BUOYED SPIRITS

By Published on .

Some 69 million Americans go boating at least once a year. At any moment there are 17 million privately owned boats afloat in marinas and dockominiums, stowed in garages or out on a voyage. And interest in investing in boats is growing: In 2002, Americans shelled out $29.2 billion for boats and accessories, up 51 percent from $19.3 billion in 1997, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

Last year, kayaks were the top sellers, with 340,300 units sold, reflecting kayaking's popularity as one of the top three fastest-growing sports, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. An average price of just $463 per kayak didn't hurt, either. Even so, the most commonly owned boats, those with outboard motors, currently average a whopping $11,000 retail. They make up nearly half (48 percent) of all vessels owned in the U.S.

To identify counties where households spend more than average on boats and accessories, American Demographics partnered with Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI Business Information Solutions to create the accompanying map. It reveals high concentrations of spending in the vast middle of the country, where local bodies of water — including lakes, ponds and reservoirs — lure boaters out to play. To find boating enthusiasts, look to counties sprinkled throughout Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, as well as in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Boat-owning households can also be found on the East Coast, from Virginia to Maine. The PopUpdate boxes around the map highlight the top five counties for spending per household on boats, led by Glasscock County, Texas.

People who take to the water say they are happier than landlubbers, according to an online survey conducted by Impulse Research Corporation in December 2002 for the NMMA. Water rats are more likely to say they are satisfied with their sex lives, relationships and accomplishments than those who don't own watercraft. And more of them rate the quality of their lives as excellent or good: Two-thirds of seafarers, in fact, attribute their well-being to owning a boat. Maybe that's because taking to the water gives them a chance to unwind, whether they're paddling through rapids, tacking into the wind or just drifting along with the current. It seems, it doesn't hurt to take time out to paddle your own canoe.

SHOOTING THE RAPIDS

Kayaks were the most popular water vessel sold retail last year.

BOATS SOLD RETAIL IN 2002:

UNITS SOLD SHARE OF BOATS SOLD AVERAGE COST/UNIT
Kayaks 340,300 40% $463
Outboard boats 213,400 25% $10,759
Canoes 100,000 12% $569
Personal watercraft 79,300 9% $8,798
Sterndrive boats 68,400 8% $31,644
Sailboats 24,900 3% $35,208
Inboard ski/wakeboard boats 11,100 1% $37,982
Inboard cruisers 9,700 1% $367,505
Jet boats 5,300 1% $21,176
Source: National Marine Manufacturers Association, 2002

BIG CATCH

Los Angeles County ranks No. 1 in terms of total annual spending on boats, far outpacing its closest competitor.

TOP COUNTIES, BY BOAT SPENDING:

TOTAL SPENDING ON BOATS
Los Angeles County, CA $134,823,965
Cook County, IL $80,603,029
Maricopa County, AZ $61,619,494
Harris County, TX $56,243,982
Orange County, CA $52,575,485
Source: ESRI Business Information Solutions, 2003

popupdate

SUMMIT COUNTY, UT

Rank by avg. HH spending on boats 4
Avg. boat spending per HH $90.84
Boat spending in county $1,054,107
Total number of households 11,604
BOATING INDEX* 191

ALPINE COUNTY, CA

Rank by avg. HH spending on boats 3
Avg. boat spending per HH $91.20
Boat spending in county $44,414
Total number of households 487
BOATING INDEX* 192

GLASSCOCK COUNTY, TX

Rank by avg. HH spending on boats 1
Avg. boat spending per HH $96.59
Boat spending in county $48,198
Total number of households 499
BOATING INDEX* 203

McMULLEN COUNTY, TX

Rank by avg. HH spending on boats 5
Avg. boat spending per HH $89.62
Boat spending in county $32,891
Total number of households 367
BOATING INDEX* 189

NANTUCKET COUNTY, MA

Rank by avg. HH spending on boats 2
Avg. boat spending per HH $94.08
Boat spending in county $384,599
Total number of households 4,088
BOATING INDEX* 198

*The Boating Index measures yearly spending on boats per household. It then compares the average local expenditure with the average amount spent nationally. For example, households in Glasscock County spend 103 percent more on boating products than the national average.

Sources for map and PopUpdates: 2003 projections by ESRI Business Information Solutions, based on Consumer Expenditure Survey data for spending on boats. Spending includes principal and interest paid on boat loans.

In this article:
Most Popular