The real costs of boat ownership

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In many ways a boat has similar costs to a car. However, boat costs are magnified due to the harsh environment in which boats operate, their frequency of use and the fact that your boat is a luxury. Let’s look at the real cost of owning a boat.

Purchase price

Your biggest outlay should be the initial purchase price. Many boats are bought with loans or finance. Your lender may require a deposit up-front.

Resale and depreciation

Selling a boat can sometimes be difficult. In addition, once the warranties on the various components expire, it will depreciate rapidly. A good maintenance schedule and replacing perishable parts will give your resale value a boost. Even something as simple as replacing old ropes can help.

Boat trailer

If you want to take your boat anywhere, you have to buy, hire or borrow a boat trailer. After your main purchase, the real cost of owning a boat will begin to show, as your trailer will be one of your biggest outlays. Be sure to factor this purchase into your initial costing.

Fuel and lubricants

Boats aren’t really known for their fuel efficiency, especially when the water is choppy or you’re into a sport such as skiing or wakeboarding. Expect to use a lot of fuel. With irregular use, calculating your mileage can be difficult, so maintaining a logbook can make this easier.


Whether you use your boat weekly or a few times a year, maintenance is a given. As a new boat owner, expect to get your hands dirty. Boats are subject to wear and tear and you will need to pay regular attention to the following:

  • Hull cleaning and maintenance
  • Moisture, salt and ultra violet (UV) damage to deck, upholstery, console, canopy, seals, hardware, ropes and fittings
  • Wear and tear on drivetrain: motor(s), gearbox, drive shaft(s), propeller/impeller(s). Note that a boat motor’s lifespan and service periods are measured in hours
  • Corrosion of raw water motor cooling system
  • Water damage and friction wear of electrical wiring
  • Deterioration, friction wear of fuel lines and other perishable hoses

Even if you rarely use your boat it will still have similar maintenance issues, only they’ll come on slower. Pay attention to:

  • Seals, gaskets and hoses
  • Motor and cooling systems – these will still degrade and can be worse off from infrequent use
  • Water in the boat’s system – you’ll never totally rid the boat of water

And that’s without even covering maintenance and repair of the boat trailer.

Storage and mooring

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a yard, driveway or double garage, your options are limited to paid storage or mooring. Mooring fees vary state by state, but even a small boat can be expensive to moor depending on the location.

Equipment, accessories and spares

You’ll need safety gear [Boat launch safety check], tools, consumables, a boat cover and spare tyres for the trailer. You’ll also need fishing gear, wakeboarding gear and fancy accessories to justify your investment.

Insurance, registration, licence

These fees vary state by state and are governed by boat length.

When looking to buy a boat, new or used, it’s vital that you consider all of the above costs. The hidden costs of boat ownership can mount up quickly – but it’s all worth it when you’re sailing the seas.

Now that you know the real cost of owning a boat, find out more about which spares you’ll need.


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