How much does it cost to outfit a boat with LED lights

How much does it cost to outfit a boat with LED lights

Cost Analysis for Fitting Your Boat with LED Lights

If you spend any time out on the water at night, you’ll need to outfit your boats with the appropriate lighting system. In the maritime world, boat lights not only allow you to enjoy a cruise at night, but also make it possible for vessels to see each other despite the darkness, fog, or haze. In fact, certain lights are considered part of your essential safety gear and should be found on every vessel.

Adding LED lights to your boat isn’t as expensive as you may think. The cost depends on the type of light you’re installing and the cost of the fixture.

LED Light Fixture Price Range
All-around, anchor, bow, and stern lights $ 80 – $ 380
Sidelights $ 80 – $ 330
Spotlights $130 – $ 450
Deck lights $120 – $ 500
Docking lights $150 – $ 550
Underwater lights $ 70 – $ 650

 

That being said, if your boat doesn’t already have lights or you’re looking to upgrade your current system, you can’t go wrong with outfitting your vessel with LED lights. But, outfitting a boat with LED lights isn’t something we do every day, so you might not be totally familiar with the process.

Thankfully, we’ve got all of the knowledge you need to get out on the water at night, complete with information about how much it costs to outfit a boat with LED lights. Check out my reference article on LED lights.

What are LED lights?

LED light on T-topFirst things first, let’s clear the air about what, in fact, an LED light actually is. An LED, or a light-emitting diode – is a type of light source that produces light whenever an electron passes through it.

That might sound confusing, but basically, LEDs are highly efficient at producing lights, especially when compared to incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. LEDs are incredibly tiny and consume much less energy when compared to traditional light bulbs, which makes them ideal for use wherever space is limited, such as on a boat.

Plus, LEDs come in nearly every color you can think of, so they’re great for maritime use where we need different light colors to navigate at night or in low visibility conditions.

Why you need lights on your boat

Whether you enjoy night cruising or stick to daytime boating, you’ll almost certainly need lights on your vessel. At night and in low visibility conditions, such as fog and haze, lights are pretty much the best tool we have as boaters to prevent collisions in busy waters. (Read our article on the importance of navigation lights)

In fact, navigation lights are legally required of all vessels while operating during times of reduced visibility as they allow us to see other boats nearby. The types of lights you’re required to have on your vessel for navigation use are highly regulated and standardized so that we can quickly and easily identify the type of vessel we’re looking at and which way it’s heading.

According to international maritime regulations, a vessel under 65.6 feet in length is required to have the following:

  • Masthead light
  • All-around light
  • Sidelights
  • Stern light

If you’re operating a powerboat under 40 feet in length, you can get away with having just one white all-around light and sidelights (red on port and green on starboard). You might also want to add additional lights to your boat as accessories. These added lights can be helpful for lighting up your deck or making it easier to dock at night.

Replacing/installing navigation lights

As we’ve discussed, LED lights are the preferred method of producing navigation and accessory lights on a marine vessel. That being said, if you have an older boat, or just one that’s not quite up to snuff with its safety gear, you may have to replace or install navigation lights. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Determine your needs

If you have a newer boat or one that’s had a lot of renovations, chances are pretty high that it already has all of the wiring it needs to support your standard navigation lights. On the other hand, if you’re looking to add in accessory lights or outfit an older boat, you may need to do some electrical work on your boat.

So, before you get started, you’ll want to determine if all you need are the LED lights or if you’ll need to do some wiring. If you’re not terribly confident in your ability to do wiring, this might be the point where you decide to hire a professional to do it for you. This might cost you more money out of pocket, but it can save you quite the headache, not to mention prevent potential damage to your boat.

  1. Get your boat’s electrical system ready

Should you decide to outfit your boat with LED lights on your own, the first thing you’ll want to do is turn off the circuit breakers on your boat. The last thing you want is to get a nice electric shock while you’re working on that wiring, so be sure to cut off the electrical system on your boat before you start.

  1. Prep your drilling sites

If you need to install LED lights on your boat, you’ll want to determine where you’ll place them before you start drilling away into your expensive boat. All navigation lights have specific places where they should be mounted to ensure proper visibility, so be sure to research these regulations before you begin.

We recommend using some sort of marker pen to identify where you’ll drill into your boat. This is your time to figure out where you’ll place those wires and perhaps mount a control switch, so take a moment to blueprint the operation before you begin.

  1. Wire away

As you might imagine, many boats have very complicated wiring systems, so you’ll want to consult your owner’s manual before you begin. All wires need to be hidden behind a safety panel to prevent any unanticipated contact, too, so your work isn’t quite done when you finish wiring your boat.

  1. Connect and waterproof

Once you have your wires in place, it’s time to connect them to the control panel on your boat according to the instructions that you’ll find in your owner’s manual. Then, you need to make sure the entire system is waterproof and protected so you can rely on your navigation lights when you need them most. Finally, replace all of the panels on your boat so everything looks clean and new.

The cost of outfitting navigation lights

As with any boat maintenance task, it’s important to have an idea of how much a project will cost you before you get started. While something navigation light installment is a safety issue and needs to be done, other things, like deck lighting, are more for personal comfort, so can be put on hold until you have the funds to do the job properly.

That being said, while we can’t give you a specific figure for how much outfitting your boat with LED lights will cost, we can offer you some estimates to help you budget for this project. Of course, if you need to completely outfit your boat with lights, it’ll cost more than if you’re just retrofitting LED lights where incandescent lights used to be.

Should you bring your boat into a shop to get outfitted with LED lights, your main cost will be in labor fees, which we’ve estimated to be about $100 an hour. In addition to labor, you’ll also have to pay for the lights themselves, as well as any additional wiring you might need. Here are some of our estimates based on these figures:

All-around, anchor, bow, and stern lights

LED strips GunnelAll-around, bow, and stern lights are required for your vessel, though whether you choose to go with one all-around light or two separate bow and stern lights is a personal choice. The main advantage of an all-around light is that it can double as an anchor light for use at a mooring or anchor. Here’s what it could cost:

  • All-around light or bow and stern light: $30 – $80
  • Additional wiring ($2.00/foot): $0 – $100
  • Labor ($100/hour): $50 – $200
  • Total: $80 – $380

Sidelights

Sidelights are required for navigation in limited visibility conditions. You’ll need a red light for the port side of your boat and a green light for the starboard side. Here’s what it could cost:

  • Sidelights (2x): $30 – $80
  • Additional wiring ($2.00/foot): $0 – $100
  • Labor ($100/hour): $50 – $150
  • Total: $80 – $330

Spotlights

While spotlights aren’t a navigational requirement by law, they are super helpful for avoiding obstacles and dangers while boating at night. They are more expensive, parts-wise, as they put out much more light than a standard masthead light would. Here’s what it could cost:

  • Spotlight (2x): $80 – $200
  • Additional wiring ($2.00/foot): $0 – $100
  • Labor ($100/hour): $50 – $150
  • Total: $130 – $450

The cost of outfitting accessory/personal lights

Many boats can benefit from having a selection of well-placed accessory lights. These lights can help illuminate the deck of your boat at night, make it easier to see while coming alongside or even light up the water during a fishing trip.

We used the same labor rate of $100/hour from our navigation light estimates to figure out these estimates for outfitting your boat with accessory lights. This is what some of these jobs might cost.

Deck lights

 Blue Deck LightsDeck lights have become incredibly popular among pleasure cruisers as they add some nice flair to your boat at night. They can add some great ambiance to your vessel and make your boat look super cool out on the water. That being said, the cost of installing deck lights on your boat greatly depends on how large your boat is and where you want to place the lights. Here are some estimates for a moderately-sized vessel:

  • LED light strips: $20 – $200
  • Additional wiring ($2.00/foot): $0 – $100
  • Labor ($100/hour): $100 – $300
  • Total: $120 – $500

Docking lights

Docking lights are sort of like “headlights” for your boat. While you shouldn’t cruise around with them on (they can confuse or blind other boaters), they can make it easier to identify your slip as you come alongside at night. You can choose to get either recessed lights that sit flush with the hull of your boat or mounted ones that attach to the gunwales or tee top of your boat. Here’s what it might cost:

  • Docking lights: $100-300
  • Additional wiring ($2.00/foot): $0 – $100
  • Labor ($100/hour): $50 – $150
  • Total: $150 – $550

Underwater lights

underwater LED lightsUnderwater lights have been popular with anglers for a long time as they can help illuminate the water around your boat with cool colors, making it easier to see the fish below. There are many kinds of underwater lights, though, and the type you choose will have a huge effect on the overall cost of the operation. Here’s what it might cost:

  • Underwater lights: $20 – $400
  • Additional wiring ($2.00/foot): $0 – $100
  • Labor ($100/hour): $50 – $150
  • Total: $70 – $650

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