Rise in boat sales means more traffic on Missouri lakes

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LAKE OF THE OZARKS- Boat sales have reached an all time high this past year in Missouri. Ranked 16th in the United States for the sale of new boats, Missouri alone sold $339 million last year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The 9 percent increase in sales from the year before could be due to several factors.

“I would say the last few years it just keeps getting better and better for us, and I think a lot of that is due to banks financing more boats too, especially new boats, so they’re really lending money more on boats and that really helps us out a lot too because most people do get at least a small loan on something that way they don’t have to pay for it all at once,” said Austen French, a boat salesman at Iguana.

Boat manufacturers could be one of the reasons for the increase in sales because of price changes.

“We’re seeing a lot of first-time buyers, and that’s where our used market is really big. Even with some new boats they are just coming out with a lot better price point. They realize they need to go for that younger demographic that’s not going to be spending $50 to $60,000, but rather $20,000, $30,000, and that's why we offer such a wide range for every type of buyer there is out there,” said French.

There was a steep decline of boat sales in 2009 and 2010 due to the recession, where most people did not have the money to spend on water toys. Now, people are investing in the Midwest.

“We’ve got a lot more of a demographic they’re not spending money on the big luxurious vacations a long ways away, but instead spend more money in the Midwest going to a big lake like Lake of the Ozarks. Whether it’s a rental or they want to buy a boat or buy a house, we’re just seeing people spending more money down here in general, so hence us being more busy every year it seems like,” said French.

With all the new boats and boaters out on the water, the already busy Lake of the Ozarks is even busier.

“Every weekend at Lake of the Ozarks is a busy weekend,” said Sergeant Scott White of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The state troopers that patrol the lake have a hefty job, especially on holiday weekends. “Summertime is obviously a busy time at Lake of the Ozarks, so those are those times that our lake officers actually work extended shifts, they work 10 to 12 hour shifts just to increase that visibility and increase that enforcement out there in an effort to keep everyone safe,” said White.

As the rate of new boats increases, so does the amount of accidents on the water. However, the Highway Patrol sees less boat-on-boat crashes than it does single boat accidents.

“Recent Missouri data shows 73 percent of the boating crashes that we work involve only one water craft, and that may be a fall within a boat or maybe somebody striking a shore line or even striking a dock. The problem isn’t necessarily two boats striking each other. Sometimes it’s just one,” said White.

White says it’s important for boaters to remember to stay attentive and responsible.

“The one thing we’d like to remind the public is there’s no driving lanes out there and there’s no stop lights, so drivers of boats really need to be paying attention out there on the water ways,” said White.