Owning a boat is an exciting prospect for almost anyone who lives near water, but when they start calculating the costs of boat ownership, they’re often frightened away. Boat ownership can certainly be expensive, especially if you’re looking at a luxury vessel, but there are some easy strategies you can employ to make it much more affordable.
The Many Costs of Boat Ownership
Let’s start with an explanation for why boat ownership is so expensive. The initial cost to purchase a boat may be within your budget, but you’ll need to consider many different expenses over the course of your ownership, like:
- The purchase price
- Taxes and fees
- Docking and storage
- Fuel and maintenance costs
Depending on where you live and what kind of boat you have, these could range into the hundreds, or even thousands of dollars per month.
Cost Reduction Tips
Thankfully, there are many strategies you can use to reduce the cost of your boat (and your ongoing boat ownership).
- Buy used. One of the easiest steps you can take is to buy a used boat, instead of new. The allure of a new boat may be enticing, but the moment you take it out on the water, it will begin to depreciate in value. Used boats are often just as reliable, functional, and attractive as new boats, but they’ll offer a substantial discount. This is especially true for higher-end models, which people may purchase without fully realizing the costs of ownership. Obviously, you’ll need to be careful here; it’s possible to buy a used boat that wasn’t well cared-for, or one that isn’t as functional as a new counterpart, but as long as you shop around and do your due diligence, you should end up with a much better deal.
- Attend a boat show (and shop around). Speaking of deals, you shouldn’t jump on the first boat for sale you encounter. It’s much better to shop around, relying on many different channels listing boats for sale. One of the best options available to you is a boat show, where boat retailers, dealerships, and individual buyers and sellers will convene to make exchanges and just talk about their passion with others.
- Don’t buy more boat than you need. Some people end up buying a bigger, faster, or more robust boat than they really need. They might not understand their own needs, buying a “better” model because they think they need it. Or they might buy a model they’re going to “grow into” after some time on the water. These approaches generally don’t work out; the bigger boat will cost you more upfront, more in fuel and insurance costs, and more in maintenance costs. Only buy as much boat as you need, and be honest about your wants and needs.
- Be smart about financing. If you can buy your boat all in cash, do it. Otherwise, you’ll have to finance your boat—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’ll need to be smart. If you get a loan for your boat, you’ll be making payments not just to cover the purchase price, but also in the form of interest, and if you aren’t careful, that interest can compound and cost you far more in the long run. If you must get a loan, shop around to make sure you’re getting the most favorable rate—and don’t sign up for a higher monthly payment than you can truly afford.
- Invest in proactive maintenance. Your boat will be a better investment if it stays in good condition for as long as possible, so it’s wise to invest in proactive maintenance. Catching a small bit of damage early and repairing it can prevent it from becoming a bigger, more expensive problem. Well-maintained boats are also more efficient, reducing the costs to run them.
- Do your own maintenance. Most of the routine maintenance needed by a boat can be done even by an amateur, so try to save money by learning and doing the maintenance on your own. Inspecting the engine, cleaning the boat, and changing the oil should be well within your capabilities once you grasp the basics.
- Store the boat at home. The costs of long-term boat storage can wreak havoc on your finances, especially if your area suffers from long winters. Instead of paying for a dedicated storage unit, try to store your boat at home, in a garage.
If you’re looking for more ways to save money as a boat owner, consider talking to other boat owners in your area. They’ll likely be more than happy to exchange tips and advice with you, recommending places where you can get a good deal, or strategies that have saved them money in the past.