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First-time buyers account for over one-third of new and pre-owned boat purchases so far this year.

Boat sales, which reached record high levels in 2020, elevated an additional 30% throughout March. Demand has reached an all-time high, as more and more Americans take to the water in record numbers, according to the NMMA.

“As the country returns to a new normal, people are reassessing how they spend their quality time with loved ones, and many are continuing to choose boating as the preferred choice in recreation,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, NMMA president. “All signs point to boating demand and boat sales remaining strong as more people discover the mental health benefits, joys and freedoms of being outside and on the water.”

Clearly, if there was ever a time to attract first-time boat buyers to your business – it’s now. But how likely are you to keep them?

Why is this trend growing?

There are many reasons people may decide to jump into the world of boat ownership, but the socially-distanced life in which we’re all currently living is undoubtedly playing a major role.

Many are still reluctant to travel based on their pre-pandemic habits, which means a self-owned boat could be the perfect regular getaway for many people.

This makes perfect sense when you think about it; what better way to escape the world of today than to head out on your own boat and enjoy time with those you love?

Will it last?

The rate of new boat owners entering the market is higher than it ever has been since 2014. However, there’s a concern relating to how long they’ll stick around.

Can we really rely on this influx of new boaters to remain on the water when lifestyles, regular activities and vacations begin to return to normal?

Info-Link’s research suggests that the attrition rate for first-time owners over five years stands at about -42%. That means nearly half of these new owners won’t be around to continue feeding the industry a few short years after their first purchase.

There is additional reason for optimism, as boat buyers also seem to be getting younger, perhaps signaling long-term success for the future of the industry.

Discover Boating has reported that traffic to their site is up 56% year-over-year through May. What’s most encouraging is there has been a 90% growth to the site among 18-24-year-olds, marking a growing interest from Gen-Z. Millennials have made up their largest site user demographic, while visits by women are also up 41%.

Clearly, keeping these newcomers is a key element to ensuring the long-term sustainability and profitability of our industry.

How to keep first-time boat buyers engaged

Thankfully, this shouldn’t be too difficult to overcome. After all, new boat owners will quickly realize what they’ve been missing out on and will undoubtedly become addicted to the freeing nature of boating.

There’s more to be done, though, and this is where the customer experience comes in.

To make the most of this momentum, marine businesses and other industry operators need to reveal why the boating lifestyle is so valuable for the soul. Your marina, for instance, could quickly become a little slice of heaven to which new boat owners head whenever they need to get away from it all. You just need to provide a stellar customer experience.

The MRAA has put together an excellent guide for creating lifelong customers, which includes a number of strategies for creating memorable, positive customer experiences. It’s worth a read now more than ever.

The more you raise your game as an operator within this industry, the more likely first-time boat buyers will be to keep their purchase and become lifelong customers of yours.

Wrapping up

The Info-Link report also revealed that 94% of these first-time boat purchases are used vessels. These new runabout owners are entering an exciting new adventure, and, as we all know in this industry, that means they need easing in with welcoming, open arms.

Are you ready to serve the growing customer base of first-time boat owners?

DockMaster Software is an industry leading management system for marinas, boatyards, and boat dealerships. DockMaster includes Unit Sales, Prospecting and F&I with fully integrated financial management and numerous integrations with CRM applications, dealer websites and text/messaging services. The Service module includes estimating, labor tracking, and complete parts management with ordering/receiving, subcontractor fulfillment and invoicing. DockMaster Mobile allows technicians to clock on/off jobs from any mobile device. Visual Marina™ management includes storage & billing, occupancy tracking, reservations and dry stack management, including integrations to leading consumer applications for boat rentals, online reservations, concierge/launch scheduling and our new Fuel Integration with FuelCloud. DockMaster also includes Point of Sale, Order Entry with eCommerce and a complete accounting system. Learn more at and follow DockMaster on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and LinkedIn. Or email

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