The Hidden Costs of Boat Ownership

Boat Dealers

There’s a lot to love about living the boat life. The freedom to get away from it all and hit the water whenever you want just open up your weekends.

But owning a boat is expensive. Besides the up front purchase cost, there are plenty of other one-off and ongoing costs associated with owning a boat that you need to be prepared for.

So before you start hitting up your local boat dealers, let’s have a look at the hidden costs of owning a boat.

Purchase Price and Financing

First and foremost is the up front purchase price of the vessel. And that could mean anything from a couple of grand for a small fishing boat through to tens of millions for a serious yacht or cruiser.

Before doing anything, you need a clear idea of your budget.

Depending on what type of boat you buy, you will likely end up with finance repayments to make plus interest, so it’s important to factor this into your budget.

If you’re looking to secure finance from a lender, it’s worth shopping around to find the best deal. A good broker may be a better option than a bank or lender, as they can compare many different loan products, and then recommend one that fits you and your budget.

Depending on the type of boat you may also need to purchase a trailer (separately or factor the trailer cost into the purchase price).

Safety Equipment

Regardless of the type of boat you buy, you are required by law to equip it with a range of safety equipment. Depending on the vessel, this can include life jackets, fire extinguishers, flares and lights, anchors and chains, bilge pumps, GPS systems and more.

It’s important to find out exactly what type of safety equipment is required for your type of vessel and the type of waterway you will be operating on.

Make a list of the accessories you’ll need and do a basic Google search to get rough pricing on each item. This will help you get a better idea of your overall budget.

Mooring / Storage Costs

One of the largest ongoing costs associated with boat ownership is the mooring or storage costs.

There are two main storage solutions: parking the boat at home or marina storage.

Parking at home can work if you have a small boat and adequate secure storage space. It will certainly be the cheapest option, although it does come with a range of inconveniences, mainly associated with space constraints and towing and launching the boat every time you want to use it.

Marina storage can include dry stack and rack storage or water mooring. The cost of mooring will depend on the marina and its location, the size of the vessel and the type of storage.

If you’re looking at on-water berthing, this could end up being one of the biggest ongoing costs, with premium on-water marina spots costing upwards of $1,000 per month.

Yachts For Sale

Maintenance and Upkeep

Whether you’re using your boat regularly or only sporadically, ongoing maintenance is vital and likely won’t be cheap. Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the safety of the vessel, while extending its lifespan and maintaining resale value.

You can reduce maintenance costs by learning how to take care of the minor upkeep yourself, but at the end of the day, regardless of your boat, you will have to pay for some kind of professional maintenance.

Maintenance and upkeep costs will differ vastly depending on the size and type of boat you have. It’s worth thoroughly researching these costs before purchase to ensure you’re ready for the upkeep costs.

Registration Costs

Boats, like cars, need to be registered annually. Registration costs aren’t enormous but they should still be factored into your overall cost breakdown. Registration costs will vary depending on the type of boat and the state you’re registering the vessel.

Registration will need to be renewed every 12 months and the vessel may be subject to inspections and other criteria before registration. It’s important to check with your local vessel registration body to understand what is required.

If you have a trailer for the boat, that will also be subject to annual registration fees, although this is a minor cost.

Fuel Costs

Fuel is an ongoing expense that’s hard to avoid, especially with fuel prices the way they are. If you’re buying a sailboat, the wind can do much of the work for you. But you’ll still need to factor in fuel costs.

For a fishing boat or speed boat, fuel costs will likely be much more. It’s worth checking the fuel consumption of the different models you’re looking at and doing a few calculations to determine approximate fuel costs.

If you plan on towing the boat, it’s also worth factoring in additional fuel costs for your vehicle. Towing will significantly increase fuel usage, especially if you have to tow for long distances.

It’s worth noting that regular towing can increase wear and tear on your vehicle, especially if you don’t have a 4WD. Over time, this could lead to increased repair and maintenance costs for your vehicle.


Once you have your boat, you will need to get it insured so you’re covered in the event of an accident or incident. If you’re towing your boat, you will also need to ensure that your trailer is insured.

Insurance costs will vary depending on the size, speed, storage, waterways and value of the boat, as well as the level of insurance coverage you opt for. Insurance add-ons, like storm coverage, salvage, and towing, will all increase the costs associated with insurance but will provide you with better coverage.

Like all insurance, it pays to do your research and find the best deal.

There you have it. Owning a boat isn’t cheap, but if you’re dedicated to the lifestyle, it’s absolutely worth it.