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Boat sales surge during pandemic

Boat sales surge in the Highland Lakes

Highland Lakes Watercraft in Kingsland is one of several boat retailers in the area that have reported a surge in boat sales and rentals during the coronavirus pandemic. Staff photo by Alex Copeland

Boat sales in the Highland Lakes are on the upswing, as vacationers turn to the water when faced with air travel restrictions and other obstacles due to  COVID-19. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, more than 70 percent of boat dealers nationwide have seen increased sales.

“When stuff shows up lately, it’s gone,” said Manager Lou Holste of Boat Zone in Burnet. “It doesn’t hang around. Every Friday since the middle of March has been like the Fourth of July.”

While Boat Zone doesn’t sell a lot of boats — mostly parts and accessories — sales have remained steady even after Labor Day.

“Usually, about this time of year, we turn into the Maytag repairman out here —  just stare at the highway and the traffic going by,” Holste said. “But between Memorial Day and Fourth of July, it’s been busy, busy, busy. It’s been like that since March.”

Paige McGee, general manager of Highland Lakes Watercraft in Kingsland, agreed. 

“Sales were great this past season,” McGee said. “I think a lot of it was due to COVID. A lot of people left the city and came to the lake.”

The only time she has seen a surge like this was right after the 2018 flood, when everybody lost their units.

“Sales have gone down a bit (since Labor Day), but we’re already taking orders for next season,” McGee said. “We’ve got quite a wait list already.”

Used boats are in high demand as well. Sales of used boats jumped 74 percent this year, while new power boats jumped 30 percent over the same time period last year.

The latest data shows 2020 cumulative sales of personal watercraft up 10 percent, saltwater fishing boat sales up 5 percent, and jet boat sales up 9 percent when compared against last year.