Washington State’s Boat Fleet – 2018
In 2018 alone, 6,383 new vessels worth over $250 million were added to the $1.9 billion Washington State recreational boating fleet. Altogether 220,908 vessels are currently registered in the State, placing demands on public and private boating infrastructure including marinas, mooring buoys, state marine parks, sea locks and the State’s ecologically vulnerable waterways.
The marina industry and state marine recreation agencies and consultants need accurate, geographically specific fleet information to respond to changing vessel moorage and sanitation needs in a growing industry.
For more detailed information, see the companion 2018 Boat Fleet Characteristics Excel spreadsheet that organizes fleet data by geographically-specific boat characteristics and ownership information.
Size of “Active” Fleet
Washington’s boating fleet on June 30, 2018, comprised 220,908 vessels that were currently registered (expiration date on or after Jun 30, 2018). Over 228,000 vessels with expired registrations were also listed in the Washington Department of Licensing Driver and Vehicle System (DRIVES) database. Of those, 190,000 had expiration dates of June 30, 2010 or later. These comprise a “latent” fleet of vessels that could, at any time, rejoin the “active” fleet should their owners decide to take up boating again. However, we do not know how many of these boats are unseaworthy, have been scrapped or have left the state with out-migrants.
Note: Selecting the last day of the current registration year to retrieve fleet data yields the most complete count of “active” vessels in the recreational boating fleet. June 30, 2018 will be used as the baseline for assessing changes in the fleet in subsequent years.
Value of the Fleet
Applying the Department of Revenue’s Watercraft Excise Tax (WET) Depreciation Schedule to the price paid for the vessel by its current owner and the number of years owned, the total value of the active fleet is $1.9 billion. Based on lien documentation, 12.7% of boats are being financed.
Age of Fleet
The median age of vessels in the fleet is 25 years, based on their model year, 2019 being the youngest. In other words, 50% of the fleet has a model year 1994 or older, 50% 1994 or more recent. There are large differences when hull material is considered, however. Almost 50% of wooden-hulled vessels are over 50 years old, whereas only 2.7% and 1.7% of aluminum and plastic hulls respectively.
Geographic Distribution of Vessels
The fleet is split 74–26% between Western and Eastern Washington. Counties bordering Puget Sound account for 63% of the state’s fleet. The eight-county Seattle–Tacoma–Olympia Combined Statistical Area (CSA), the metropolitan core of the region, houses 56% of the state total.
East of the mountains Benton, Franklin and Spokane, the counties containing the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland) and Spokane account for 12% of the statewide fleet.
Where Are Vessels Moored or Stored?
For a variety of reasons owners may choose to moor or store their boats in a different county to one in which they live: Being closer to favorite fishing and cruising waters; finding available moorage; or, locating near a second home or vacation cabin. Some residents in every county – the “sending” county – moor their boats in other counties; and every county – the “receiving” county – moors or stores boats from residents in the “sending” counties, both within and outside Washington State.
We ranked “sending” and “receiving” counties twice; first by the number, and, second, by the percentage of all vessels in the county that were sent from, or received by each county.