You’re giving in to the lure of the water. You’ve decided it’s time to buy a boat. You’ve even started pricing the models that appeal to you. But a nagging voice in the back of your mind – or maybe even a real voice from a family member or friend – is warning you to think carefully about the economics of boat ownership.
We’ve all heard the jokes and clever remarks, such as “A hole in the water …”
In truth, the dollars and cents of owning a boat aren’t really all that different from owning a truck or recreational vehicle. Considerations include the purchase price, of course, and the cost of financing, plus a number of predictable ongoing requirements. We encourage our customers to recognize they are truly buying a lifestyle, not just a boat. What the boat will allow you to do on an emotional level should help you to justify the decision.
Of course, there are some differences, depending on the size of the boat. This article will focus on the smaller boats, under 25 feet long. I’ll address the special considerations involved in owning a larger yacht in a future article.
The important needs for most boats are:
- Accessories and optional equipment
- Maintenance and repairs
- Launching ramp fees
- State registration fees
I won’t go into much detail in this article about the range of options, but how you plan to use your boat will affect what accessories you choose. That might include a tower and outriggers for offshore fishing; skiing packages for flat-water recreation; or advanced electronics for navigation or fish-finding. Looking over different models at the dealer, and talking with the sales staff, will help you compile a complete checklist and a budget for the extras you need.
Just as with a car, how much fuel your boat needs depends on three factors: your motor’s consumption, how much you use it and how fast you drive. Unlike a car, where fuel economy is expressed in miles per gallon, you consider gallons per hour for a marine engine.
Some brands and models are more efficient than others, but for gasoline-powered outboards, this is a rough rule of thumb: At high speed, expect your motor to use one gallon or less an hour for every 10 horsepower. For example, a very large 350-horsepower outboard will use between 33 and 35 gallons of gasoline an hour. A 250-horse motor would use between 22 and 25 gallons, depending on brand.
Smaller outboards use proportionately less. Slower cruising speeds, of course, also require less fuel.
Boat maintenance is also predictable. Just as your car requires specific servicing on a factory-specified schedule, a boat and its motor (or motors) work at peak reliability when they get regular attention, too.
We recommend a regular fall maintenance routine at the end of every boating season. Checking and replacing fluids, inspecting and replacing critical parts like spark plugs, and testing electronics are all important to extending your boat’s life, and ensuring trouble-free days on the water. We can quote a rate for this important service or for our spring recommissioning service, which is based on the size and model of your boat.
And just as you need to keep your car’s finish in good shape, your boat will benefit from periodic polishing and painting, too. One service that’s especially important for boats that are kept in the water is scraping and repainting the bottom. Marine life that grows on any underwater surface will cause drag and needs to be removed. Special “anti-fouling” paints can discourage barnacles and other critters from making your hull their home.
When it comes to repairs, what’s true of a car is especially so for a boat: Regular maintenance will minimize the chances of major things going wrong. Changing the oil regularly, for instance, is far more economical than replacing burned-out bearings.
Storage is a cost that will vary depending on the owner’s preferences. Some owners keep their boats on a motorized lift installed in a privately owned or leased slip. The most popular options, though, are out-of-water “dry stack” storage at a marina, or keeping the boat on a trailer and launching it from a ramp.
Dry storage can range from $200 to $400 a month depending on location and the size of the boat. Annual contracts cost less in the long run than “month-to-month” rentals. Alternatively, if you are willing to keep your boat on a trailer and to launch it yourself whenever you use it, secure fenced storage yards can be an option for as little as $75 a month. Fees for commercial launching ramps at marinas are another consideration. While public ramps are free, they are often congested and parking can be impossible to find on summer weekends.
While a boat owner can choose a wide range of financing options, we are confident that we can offer the most competitive financing solutions available. We have close partnerships with the industry’s leading lenders. Our knowledgeable business managers customize each contract to ensure that we don't just make boating possible, we make it affordable.
A good starting point is the free Payment Calculator on our website, which will help you figure monthly boat payments or total cost. Find it at http://www.marinemax.com/boat-services/finance
The final essential element in any cost calculation is insurance. MarineMax offers comprehensive property and casualty coverage, what’s called hull insurance. Credit life and disability policies can help protect your financing, too. We make it easy to secure comprehensive, competitively priced coverage. We even offer the convenient option of including your insurance premium in your financing package.
The bottom line is that there’s no mystery to the cost of boat ownership. As with any significant investment, being armed with reliable facts and figures helps you buy with confidence when the time comes.
Thom Cross is the general manager of MarineMaxWrightsville Beach. Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, MarineMax is the nation’s largest recreational boat and yacht retailer. Focused on premium brands, MarineMax sells new and used recreational boats and related marine products and services as well as provides yacht brokerage and charter services. For more information, visit www.marinemax.com, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarineMaxWrightsvilleBeach or call 910-256-8100.