Disclaimer: As an affiliate I may earn a commission on any qualifying purchases, including those from Amazon.com, at no extra cost to you – read more.
You Have Options When it Comes to Buying or Leasing a Boat
If you love to be out on the water, at some point, you’ve probably considered owning a boat. But is it right for you?
For many would-be boat owners, the thought of having their own vessel conjures up images of cruising around on bluebird days, making the most of life. But, as all boat owners know all too well, owning your own pleasure craft also comes with a seemingly endless stream of bills and fees just to get you out on the water.
So, many avid boaters often find themselves questioning whether or not owning a boat is actually worth it or if they should just rent one instead. To help you decide if owning a boat or renting one is right for your needs, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to boat ownership and rentals, complete with all the info you need to know to make the right decision for your situation. Let’s get to it!
Costs of Ownership
The costs of boat ownership don’t end when you purchase your vessel. In addition to the actual purchase price of your vessel, boat ownership comes with a lot of long-term fees and emergency costs that you need to be prepared to take on if you’re going to buy a boat. Here are some of the things you can expect to pay for if you choose to buy a boat:
Perhaps the biggest regular cost associated with boat ownership is storage fees. When you own a boat, you’ll need to have somewhere to put it. For many people, this involves renting a slip in a marina, which can run anywhere from $6 a foot for less popular locales to well over $250 a foot for the most exclusive and luxurious of berths.
Alternatively, you can choose to trailer your boat, but this requires that you have somewhere to store it on land. If you have a large driveway, your problems just might be solved, but if not, you’ll likely have to pay for some form of dry storage, which is often cheaper than renting a slip, but still a significant expense.
Learn more about trailering your boat versus a renting a slip.
Unless you own a sailboat, you’ll need to pay for all of your fuel expenses when you own a boat. Depending on where you live, these fuel costs can break the bank. If you average the price of fuel to about $2.50 per gallon and estimate that many motorboats use between 20 and 30 gallons of fuel per hour at speed, a five-hour trip on your boat can cost you upwards of $300.
Slower pontoons often use significantly less fuel (about five gallons per hour), but the overall fuel cost throughout the year for these boats is still significant. While you’ll almost certainly have to pay for fuel costs while renting a boat, when you own a boat, you’re more likely to get out on the water more frequently, meaning your fuel costs tend to be higher throughout the year.
All boat owners should have boat insurance to protect themselves and their property in the event of an accident. The US Coast Guard estimates that there are nearly 5,000 recreational boating accidents each year, so it makes sense to get insurance to protect yourself in the event of a collision.
Boat insurance is a must-have for all boat owners, so you should plan to budget anywhere from $300 to $1,500 a year for your insurance costs. Why the big difference? Well, the type of boat, the number of people on the policy, as well as the age and history of the boat operators will affect how much you pay each year for your premium.
When you own a boat, you’re solely responsible for paying the associated legal fees, such as those for registration and licensing. Some states and local municipalities also levy taxes on boats, so you’ll need to check with your local authorities to see how much you might owe. While these fees aren’t usually astronomical, they are worth considering when buying a boat.
As all boat owners know, “boat” stands for “Bill Out Another Thousand,” especially when it comes to repairs. Although we all hope that our vessels will stay in tip-top shape throughout their lifetime, you’ll inevitably have to pay for quite a few repairs and replacement parts when you own a boat.
Sometimes, the cost of these repairs is minimal, especially if you stay up to date on routine maintenance and catch problems early. That being said, all boat owners should have some money set aside to handle larger problems as they arise to avoid having their boat out of the water for too long.
Although most families love having a boat and spending time on the water, it’s not for everyone. If you have young children, it’s a good idea to take them out on a boat before you commit to buying one. Nothing would be worse than buying the perfect boat, only to discover that your youngest is afraid of the open water. I recommend going out with another family, preferably one with children the same age as yours, to see if it’s right for your crew.
If the costs of boat ownership make your head spin, you might be wondering about the different options available to you for renting a boat. Thankfully, there are many different ways to get out on the water without owning your own vessel – you just have to find the one that’s right for your needs. Here are some different methods to consider:
Rent with a captain or charter a boat
These days, nearly every popular boating destination has a boat rental company nearby to help non-boat owners get out on the water. Renting a vessel can be a great way to reduce your annual boating costs as you only need to pay when you’re actually out on the water. However, there are some things you should keep in mind before renting a boat:
Rental company reputation
The vast majority of rental boats see a lot of action, which means they need a lot of care and maintenance to stay in good working order. A reliable and reputable rental company will do what it needs to do to keep their boats in good shape, while others will save money by shirking their maintenance responsibilities. Thus, it’s in your best interest to find a quality rental company so your day out on the water isn’t ruined by a mechanical breakdown.
Like renting a car, the vast majority of boat rental places will have an age minimum for renting a vessel. In many places, this age minimum is 18 years old, but in some states and with some companies, you may need to be over 21 or even 25 to get behind the wheel on a bareboat charter.
That being said, if you’re chartering a boat with a captain, they tend to be more flexible on age minimums as you wouldn’t be responsible for the operation of the vessel.
As you might imagine, it costs money to rent a boat. How much? Well, it really depends on the kind of boat you’re looking to rent and where you want to rent it from. In extremely popular tourist destinations, you’ll pay upwards of $500 or even $700 for a day on a luxury speedboat or pontoon.
Alternatively, you can often rent a small skiff from a mom and pop shop on a lake for just $30 an hour. Of course, if you’re looking to charter a boat with a captain, you’ll have to pay more for their services. Plus, many rental companies have not only a rental fee but a fuel surcharge, which can vary greatly based on your location.
While renting a boat might be enough for the occasional boater, the boating enthusiast will often find that the costs of renting will quickly get out of hand if you do it more than a few times a season. Thus, many boaters look to timeshares to get their maritime fix.
A boat timeshare is much like a condo timeshare, in that you have a stake in a collective ownership of a vessel, alongside the other timeshare holders. Through a timeshare, you’ll still need to help chip in for repairs and other fees associated with owning a boat, but you won’t have to cover all of the costs by yourself.
The main downside to a boat timeshare, of course, is that you’ll have to coordinate with the other owners to ensure that two people don’t try to use the boat at the same time. This can be challenging to negotiate, especially on holiday weekends, but many people find that timeshares can offer plenty of boating enjoyment without too many of the boat ownership costs.
If you’re not interested in the upkeep and maintenance of your boat and don’t care about calling any particular boat your own, a boat club might be the way to go. Boat clubs are similar to timeshares, insofar as you don’t have to cover the full cost of owning a boat. However, unlike a timeshare, when you join a boat club, you don’t have to deal with any of the maintenance costs.
You can find a boat club at nearly every popular marina. Some boat clubs have long waitlists, but many simply require you to pay a membership fee to join. Plus, when you own a boat club, you can usually choose between a number of different vessels for your outing, allowing you the opportunity to enjoy a whole fleet of different boats.
Airbnb-type Apps and Services for boats
With the rise of Airbnb in the vacation rental industry, many new start-ups have popped up to allow people the chance to quickly and easily rent a boat anywhere in the world. Although there are a number of different Airbnb-type apps for boat rentals, they all have a similar premise: boat owners create a listing for their boat and allow tourists and locals, alike, to rent their vessel for a specified period of time, in exchange for a fee.
These apps can be a great option for anyone looking to rent a specific type of boat while on holiday as you can often filter your search results to find exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, these apps can allow boat owners to recuperate some of the costs of boat ownership through these rental fees. Just be sure to check out any local legal requirements before you get started.
Pros and Cons of Renting vs. Owning a Boat
The decision to rent or own a boat is an entirely personal one that depends on each individual’s unique situation.
Owning a boat is the best way to get maximum flexibility over when and where you get to use your boat as you never have to worry about conflicting with someone else’s schedule. However, boat ownership is the most expensive and most involved option, thanks to all of the storage, insurance, and repair costs an owner needs to assume.
On the other hand, renting allows infrequent boaters to get out on the water without the hassle of dealing with repairs. But, if you rent a lot, you might find that it’s more cost-effective to go in on a boat timeshare or join a boat club, instead.
Ultimately, what’s important is that you find the boat situation that’s right for your needs. Happy boating!