Millennial buyers lead recreational boating boom

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Two in five (40 per cent) of millennials that purchased their boat during the pandemic boating boom reported intent to upgrade their vessel, according to a recent private seller survey conducted by Boat Trader, an online boating marketplace based in the United States.

The study performed on the marketplace’s For Sale By Owner (FSBO) platform found that out of all the private sellers that purchased boats within the past one to three years, close to half (49 per cent) of the participants expressed a desire to upgrade, with millennials being the largest generational group.

This survey was fielded from 1 February-1 March 2023 and included 2,900 sellers aged over 18.

The survey’s additional findings, which asked participants if they were first-time boat buyers, further reinforced that millennials are strongly motivated to upgrade their boats. Out of the 2,300 respondents who stated this was not their first boat, 68 per cent were identified as millennials.

“It’s been exciting to see younger generations showing a strong interest in the boating lifestyle. The continued growth and success of the boating industry depend on attracting new and younger customers,” says Courtney Chalmers, vice president of marketing at Boats Group, the parent company of Boat Trader. “With millennials comprising such a large portion of the population, their interest in boating presents a significant opportunity for the industry.”

According to the latest market report from Boats Group, operator of Boat Trader, buyer interest shifted last year, leading to a ‘normalisation’ of the industry. As a result, the total number of boats sold worldwide decreased for the first time since the pandemic-induced boom.

“We are actively observing the market for any trends that may emerge following the peak in boat buying over the past few years,” says Chalmers. “The baby boomer generation has been a key demographic for the boating industry. Still, it is equally important for us to capture interest and retain younger buyers in order to provide a stable foundation for the industry’s future.”

Rising interest rates may be top of mind for most, but not for private boater sellers looking for their next vessel purchase. Close to three-quarters (73 per cent) of sellers who plan to upgrade or downgrade intend to pay for their next boat in cash. Out of those cash buyers, 64 per cent are millennials.

In addition to private sellers searching for their next vessel, respondents reported lifestyle changes, including moving and health reasons, no longer using their boat, owning multiple boats and downgrading as reasons for listing their boat for sale.

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