10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (2024)

10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (1)

Understanding the True Cost of Boat Ownership

While it’s tempting to look at the sticker price of a boat for sale and get caught up in the dream, we always caution our customers on the additional costs of boat ownership they need to consider. After all, it’s easy to underestimate what it takes to own a boat, which is why our yacht brokers always take new boat owners through all the costs that may arise.

Our brokers want our customers to love their boats wholeheartedly and feel excited every time they are out on the water – not struggle to make payments and end up experiencing buyer’s remorse.

Keeping the following costs in mind while shopping for your first boat is strongly recommended in order to stay comfortably within your budget.

1. Fuel and Other Operating Costs10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (2)

Operating costs vary a lot based on the type of boat. For example, the cost of fuel will naturally vary according to the age, size, and style of your boat (sport vs day cruiser; motor yacht vs sailboat, etc). There are also expenses associated with oil, batteries, pumps, lights, and specialized equipment and other rations that ultimately will need replenishing. These will all need to be budgeted for appropriately.

Fuel and operating costs are never an exact science, but your yacht broker and experienced boater family and friends will happily share some insights with you and can assist you in knowing what to budget for these items.

2. Boat Insurance

The cost to insure your boat against damages will depend on things like the size and age of the boat, where it will be docked, the types of activities it will be used for, and other factors. On top of insurance for your actual vessel, you might also be required to have liability insurance and damage coverage.

Insurance costs can certainly add up, making them one of the highest costs of boat ownership, but like all insurances, it’s a necessary evil if you want to moor your boat anywhere. At Van Isle Marina, we can refer you to some excellent insurance brokers who can assist you.

3. Moorage and Storage10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (3)

Mooring a boat at a marina or storing your boat on land in a storage facility will come with various costs that differ a lot among marinas and facilities. For example, a secure storage facility might cost considerably less overall than mooring your boat in the water at a municipal marina, private marina, or exclusive yacht club. These costs can range from a hundred dollars to a thousand dollars (or more) per month.

Fees are often calculated per foot of your vessel, and paid for monthly or annually. Discuss with your yacht broker where you will be storing your new boat, specifically mentioning whether it will be stored in water or on land, as this cost will definitely affect how much boat you can afford. See Van Isle Marina’s moorage rates to get an idea of what moorage and storage could cost you.

In addition to the moorage fee, some marinas may also charge for things like live aboard fees, optional car parking, and utility fees for electrical power and fresh water supplies.

4. Trailer10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (4)

With most smaller boat purchases comes an inevitable trailer purchase. The trailer is a key component of boat ownership. At some point you’ll need one to haul your boat in and out of the water.

Sometimes the trailer you’ll use to haul your boat is an entirely separate purchase, while sometimes it’s included in the price of the boat you’re buying. Whatever the case may be, you’ll need to do more than just consider the outright purchase of the trailer – there are the additional maintenance costs of the trailer, with tires and brakes being the two biggest ticket items, on top of insurance and any potential storage costs if you cannot keep the trailer on your property.

5. Maintenance and Repairs10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (5)

It’s common to hear from boat owners that a boat’s maintenance costs are approximately 5-10% of the value of the boat per year. However, it’s tough to go off of such a percentage. There are so many factors that affect a boat’s maintenance cost and schedule, with the obvious ones being how often it is used, and in what weather conditions.

Things that need maintaining are waxing and painting of the hull and engine tune-ups, while things that might need frequent repair are plumbing and electrical issues – again, it all depends on the age of your vessel, your make and model, and how much sweat equity you’re able to contribute.

>> Learn more about our boat maintenance services at Van Isle Marina.

6. Equipment & Accessories

You’ll need to outfit your new boat with all the essential elements that are required for a day out on the water, including lifejackets, cleaning supplies, towels, fishing tackle, first aid supplies, water sports equipment, and more. Some of these are relatively minor one-time expenses, but they all contribute to your overall cost of owning a boat. Read the full boating equipment checklist.

7. Extras & Add-ons10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (6)

Just like brand new cars, boats can come standard (factory built) or come with several optional add-ons to enhance the experience of the ride. Your desire and ability to opt for these extras will depend on your budget and how much you are willing to invest.

Be prepared for the ticket price of your desired model to go up when you factor in your desired extras. This could include things like upgraded upholstery packages, sportfishing packages, GPS systems, anchoring system, laundry rooms, engine power, and the list goes on. You name it, there is probably an upgrade for it in the boating world!

8. Warranties & Interest

There might be the option to purchase extended warranties on some new models. Study these closely and be sure you understand what is already covered by the limited warranty, and what the extension of the extended warranty will cover.

If you’ll be financing your new boat, the amount of interest you’ll pay over time should also be considered an additional cost of boat ownership.

9. Certification & Registration

If you’re brand new to boating, there is a mandatory boating safety course to take in order to get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card. And if you have a VHF marine radio on board, one person on board must also carry a Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime). These are not overly expensive to obtain, but they are costs associated with boat ownership nonetheless. If you want to take it a step further, registering your boat (for a fee) is yet another option.

Read more about the documentation you need to operate a boat.

10. Depreciation

Some boats hold their value more than others, which, in a roundabout way, can be considered a cost of boat ownership. When you go to sell your new boat to move on to something you like better, be prepared for some depreciation if you’re the original owner of the boat you’re selling. A yacht broker can advise you on any particular model’s potential resale value if depreciation is a concern to you.

See our post on Buying a Pre-Owned Yacht for more tips on budgeting for as much yacht as you can afford. We can help you find something within reach!

At Van Isle Marina, our brokers want you to feel comfortable and understand all aspects of the yachting lifestyle, including the costs. We are standing by, ready to help you navigate the experience of buying your first boat. Learn more about our sales process and how you can apply online for financing. We look forward to helping you find and afford the boat of your dreams!

10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat (2024)


10 Costs You Must Know Before Buying a Boat? ›

Aside from the purchase price, list the monthly expenses for repairs, maintenance, insurance, storage, equipment, and accessories. Budget for a certain percentage, such as 20% of the value, to cover these expenses. Also, think about the face value of your boat.

What costs are associated with buying a boat? ›

Aside from the purchase price, list the monthly expenses for repairs, maintenance, insurance, storage, equipment, and accessories. Budget for a certain percentage, such as 20% of the value, to cover these expenses. Also, think about the face value of your boat.

What do I need to do before buying a boat? ›

Research information about boat financing and how to get a boat loan. Shop for your boat—figure out where and when to buy. Learn more about boat values and pricing, including how to negotiate your purchase. Conduct a sea trial and a marine survey.

What is the most expensive part of owning a boat? ›

In addition, newer, more technologically advanced engines may also be more expensive to purchase and maintain. Generally the condition of the engine is reminiscent of the overall upkeep of the boat as it is hands down the most expensive and impart part of the boat.

What is the average upkeep of a boat? ›

Typically, annual boat maintenance costs about 10 percent of the cost of the boat itself. For example, a boat that cost $20,000 to purchase would cost roughly $2,000 a year to maintain.

Is maintaining a boat expensive? ›

While small boats can set you back around $2,000 per year, most recreational boats cost between $5,000 to $8,000 per year. While the size and type of boat play a role in determining the costs, there's another factor – whether you maintain your boat yourself or hire a professional.

What boats require the least maintenance? ›

Lighter weight means aluminum boats are easier to put in and out of the water and haul on a trailer. These boats need less power than a heavier boat of the same length. This means lower fuel costs, too. Fiberglass is another low-maintenance boat-building material that lasts for years.

What age boat is best to buy? ›

But if you're looking for a pre-owned yacht, what's the best age to aim for? Ten to 15 years in the life of a yacht is a key juncture where some spending will often be needed to maintain value, but initial depreciation has levelled out. It's also a part of the market with big variations in price.

What is a must for your boat? ›

VHF radio and cell phone to call for help if necessary. First aid kit that is well stocked and suitable for the number of people on board. Extra dock lines for tying up. Manual bailing service to remove water in case of a leak.

How do I protect myself when buying a boat? ›

Here's how to protect yourself, both before you purchase a boat and after you discover a problem.
  1. Don't buy a boat sight unseen! ...
  2. Protect yourself with a contract. ...
  3. Next, you'll need to hire a competent marine surveyor. ...
  4. Check for open recalls or problems. ...
  5. Photograph the boat's HIN. ...
  6. Zipped lips sink ships.

What adds value to a boat? ›

Upgraded boats tend to have higher resale values. From advanced navigation systems to upgraded interiors, these enhancements not only improve the boating experience but also contribute to a boat's appeal on the resale market.

What size boat for first time buyer? ›

Generally, a twenty-foot watercraft is needed for six passengers. Keep in mind, bigger boats may require more skill to operate and may not be the best fit for an inexperienced boater. First-time boat buyers may not be familiar with the differences between inboard and outboard engines, pod drive, and sterndrive engines.

What are the cons of owning a boat? ›

Con: They require a lot of commitment

One of the biggest downfalls of owning a boat is that they are a lot of work. You constantly have to care for them, and they require a significant financial commitment.

What is the lifespan of a boat? ›

A boat's lifespan is significantly influenced by usage patterns, including exposure to saltwater and frequency of use. For instance, boats' lifespan in saltwater generally ranges from 10-25 years, while freshwater boats tend to last between 15-30 years.

Is 100 hours on a boat a lot? ›

On average, a recreational boat will rack up anywhere from 75 to 150 hours per year. So for a 5-year old boat, anywhere between 375 to 750 engine hours would be considered reasonable.

Is 800 hours on a boat a lot? ›

The hours on the boat basically refer to the hours on the engine. So a boat just sitting in a dock for months will not accumulate many engine hours, while one out cruising and fishing will. Most boat experts say that 1500 hours on a boat is considered a lot.

What is the rule of thumb for boat maintenance costs? ›

How much is boat maintenance? As a general rule of thumb most people find that annual maintenance costs run about 10-percent of the cost of the boat, or less.

Do you negotiate when buying a boat? ›

Whether you're looking at a boat from a dealership or a private seller, you should be negotiating — it's just like buying a car.

Can you haggle when buying a boat? ›

Whether you're dealing with a dealership or a private seller, there's often room for negotiation when buying a used boat. In the case of a new boat, terms may seem less negotiable. But you can lower the price by avoiding extra features, warranties, and prepaid maintenance plans, which can drastically increase costs.

Why does it cost so much to own a boat? ›

Boats are mostly hand built requiring much higher labor costs per unit. With such low production numbers, many labor-saving technologies are simply not cost effective. Another big reason for high boat prices are the buyers! As much as it is hard to believe, most of us don't need to own a boat.


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