Boat Expenses: What You Should Know


Boats are a good investment – one that you and your family and friends will surely enjoy – but one thing you need to remember before buying your own vessel is that your cash out does not stop when you make your purchase.

At this point, you probably already have an idea of what boat you want to own.  But whether you’re thinking of buying it outright or you’re availing a loan or boat financing, you need to add other expenses into your computation.  Once you’ve looked at the numbers, then you will be able to better enjoy your investment because you won’t get stumped by any additional costs that will come your way.  Here are some of them:

Boat Safety Course & Boaters License

Just like learning to drive a car before you head out into the streets, you also need to learn to operate a boat before going out on open waters.  And in much the same way that you understand how your car works, what its parts are, how to read the gauges, how to drive safely, and what the road signs mean, you also need to know these about a water vessel.

There are many different boat courses available, from novice to advanced, and there are also training on various topics like using GPS and other modern navigation techniques, weather, planning a cruise, and so on.  For a beginner, you need to take a boat operators course that will teach you boat handling as well as navigation, laws, and more.

You need to be able understand the devices on your vessel, the safety issues involved and prevention, current mandates on boat operation, and others.

After learning, it’s best to apply for a boating license before purchasing your dream watercraft, whether it’s a jet ski, a yacht, or anything in between.  Different states have different marine laws and they may or may not require you to have your license on you at all times.


Once you’ve purchased your vessel, you need to have it registered.  In the U.S., the basic requirements for vessel documentation are U.S. citizenship, proof of ownership, and eligibility.  The price depends on the type of boat that you own, and renewal is done annually.


Unlike on land where there is a chance of finding immediate help when in an emergency, being on water can be more of a challenge.  This is one of the reasons why it’s important to have safety equipment and medical kits on board.

First, you need to make sure that you have life jackets.  While you can buy some cheap ones online, you need to make certain of their quality.  Remember, if you can dish out a lot of cash for a boat, then don’t scrimp when it comes to safety.

When buying personal floatation devices, choose the type suited for your boat and the activities that you engage in.  Check if they have a stamp of approval from the U.S. Coast Guard inside.  Also, make sure that they fit – if it’s too big, it would float around your face and if it’s too small, it may not have enough buoyancy to keep you afloat.  Remember: life jackets for adults are not suited for kids.

Aside from emergency floatation devices, make sure you have a medical kit as well as an emergency kit at the ready.  Your emergency kit should have water, food, flashlight, extra batteries, whistle, can opener, towelettes, garbage bags, duct tape, scissors, and other necessities; while your medical kit should have first aid supplies (thermometer, antiseptic, cotton, dressings, bandages, instant cold compress, etc.) and medicines (antihistamine, paracetamol or other pain killers, etc.).

These need to be regularly checked to make sure that they are in usable condition.


While some insurance companies may cover boats, it’s advised that you choose one that specializes in water vessel coverage.  The cost of the policy usually depend on what is included, but you may opt to have everything covered, including loss, theft, or damage to the boat, loss or damage to content or personal property, third party liability, and so on.  Get a quote right now and find out your monthly cost.


When you buy a boat, you also need to consider where it’s going to be “parked” when you’re not using it.

If you have a boat that cannot be easily taken out of the water, then you may need to rent space in a marina.  The cost usually depends on the location, the boat type, and the operator, but don’t expect it to be cheap.  Nonetheless, the cost often includes security for your vessel and use of facilities, and if you lease it for long term, then you may get a price much lower than the daily rates.

For rivers, you can opt for a river mooring.  While these are not as fancy as marinas, they give you the convenience of getting your boat into the water more easily.

If you have a small vessel, then you may want to place it in your property in order to keep expenses down.  Often, small boats that can be taken out of the water come with a trailer, but if you need to buy one, then the price will depend on what kind of watercraft you have and its size.


Just like a car that needs fuel and oil (plus new tires, a new fan belt, and some other parts every now and again), your boat also requires fuel and oil (plus sails, rigging, and other parts that wear and tear over time).  The amount you need to spend, of course, depends on the type of vessel you have, how often you travel and how far, and how well you maintain it.


Before buying a boat, it’s advised that you get some idea on how much maintenance would cost.  You can do your research on the price of the parts of the vessel your eyeing.  This would give you a general idea if you’re comfortable with possible maintenance expenses or if you should go for another type and size.

Using your boat in the ocean usually equates to higher maintenance requirements than using it in lakes or rivers.  This is because of the nature of saltwater – it corrodes metals, it stains glass, it is corrosive to boat finishes, and it is abrasive when it dries into crystal.  Giving your boat a thorough washdown after every use is a good habit to build, but it’s always wise have it professionally cleaned now and again.  In relation to this, have an expert give your vessel a thorough check-up once a year, in the same way that you would your car.

Eventually, you may need to pay for repairs – for parts and labor – when something needs to be fixed and/or replaced.  This could be because of a shorted electrical wiring, a funny sound coming from the engine, or something else.  As in any vehicle, repairs and parts replacement should be expected since your boat has many moving parts and is exposed to the elements.

Other Possible Expenses

If you’re buying a boat, then it’s more likely than not that you know how to swim.  But if you’re not very confident in your or your family members’ swimming skills, then you may want to have some lessons first.  Also, it would be good to take first aid courses so you would know what to do in cases of emergency, be it a nick from a fish fin or a near-drowning case.

Which Boat Should You Buy?

In a nutshell, the type of boat that you are thinking of buying is likely to belong in any of the following broad categories:

  • Smaller boats. These are usually not as costly to maintain as their big brothers. Owning one would save you some berthing expense if you can keep it in your garage or storage area. The downside is, the space in the vessel can be limited and you won’t be able to take as many companions or supplies on board when you use it.
  • Mid-range priced vessels. These include ski- and fishing boats. They have more space for your gear, and maintenance is often reasonable.  If you can fit yours in your property, then it would be less expense for you when you’re not using it.
  • Luxury yachts. These are at the high end of the scale when it comes to expense, not only of the boat itself but also in berthing and maintenance. You can have a rough estimate of the annual maintenance cost by computing 10 percent of the purchase price.  As for marina fees, basic yachts can generate something like $500 to $1,200 in “parking” fees per month.

Owning a boat is a dream harbored by many, but not all of them are able to make it into reality.  You can be one of the few to have a boat of your own but, of course, it takes dedication to keep it in excellent shape.  If you’re determined to keep your boat in tip-top condition – and are willing to shoulder the cost – then you, your family, and your friends can have many good times on the water, whether it’s just for a day of fishing or it’s to take a voyage to a destination you’ve not seen before.