At some point in your life there’s a good chance you’ll start to daydream about owning a boat. That is, if you haven’t already. Even if you haven’t been a nautical enthusiast for most of your life, you’ll hit an age when the serenity of gently rocking water begins to beckon. Time on a boat certainly is time well-spent: You get the opportunity to escape the dreary confines of the city for bright sunlight, fresh air, and bracing waters — without the grime and popularity of a beach.
Unfortunately, many daydreamers rush to attain their new toy without considering all of the expenses that go along with water-based vehicles. Like owning a house or a car, boat ownership comes with dozens of unforeseen costs that can become overwhelming in no time at all. Before you make a move to realize your nautical dream, read about the regular expenses associated with keeping your own boat — then maybe think about some cheaper alternatives to reaching that idyllic marine paradise.
Initial Cost and Depreciation
Of course, how much you initially put down to purchase your own boat will depend entirely on the boat you want to buy. Larger, more luxurious boats will obviously cost more than bare-bones schooners. Not only will the size impact the price, but just as with cars, various makes and models are going to run up the bill. Assuming you aren’t going for broke with a 40-foot Beneteau and instead are willing to compromise with an adequate mid-size model fresh from the lot, you can expect to pay at least $23,000 just for the pleasure of calling a boat your own.
However, be aware that as soon as you tow your boat away from the dealer, your boat’s value drops significantly. Conservative estimates say that a boat’s selling price will depreciate 10 percent in the first year and eight to six percent for every year after that. Still, other experts claim that a used boat will never sell for more than half of its price as new. No matter what, you will lose a significant portion of your investment in a new boat.
Conversely, you may be able to locate better prices with alternative boat buying options. If your heart is absolutely set on owning a boat, buying a used one in fine working condition is likely your best option in terms of initial cost and potential return on investment; plus, you may be doing some good in the world by helping to fund a worthy charity.
No matter what insurer you use, you can expect to pay about one to three percent of the value of the boat every year. For your imaginary $23,000 rig, you would be paying at least between $230 and $690 every year of ownership. The amount you pay in insurance is a necessary expense; though some states don’t mandate boat insurance, it is unwise to operate any expensive vehicle without a safety net in case of an accident.
Not every boat owner is lucky enough to have a parking spot in a marina. In fact, many docks around the country are so overloaded that many boat owners have been waiting for the opportunity of a mooring for years. However, if you don’t have space in your driveway to store your boat, you will need to find a nearby dock where your boat can stay. Depending on the location and demand on the marina, you could be paying anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands every month.
Like a car, every state in the country requires you to register your boat with the local motor vehicle division. However, this expense is one of the more difficult to estimate, since states vary wildly in the cost of boat registration. In most locations, especially land-locked regions, boat registration will be chump change, while some states, like New Jersey, will charge upwards of $1,000 to register even a mid-sized vessel.
This is easily one of the most overlooked costs related to owning a boat. Boats weather significantly more damage than other vehicles, what with enduring the constant erosive force of lapping water. To keep your boat in navigable condition, every year you should be spending at least 10 percent of the boat’s value in maintenance. Services will include cleaning the deck, replacing any sails, and repainting the hull every year to prevent rot. Without these services, you will lose all of your investment as your boat sinks deeper into the marina; thus, expect to spend at least $2,300 for your imaginary mid-sized boat.
On top of all these huge expenses, you will need to equip your boat with various other necessities, like safety gear, gas or oil for motor boats, and navigation equipment, which will total upwards of $1,000.
Owning a boat is a worthwhile investment — if you know what you are getting into. But before jumping into what is undoubtedly a costly endeavor, do the math to understand just how much you will be spending every year — or every month — on realizing your daydream. Then, try to find as many cost-saving alternatives as possible so you can enjoy life on the water to the utmost extent.