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Don't Wait To Buy A New Boat

By Craig Ritchie - February 12, 2021
One of the big surprizes of 2020 was the massive surge in boat sales as people emerged from Covid-19 lockdowns looking for new ways to enjoy family time together outside.

Demand for things like boats was so high last year that by mid-summer, some dealerships actually ran out of inventory. Yet people kept buying anyway. Right through the fall, consumers continued buying boats like crazy, hoping to have them in time for spring. The result was boat builders going into the winter facing massive production backlogs. If you're thinking of buying a new boat this year, you better do it quick or you could be in for a very long wait.

The latest industry figures show that boat sales in 2020 reached the highest level since 2007, and that's in spite of most boat factories and thousands of dealerships being shut down for several weeks last spring under various shelter-in-place orders. The high number of backorders right now mean that most boat dealerships are having trouble even getting inventory for their showrooms, because almost every boat that comes off the assembly line is already sold.

"If you're looking to order and you wait, you're not going to get your boat until after the open-water season starts," says Lund Boats president, Dirk Hyde. "All of our brands, all of our styles are low on inventory. We're trying to ramp things up. Our dealer inventory is low, demand is high. We don't expect things to slow down for quite some time."

Lund, with its sister companies Lowe, Crestliner, Boston Whaler and Mercury, is part of Brunswick Corporation - among the largest boat and engine builders in the world. The company hired more than 3,000 new employees across the US in the second half of 2020, and is looking to hire 1,000 more in an attempt to get caught up on existing backorders.

In some cases, boat builders have already sold out their entire 2021 production runs. So when can we expect things to come back to normal? "As of today across our brands, dealer inventories remain at historically low levels and we believe it will be 2022," says Fred Brightbill, the CEO at MasterCraft Boat Holdings, which builds MasterCraft surf boats and NauticStar fishing boats. He says people who want a boat this year shouldn't waste time getting in line, as those lines are growing longer by the day.

Engines are also in short supply as builders try to catch up on long backlogs.
It's not just boats - engines are also backlogged like crazy, with all of the major brands running behind on deliveries. Tohatsu president Isami Hyuga says the demand for outboard engines grew so fast last year that his company is now running around the clock to try and catch up. "Prior to Covid-19 we had production lines running on one daily shift. Then Covid-19 arrived, and we were shut down for one month, and our suppliers were also shut down," he says. "But by the end of May we saw sales in the US increase dramatically, soon followed by Europe. Now, we are running 24-hours a day, running with three shifts to catch up. But we still have a lot of backorders. No one expected sales to recover so quickly, everyone was surprised."

Companies which build parts for boats - including components like windshields, electrical circuits and electronics - are facing problems of their own getting parts and meeting backorders.

Put it all together and it means anyone looking to buy a boat this year better get cracking, and be prepared to have plenty of patience. "When the boat shows all cancelled we thought uh-oh, that's going to be bad," says boat dealer Jim Bayliss. "But as it turns out, we don't have any boats that we could have taken to a show. Every boat that comes off the truck between now and June already has someone waiting for it."

Its already too late to get a boat for spring. But if you want one for summer you better buy now.
Author Craig Ritchie
Craig Ritchie
Over a near 40-year career as a full-time outdoor writer, Craig Ritchie has fished all over the globe for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. The author of The Complete Guide To Getting Started In Fishing, he has written thousands of articles for magazines, websites and newspapers worldwide, appeared as a guest on several television fishing programs and won numerous awards for his writing and photography. He lives in the Great Lakes region where great fishing is as close as his own back yard.
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