Despite Gas Prices and Interest Rates, Boating Season Starts Strong in Northern Michigan

"You don’t buy the toy if you can’t buy the gas." - Matt Schwarze, Walstrom Marine

Boating ElmwoodGas prices don’t seem to be impacting the boating industry in northern Michigan, although buyers are having to spend more to enjoy time out on the water.

Boat dealers in Traverse City says sales are strong as we head into another summer season. At Walstrom Marine they say it’s always a hot market up north, because people love getting out on the water. Sales Professional Matt Schwarze says, “We’re definitely selling boats still even with the market doing what it is. We’re in northern Michigan. People boat. They’ve done it for years and they’re going to continue to do it for years to come.”

“We’re still selling boats. But right now the supply is starting to catch up to demand. So you see inventory back in dealerships. Where back in COVID everything you had was gone, but now it’s stabilized,” Schwarze says. And they say despite supply chain issues, supply is starting to catch up to demand. “Boating season’s here. We’re just excited to get people on the water.” But before they can get on the water, they’ve got to fill up the tank.Boating Grand Bay Marine

Grand Bay Marine says a summer on the water is a great alternative to a one-week summer vacation. Sales Manager Kyle Oleson says, “I think people are measuring how they’re going to spend their disposable income. Traveling, you know you have to rely on, if you have a week vacation you have to pack it all in one week. Can’t have any bad weather, can’t miss any connections with your flights. But with boating it’s pretty guaranteed. If you get a rainy day you can rescheduled and go out the next day.”

We caught up with Bill Compagnari of Traverse City, filling up the gas tank on his boat near the Elmwood Township Marina. “I’ll just tell you. If you live in northern Michigan you’ve got to play on the water or there’s no reason to live here at all. I’m serious. The work’s too hard, the life’s too rough.”

Boat FuelWhile gas price may mean shorter trips around the lake, it’s not stopping people from getting their boats out for the summer. Compagnari says, “They’ll come down sooner or later. I know that. But what – do you delay your life? I’m 63. What, do I wait two more years and just get older? Gotta play while you can,” he says. “The prices increase in gas has definitely affected people a little bit from making longer runs. But you don’t buy the toy if you can’t buy the gas,” Schwarze adds.

Oleson says fuel “is the one bill I look forward to paying. If I’m gassing up my boat it means I’m going to be spending time with my family, my friends and loved ones. That’s a bill I don’t mind paying any time.”Boat Sales

He also says boating seems to have enjoyed a popularity boost since the pandemic. “COVID was interesting because since people weren’t traveling. They decided to re-discover the natural beauty found right here in Traverse City.” Many people restricted their travel and opted to enjoy the solidarity of trips with the family, or chose to stay close to home. And with the beaches seeming to be increasingly crowded, Oleson says that has also helped boaters. “You can get out on the water, you’ve got plenty of room. There’s so many iconic boating destinations within a 50 mile radius of Traverse City. It has really, really helped get people off the beaches into the open water.”

In addition to gas prices, consumers are also battling rising interest rates on new purchases. But that too, does not seem to be much of a deterrent, according to Oleson. “I think we were so spoiled with historically low interest rates and we forget how low they still are, really. If you look over the history of where interest rates have come and gone. We are still very, very low,” he says. “I think pound for pound there is no better way to spend your recreational funds than out on a boat.”