Boating has exploded in popularity this year. The number of boats sold is skyrocketing, and more people than ever are heading out on the water to enjoy sailing, sport fishing, wakeboarding, and a number of other boat-related hobbies.
Why is it that boating has become so popular? And will this trend continue?
One factor is the ready availability of marine financing, which is allowing more people to buy boats than ever before. Just like when buying a car or a house, most people don’t have the funds necessary to pay for a boat all in cash. Instead, they provide a down payment and get a loan for the remainder of the balance.
Thanks to low federal reserve interest rates, lenders are able to offer loans at ridiculously low-interest rates. It’s also easier to get a loan; you probably don’t need a perfect credit score to get approval. Accordingly, anyone with a decent credit score, interest in a boat, and a bit of cash for a down payment can proceed with their purchase.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Another major factor is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which started around March of this year—right before peak boating season.
The pandemic itself had a number of effects, all of which increased interest in boating.
- Increased social distancing. For starters, most areas either mandated or recommended the practice of social distancing, advising people to remain at least six feet apart from others at all times. This limits the types of activities a person can enjoy and encourages people to find hobbies that don’t require any kind of close social interaction. Boating, which allows people to isolate themselves on large bodies of water, fits perfectly.
- Favoritism for outdoor activities. In spring and summer months, bars, restaurants, gyms, and other places of the social gathering were practically all closed. Looking to get out of the house and socialize, people turned to more outdoor activities. In areas near major bodies of water, people took up boating—as well as related hobbies like fishing, wakeboarding, and even Scuba diving.
- More time. For better or for worse, the COVID-19 lockdowns gave a lot of people more free time. They worked from home, cutting a lengthy commute out of their day. They no longer had as many social obligations. And they may have experienced cut hours or the loss of a job. With the extra time, people could easily research new hobbies—and partake in those hobbies. They also had more time to spend with their families, and boating is the perfect family activity.
- Less travel. Travel is still restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing millions of families from taking normal vacations. Looking for some kind of getaway, many families turned to aquatic hobbies like boating.
- Financial impact. While many people have suffered financial losses due to the pandemic, there have been some silver linings. Most people in the United States received a stimulus check from the government, and as mentioned in the preceding section, federal interest rates have been slashed. For people who still have a good job, this presented more financial opportunities to purchase a vessel.
Less Expensive Boating Options
It’s also worth noting that over the past several years, we’ve seen the emergence of more diverse boating options. Boating is no longer an expensive hobby, thanks to the plethora of low-cost vessels available and online platforms that allow people to search for used options. Savvy buyers can find a good deal on a used boat, and secure a vessel for far less than they could have even a decade ago.
The only caveat here is that buyers must inspect used vessels carefully, but they seem more than willing to take this extra step to get a great price.
Social Trends and Feedback Loops
Finally, some of the rising popularity in boating is due to a kind of feedback loop. If your neighbors get a boat, you might think about boating for the first time in years. If you see lots of Instagram posts about boating, you might think even more about it. Then, when you head out on a friend’s boat, you’ll be sure that investing in a boat is the right decision. Boating is experiencing a wave of contagious popularity in this way, helping it remain in the public eye.
It’s hard to say whether this trend will continue. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to influence economic and social trends for months, if not years to come. And financing will likely remain available at low-interest rates for the foreseeable future. The future of boating depends on whether this is a short-term fad, or whether more people are genuinely discovering the long-term perks of boating as a hobby.