When you’re thinking about taking up a new hobby or getting involved in a new activity, one of the first things you’ll think about is how much it’s going to set you back. Boating is an incredibly attractive activity as it allows you to enjoy the great outdoors, is super relaxing and also allows you to learn new skills.
But there’s no denying that this is a costly venture so before you dive in, you’ll need to weigh up just how much it’s going to cost. It can help to understand why boating is so expensive and the reasons it’s important to fork out where needed.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at the top reasons boating is so expensive.
Table of Contents
1. Storing Your Boat
Before you even think about anything else, you’re going to need to make sure that you have somewhere to store your boat when it’s not being used. And this doesn’t come for free!
Unless you own a private lake, you’ll need to pay at least something to store your boat. Many people opt for a marine or storage unit but this can really rack up your boating expenses. Most marinas will charge a flat rate per square metre of boat but you’ll also have to pay connection charges and other fees. What’s more, depending on the location of the marina, the price could go up again.
But even if you decide to store your boat at home, it’s still going to cost you. You’ll need to pay to transport the boat and you’ll also have to fork out for protective covers. So, while this is a less expensive option, it’s still far from being free.
2. Boat Materials
Making a boat is no mean feat and while there are lots of factors that influence the production costs, one of the most common is the material from which the boat is made. You see, boats can’t just be made from anything and the things that they can be made from don’t come cheap.
Generally speaking, boats are made from one of four materials. Wood is expensive because it is a natural material and is highly sought after. Plus, you can’t just use any old wood and shape it into a boat, it needs to be just the right type and requires treatment to make it waterproof, otherwise you’ll have a rotten boat.
Fibreglass is a great material for boats but it usually requires more skill and effort to shape so if you choose this type of boat, you’ll likely pay for more production man hours.
Steel is another common boat material and the reason it is so expensive is because of the sheer amount you need to make a boat. It’s durable and long lasting but you’ll pay, especially if you’re buying a larger boat.
Finally, a lot of pontoon manufacturers will use aluminium which is much more expensive than steel. In fact, it’s believed to be as much as three times more expensive so if you want an aluminium boat, you’d better be ready to open your wallet!
3. Other Manufacturing Costs
It isn’t only the cost of the materials that makes buying a boat so pricey. You also need to consider the skill and labour that have to go into its production. Keep in mind that unless you are buying something like a canoe or kayak, your boat is going to have electrics and a motor.
The installation of both of these things costs money; compare it to buying a push bike vs a motorbike, the latter is always going to be more expensive.
The manufacturer must also make sure that the boat is safe and this requires a lot of research and engineering to get right. Things like the shape of the hull and staying on top of new boating technology advances all come at a cost.
4. Boat Maintenance
Once you have your boat, the costs don’t end there. Since most boats have complex electrical systems and motors, these need to be serviced and maintained. And when something goes wrong, you’re going to have to be willing to invest to get it fixed.
There are a lot of boat owners who will inspect and maintain their own boats but there are some tasks that have to be completed by a professional. But even if you do your own maintenance, you’ve still got minor costs like oil, fuel filters, paint and other things to consider. They might not be hugely expensive as individual items but the cost will add up.
5. Boats Are Usually Made To Order
Again, if you’re buying a very small, non-motorised boat then you’ll find that there are a lot of mass produced products. However, for larger boats, it simply isn’t cost effective for manufacturers to make several of each model because they just wouldn’t sell.
This means that, when buying a brand new boat, you’ll typically have to wait while it is being built and since you’ll have given specific instructions on things like the finish and what features are included, this will all add to the price.
6 And Don’t Forget That It’s All Done By Hand
In line with the previous point, boats that are not mass produced will largely be manufactured by hand. There is, of course, some machine work involved but generally speaking, you’ll have to pay for those man hours and manual labour.
However, this does give you the peace of mind that everything has been meticulously crafted and even though you’ve made a significant investment, it’ll be one that stands the test of time.
7. Boating Regulations
It isn’t only the cost of the materials and craftsmanship that bump up the cost of buying a boat. There are safety regulations that boat manufacturers are bound to adhere to. In some cases, there are boat regulation manuals that are hundreds of pages long, detailing down to the T what is expected of manufacturers.
If they do not adhere to these regulations, then they could be penalised so they only hire the best and most competent workmen and women. Naturally, this comes at a cost and this will be reflected in the price you pay for your vessel. But at least you’ll know it’s safe!
8. Learning To Use Your Boat
Everyone has to start somewhere and it goes without saying that a lot of boating newbies may have never set foot on deck before. In this case, you will need to factor in the cost of lessons or at the very least, resources to help you learn.
Let’s say that you have opted for a sailboat, this isn’t something that you’ll automatically know how to operate. There’s a lot involved and without the correct knowledge, you’ll not only struggle but you could be putting yourself in a dangerous situation.
The cost of sailing lessons will vary depending on what you’re looking for. For example, there are shorter courses to teach you the basics or longer, more intensive courses if you want to really get to grips with things. But you’ll be looking at paying at least a few hundred dollars for the privilege.
9. Buying Sailing Gear
You’ve already spent a lot of money on your boat but that’s not the only thing you’re going to need. It’s essential to make sure that you have all of the correct sailing equipment and gear and getting started can be expensive.
You’re going to need things like wetsuits, safety jackets and other appropriate clothing such as boat shoes to avoid slipping on deck. You will need to invest in other safety equipment such as whistles and lights as well as things like life buoys and radios or a satellite phone for emergencies.
These things will all need to be replaced from time to time, especially your clothing and other gear so be sure to factor this into your annual costs.
10. Insuring Your Boat
That’s right, it isn’t just your car that you need to worry about insuring, you’ll need to make sure that your boat is suitably insured as well. It’s important to keep in mind that it isn’t a legal requirement to insure your boat in the USA apart from in two states; Arkansas and Utah, but it’s certainly something you’ll want to consider. After all, you’ve made some significant investments to become a boat owner so it’s imperative to protect them.
Boat insurance will prevent you from having to fork out in the event of things like storm damage, theft, fire, vandalism and other things. However, do keep in mind that most insurance policies will not cover general wear and tear so you’ll still need to ensure excellent care and maintenance.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that doing things like taking a boater safety course and having safety gear on board will drastically bring down your insurance premiums. Moreover, you should check the policy and only buy insurance for what you need.
11. Boating Licence
In the United States, only seven states allow you to boat without having undergone boater education. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to have a boating licence. In fact, it is only a requirement to have a boating licence if you will be taking to the water in Alabama. But of course, there are costs involved with this.
Regardless of where you are, the boating education that you will most likely be required to do also comes with fees attached. Although they aren’t expensive, you can access one of these courses for around $50 but there are some states where an additional administration fee is added on.
In order to better understand what you’ll need to pay, it’s a good idea to check out your state website. This will also give you information on any intricacies within the boating law for your state.
12. Using Your Boat
If it wasn’t enough that buying and maintaining your boat is going to cost you the earth, you also need to understand that even using your boat is going to cost you money.
Most obviously, you’re going to have to pay for fuel every time you use your boat and you’ll have to pay for electricity to charge the boat while you’re docked. Moreover, you’ll need to have your boat’s holding tank regularly pumped out and while this isn’t the most expensive part of boating, it’s still another cost to consider.
When you’re out on the water, you’re probably going to want to take part in other activities like fishing, diving and other watersports. Hiring or buying equipment and paying for licences and other fees will all mount up so is definitely something else you’ll need to factor in.
Owning a boat is the dream of many people but the reality might be much more shocking than you’d think. While boating is incredibly enjoyable and teaches you new skills, you have to be prepared to invest a serious amount of money both in getting started and maintaining your hobby.
The cost of your boat will be large enough but you also need to think about things like sailing gear, insurance, licences and much more. It’s a good idea to do a detailed budget before you get started to make sure that you will be able to afford to keep up with everything you need.