The True Cost of Owning a Boat—What You Should Know Before You Buy

Category: article

 Sep 30th, 2022 by Keith Worrall 

Modified Sep 30th, 2022 at 3:35 PM

Image by hedgehog94 on Shutterstock

Boats can be much more expensive to keep than you might think, especially if you’re a novice boat owner. Before you dive into buying a boat, there are some important drawbacks, costs, and rules to consider.

Fees for breaking rules and regulations

Different states have various rules regarding boats, so research the requirements in your state before going out on the water. Penalties for breaking the rules can be quite pricey.

For example, having life jackets onboard is not only a requirement, with noncompliance punishable with a $200 fine, but it can also save lives. Of the 658 deaths involving boat accidents in 2020, 75% were due to drowning, and 85% of the victims weren’t wearing a life jacket.

You can also face a $250 fine for allowing an underage operator. Age requirements for boat operators vary from state to state, so check with the recreational area before allowing a young person to operate the vessel or you may be in hot water.

Boating education card requirements can also be different depending on your state. And bear in mind that you will need to register your vessel with your state and register with the U.S. Coast Guard.

You can also be fined for carelessness, speeding, towing without a spotter, or having a bad muffler. Knowing the rules and regulations of boating can save you a whole lot of trouble and money.

Maintenance expenses

Like most vehicles, a boat will not fare well if left untouched for too long. Frequent maintenance is required to ensure your boat is safe and running its best.
The average recreational boat is used between 75-150 hours a year. Inspecting key components like oil, fuel, electrical systems, and the propeller every 100 hours of operation or at least once a year will help keep your boat in good shape.

Some boats may not come with an owner’s manual and will require you to do your research. Inspecting your boat for leaks, looseness, and corrosion each season will help you stay on top of many common issues.

Barnacles can start growing after just three months. So if your vessel is left sitting in the water too long, it will become susceptible to barnacle growth, which can cause corrosion and make your boat less fuel-efficient by increasing drag in the water.

Unexpected costs

Understanding the costs associated with boat maintenance before buying one will save you from the shock and pain of learning the hard way. Annual maintenance on a used boat can be about 10% of the purchase price, while the upkeep for a new boat is roughly 2%.

The average cost of owning a small boat is about $2,000 a year, while most recreational boats can cost you $5,000 to $8,000 per year. And these costs can quickly escalate. Expect to spend money on a boat trailer, detailing, washing, winterization, painting, waxing, and other maintenance-associated costs that may arise.

Inspect your boat

Always inspect your boat before you use it. Understanding the features and common issues associated with your boat is vital.
Problems can occur out of the blue, even with a new boat. Diagnosing a problem is easier if you do your homework and prepare before a problem arises.
Check out the following infographic to better understand the true cost of boat ownership.

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