boats have become. Deck boats, by the way, came in at 3.4 percent of the total market share, which is trending up and at the highest market share percentage in 14 years.

Since 2009 when pontoons came in at 21.6 percent, our favorite craft has topped the list each year for market share and has seen a gradual increase every time with the exception of 2014 when it went to 29.8 percent, down from 30.3 percent in 2013. Statistically that’s really impressive.

Another report I seek out is the new unit sales by state. Florida, Texas, and Michigan were the top three states for outboard engine retail unit sales in 2022, in that order. Minnesota and Wisconsin also had significant retail unit sales presence, with Wisconsin ranking fourth and Minnesota ranking fifth for the year. Makes sense, as each of these states has a strong pontoon presence.

Have you ever wondered about the average retail price per horsepower when it comes to outboard engines? Well the NMMA report has you covered there as well. The average retail price per horsepower increased by $4.73 in 2022, rising to $86.97, a 5.8 percent increase compared to 2021—and the largest since the 6.7 percent increase to $81.64 in 2010. Knowing the average cost will help give you a very vague idea of what the price of a new outboard engine will run you when you’re out shopping. Along those same lines, the average horsepower of engines sold in 2022 increased 2.5 percent to 134.1hp average, as the consumer preference for larger engines continued. It’s not a coincidence that Honda, Mercury and Yamaha all recently released 350hp outboards that fully back up the current trends.

Lastly, the statistics on total boat registrations is something I look at as well. The top five states for boat registrations in 2022 were Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and California, in that order. Ohio continued its climb up the scoreboard, moving up from sixth place into the top five in 2021, and now into position four in 2022. Minnesota has once again led with the lowest number of households per registered boats for the last 15 years in a row (2.8 in 2022), with District of Columbia presenting the highest value for the same metric for the same time frame (174.4 in 2022).

For those into statistics, there is a lot of excellent information available in this NMMA report to dial in where the boating industry is currently at. After a quick glance, I found my assurance that both pontoon and deck boats are trending up, as well as outboard power. I probably didn’t need the U.S. Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract to figure that out, but it’s always nice to see the numbers.

Brady L. Kay Signature
Brady L. Kay,
Pontoon & Deck Boat Editor