Everyone has their own opinions about boats and boating, but what do the numbers say?
Here are 137 facts you should know about boating:
Each year, the US Coast Guard reports boating accident data.
The numbers below are from the year 2018.
Accidents and Collisions:
1. There were 1,028 reported collisions with recreational vessels. Within these collisions, 40 deaths were reported, and 661 injuries were reported.
2. There were 470 boat collisions with fixed objects. Within these collisions, 62 deaths were reported, and 296 injuries were reported.
3. A total of 443 vessels were reported to have been swamped. This resulted in 68 fatalities and 97 injuries.
4. A total of 367 boats were reported to have been grounded. This caused 16 deaths and 236 injuries.
5. A total of 274 people were reported to have fallen overboard. This resulted in 159 deaths and 120 injuries.
6. 311 fatalities and 1,277 injuries were reported on motorboats.
7. 42 fatalities and 634 injuries were reported on personal watercraft.
8. 128 fatalities and 120 injuries were reported on canoes and kayaks.
9. 33 deaths and 193 injuries were reported on motorboats with cabins.
10. 35 deaths and 129 injuries were reported on pontoon boats.
11. 449 boating deaths involved drowning.
12. 97 boating deaths involved trauma.
13. 16 boating deaths involved a cardiac arrest.
14. 14 boating deaths involved hypothermia.
15. 8 boating deaths involved carbon monoxide poisoning.
16. Operator inattention is said to have caused 654 boating accidents. Within these accidents, 50 resulted in death, and 437 resulted in injuries.
17. Improper lookout is said to have caused 440 boating accidents. Within these accidents, 27 resulted in death, and 316 resulted in injuries.
18. Operator inexperience is said to have caused 387 accidents. Within these accidents, 40 resulted in death, and 213 resulted in injuries.
19. Machinery failure resulted in 321 boating accidents. Within these accidents, 9 resulted in death, and 86 resulted in injuries.
20. Excessive speed was said to have caused 276 boating accidents. Within these accidents, 25 resulted in death, and 231 resulted in injuries.
21. Alcohol use is said to have been the cause of 254 boating accidents. Within these accidents, 101 resulted in death, and 204 resulted in injuries.
22. The force of a wake is said to have caused 209 boating accidents. Of these accidents, 10 resulted in death, and 153 resulted in injuries.
23. Foul weather caused 205 boating accidents. Of these accidents, 40 resulted in death, and 96 resulted in injuries.
24. Violations of the rules of navigation caused 184 boating accidents. Of these accidents, 19 resulted in death, and 144 resulted in injuries.
25. Hazardous waters caused 169 boating accidents. Of these accidents, 61 resulted in death, and 70 resulted in injuries.
26. The total boating fatality rate is 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vehicles.
27. Boating accidents caused $46 million dollars of property damage.
28. 77% of boating fatalities are the result of drowning.
29. Of the people who died from drowning, 84% of them were not wearing life jackets.
30. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. It has lead to 19% of the fatalities involved in boating accidents.
31. Half of all boating accident fatalities involve an open motorboat.
32. A person with a nationally approved boating safety education certificate is 82% less likely to be involved in a fatal boating accident.
33. 13.5% of boating fatalities occur on a kayak.
34. 7% of boating fatalities occur on a canoe.
35. Over 25% of fatal boating accidents occur between 2:31 AM and 4:30 AM.
36. 175 machinery and equipment failure accidents were the result of engine failure. Of those accidents, 8 resulted in death, and 46 resulted in injury.
37. 2,313 accidents occurred while the vessel was cruising. Of these accidents, 182 resulted in death, and 1,261 resulted in injury.
38. 605 accidents occurred while the vessel was tied to a dock. Of these accidents, 9 resulted in death, and 37 resulted in injury.
39. 163 accidents occurred while the vessel was attempting to dock or undock. Of these accidents, 7 resulted in death, and 34 resulted in injury.
40. 211 accidents occurred while the vessel was at anchor. Of these accidents, 27 resulted in death, and 71 resulted in injury.
41. 1,903 accidents occurred in lakes, ponds, reservoirs, dams, or gravel pits. Of these accidents, 299 resulted in death, and 1,277 resulted in injury.
42. 966 accidents occurred in rivers, streams, creeks, swamps, or bayous. Of these accidents, 204 resulted in death, and 592 resulted in injury.
43. 829 accidents occurred in bays, inlets, marinas, sounds, harbors, channels, canals, sloughs, or coves. Of these accidents, 78 resulted in death, and 428 resulted in injury.
44. 347 accidents occurred in the ocean or the gulf. Of these accidents, 22 resulted in death, and 42 resulted in injury.
45. The month of July is the month of the year when the highest number of accidents were reported. It had almost twice as many accidents and fatalities as the second-highest month, which was June.
46. The month of January had the fewest boating accidents. Only 81 accidents were reported in January compared to 1,016 in July.
47. Most boating accidents occur on Saturday and Sunday.
48. The fewest number of boat accidents occur on Thursday.
49. Boats built prior to 2005 were more likely to be involved in an accident when compared to newer boats.
50. Boats between 15′ and 26′ were more likely to be involved in an accident.
These are sobering statistics, but they’re also useful.
With this information, we can conclude that boaters can dramatically reduce their chances of getting in a fatal boating accident simply by abstaining from alcohol and wearing a life jacket.
More Details on Safe Boating
As you can see by the numbers, boating is a safe activity, and you’re unlikely to become injured or die while doing so.
However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved in boating.
The people who have lost their loved ones in boating accidents take little solace in the fact that it doesn’t happen very often. Fortunately, the statistics above can help you to reduce your chances of becoming involved in a deadly boating accident.
As we mentioned earlier, wearing your life jacket and abstaining from alcohol will go a long way towards keeping you safe while boating. However, there are other steps you can take to increase your safety as well.
For starters, think about getting a nationally approved boating safety certificate. The education you’ll get while studying for the certificate will help you learn what you need to stay safe while operating a boat.
Also, carefully consider who you choose to be a lookout for you while boating. Many boating fatalities are caused due to the lookout being inexperienced or inattentive.
Consider the timing of your boat trip as well. Boating on a Thursday is much riskier than boating on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s also less crowded, so you’ll get to spend less time at the dock and more time on the water.
US Boat Sales and Registration Statistics
1. There were 11,852,969 recreational vessels registered in the year 2018.
2. Retail expenditures in the boating industry account for 42 billion dollars a year.
3. In 2019, 280,000 new boats were sold in the United States.
4. Wake sport boats experienced a 6% increase in sales in 2019 versus 2018.
5. Freshwater fishing boats are the most popular boats in the United States.
6. The sale of new freshwater fishing boats was down 7% in 2019 versus 2018.
7. Florida sells more boats than any other state in the US.
8. 975,000 pre-owned boats were sold in 2019.
9. 62% of boat owners have an income that is lower than $100,000.00 a year.
10. Recreational boaters spend more money annually than any other recreational outdoor industry.
11. Hawaii is ranked last in registered boat ownership. This is both in terms of absolute numbers and per capita numbers.
12. 12.16% of 18-29-year-olds went boating in 2018.
13. 12.51% of 30-49-year-olds went boating in 2018.
14. 9.14% of 50-64-year-olds went boating in 2018.
15. Florida has more boating accidents than any other state.
16. It costs between $50 to $200 a foot to store a boat inside. (per season)
17. It costs between $20 to $50 a foot to store a boat outside. (per season)
18. 35,519 people are employed by US marinas.
19. There are about 11,500 marinas in the US.
20. The boat marina market is said to be worth about $5 billion dollars.
21. Florida’s boating industry brings in about $23.3 billion a year.
22. California’s boating industry brings in about $13 billion a year.
23. New York’s boating industry brings in about 8.4 billion a year.
24. The boating industry in the state of Texas brings in $7.7 billion a year.
25. Michigan’s boating industry brings in about $7.4 billion a year.
26. Washington’s boating industry brings in about $6.9 billion a year.
27. New Jersey’s boating industry brings in about $6.6 billion a year.
28. Tennessee’s boating industry brings in about $6 billion a year.
29. North Carolina’s boating industry brings in about $5.5 billion a year.
30. Missouri’s boating industry brings in about $4.5 billion a year.
31. 95% of the boats sold in the United States are made in the United States.
32. US boat exports go mostly to Canada, Mexico, and South America.
33. Boat shows often account for over half of boat dealer sales.
34. Recessions hurt the boating industry much harder than most other industries.
35. Economic booms help the boating industry more than they help most other industries.
36. Most boats in the US are towable and have lengths that are shorter than 26 feet.
A Deeper Look at These Numbers
With so many rivers, lakes, and miles of coastline, it should come as no surprise that the US has a large and flourishing boat industry.
It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that Florida is the top boat seller in the United States. Florida has many miles of coastline and easy access to both US and foreign markets.
In contrast, only 1 in 93 people in Hawaii own a registered watercraft compared to 1 in 25 on average in the United States.
After doing some research, I found that it is hard for boat owners to find places to store their boats. For this reason, owning a boat is cost-prohibitive, and most Hawaiians simply opt not to own one.
US Boat Sales and Taxes
1. Delaware and Rhode Island do not charge a sales tax on boats.
2. New York only charges sales tax on boats for the first $230,000.00.
3. North Carolina caps its sales tax at $1,500.00.
4. If you buy a boat in Delaware or Rhode Island, your state may charge you a use tax when you bring it home.
5. Some states charge a personal property tax on your boat each, and every year you own it.
6. Some states allow you to deduct the mortgage interest on your boat from your taxes.
7. Some boats are considered a business expense.
Dissecting the Numbers
Doing research first could save you a lot of money on boat ownership.
This is especially true in the United States, where tax laws can be vastly different within the same country. However, this doesn’t mean it is any easier to buy a boat in another country.
Many countries have their own VAT taxes, and there are often import and export taxes to deal with.
World Wide Boating Stats
1. Belgium had 28,022 registered boats in 2014. This number was almost 25% higher than it was in 2007.
2. Brazil has over 560 marinas and 4,660 miles of coastline.
3. Canadian boat sales amounted to about 2.3 billion CAD in 2016.
4. Canadian preowned boat sales were at 63,505 boats in 2016.
5. 50,731 boats were exported to the Caribbean in 2016.
6. The Chinese government is promoting boating as a leisure activity for its people.
7. China is said to have about 19,000 yachts and 149 yacht clubs.
8. Columbia has a registry of 7,336 boats and 26 marine docks and marinas in the Caribbean Sea.
9. The Croatian boat market is said to be about $150 million annually.
10. Croatia has 139 nautical ports.
11. The Czech Republic has 16,800 registered boats
12. People in the Czech Republic spend about $83 million dollars on boating each year.
13. There are said to be over 57,000 leisure boats in Denmark’s harbors.
14. In 2016 Finland was the home of 1.16 million leisure boats. 554,000 of these were motorboats, 419,000 were rowing boats, and 16,200 were sailing vessels.
15. About 1.8 million Germans own German boat licenses.
16. Italy is the second-largest boat producer in the world – second only to the United States.
17. Italy is said to have over a half a million boats within its country of only 61 million people.
18. The Republic of Korea issues 15,059 boat licenses in 2015.
19. The number of newly registered boats in Korea was 4,029. This was 3 times higher than the number of registered boats in 2011.
20. Mexico has 172,265 registered boats.
21. The Netherlands currently has 507,800 boats.
22. At least 25% of Norway’s population has regular access to a boat.
23. Over half of the population of Norway uses a boat each year.
24. In the last 40 years, over a million sailing patents were issued in Poland.
25. Poland has about 27,000 registered boats.
26. More than 60% of recreational vessels exported from the European Union were made in the country of Poland.
27. Spain has over 8,000 registered boats.
28. 14% of Swedish citizens own at least one boat.
29. There were 16,550 boats sold in Sweden in 2015.
30. There are about 822,000 boats in Sweden.
31. Taiwan produces more yachts than any other country in Asia.
32. Around 2.5 million Australians live in a household that owns a boat.
33. The global market for leisure boats is likely to reach $51.37 billion US dollars by 2025.
34. The global rental market for boats is projected to be about $26 billion US dollars.
A Deeper Look at These Stats
It seems that whether a country boats or not is often more closely linked to the strength of their economy and the history of their boating culture.
Many states with vast coastlines do not seem to have many boats while other countries with smaller boating opportunities, but bigger pockets seem to have large numbers of boaters.
Of course, some of these statistics could also be skewed based on the accuracy and reporting of their boating data. For example, some countries may have low compliance when it comes to registering boats.
Interesting Boat Facts and Statistics
3. The most expensive yacht ever built cost $1.5 billion to build.
4. The longest superyacht in the world is 590 feet long.
5. There are currently more than 10,000 mega yachts in the world.
6. The most popular boat name in the United States in 2019 was “Aquaholic.”
7. The most popular boat name in 2018 in the United States was the name “Grace.”
8. Depictions of sailboats go back as far as 5500 BC.
9. Archeological evidence suggests that ships were used over 120,000 years ago.
10. The USS Enterprise was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
I hope you found these boat statistics and facts useful.
Whether you’re looking to join the boating industry or just looking to go boating, these numbers should prove useful to you.
Have fun, stay safe, and we’ll see you on the water.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.