There are many costs related to boat ownership beyond the initial price tag. You have to consider expenses like maintenance, insurance, and fuel. So, how much does it really cost to own a boat? Let’s find out…
The Purchase Price
First and foremost, there’s the vessel itself. The purchase price will vary greatly depending on the boat you want and whether it is used or not. For instance, you can get a used fishing boat for $2K and you can also get a superyacht for tens of millions of dollars.
Prices fluctuate wildly, even within similar boat categories. The perfect example is a pontoon, which is one of the most popular boat types in the US. You can buy a brand-new pontoon boat for $30K or $100K. It’s a lot like the auto industry. A standard sedan might start at $30K and a luxury sedan might start at $100K.
According to Bloomberg, yearly boat maintenance costs roughly 10% of the purchase price. This may include painting the hull, cleaning the deck, and replacing deteriorated systems onboard.
However, costs will vary depending on the boat type, the cruising area, and how well you keep up with regular maintenance. For example, you should be diligent about preventative maintenance when boating in saltwater otherwise the salt can significantly damage the boat over time.
Average boat insurance rates are around 1.5% of the boat’s insured value, but the exact rate will depend on numerous factors, including the location, boat type, policy limits and coverage options.
» MORE: Boat Insurance Guide
Boat tax ranges based on where you buy the boat, where you keep it, and where you cruise it. While there’s always sales tax due at the time of purchase, states differ in their tax rates and requirements.
In Rhode Island, for example, there is no boat use tax. In other states, like South Carolina, boat owners pay a 10.5% use tax of the boat's assessed value yearly (only if the boat spends more than 180 days in the state). And New York imposes sales tax only on the first $230,000 of the purchase price. Essentially, all state laws are different and it’s important to check what yours are.
Boat registration helps to identify your boat and allows you to operate your boat legally on public waterways. Like everything else, states have different costs and regulations regarding boat registration. In some states, it's a $25 fee and in others, it costs $200+. The cost of registering a boat also varies depending on the length and type of boat. Larger boats have larger registration fees.
Unless you live in an area that’s warm year-round, budget for winter boat storage. There are three main options for boat storage: in-water, dry outdoor, and dry indoor.
Dry outdoor boat storage is one of the more popular and inexpensive options. Almost all marinas and boatyards offer it. Indoor boat storage is more expensive, but it offers the most protection for your boat. And if you store your boat permanently in a wet slip, you won’t have to worry about paying for winter storage separately. But, there are still yearly haul-out fees for maintenance.
The exact cost of boat storage depends on the location and the size of your boat. It can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a small boat stored in a fenced facility, to thousands of dollars for indoor storage, to tens of thousands for yachts kept in the water.
The cost of fueling your boat will differ depending on current rates, location, fuel type, and if you’re refueling at a marina or gas station. At a marina, fuel will typically cost around $0.5 to $1.5 per gallon more than it costs at a gas station. So, if gasoline at a local gas station costs $3 per gallon, expect to pay $3.50+ at a marina.
Safety Items and Navigation Equipment
You’ll need to purchase required safety equipment, like personal flotation devices, visual flares, fire extinguisher(s), and more. Consider getting life jackets for each member of your family and have a few extra for visiting passengers. A set of life jackets will add up to a couple hundred bucks. Other safety items, like the visual flares and fire extinguisher(s), will run you another couple hundred bucks.
If you plan on venturing out of familiar waters, navigation equipment will prove to be very helpful. A low-end marine GPS device usually starts at around $200, with fancier systems soaring beyond that.