Boat Detailing: Worth the Cost?

As a new boat owner there are a lot of things to do to properly care for your boat. When it comes to boat detailing, you may be asking yourself, is it even necessary? How often should I have my boat detailed? How much does boat detailing cost? Can I detail my own boat? We’re going to answer these questions and help you better understand why you should include regular detailing in your boat’s routine maintenance.

A light colored hulled boat that has been detailed properly.
A well maintained boat deserves regular detailing

Why is boat detailing necessary?

It isn’t. Didn’t expect that answer did you? Well, there are plenty of boats that have barely seen more than a freshwater rinse throughout their entire life that operate just fine. Boat detailing is primarily a cosmetic aspect of boat maintenance. Whether you detailed your boat or not isn’t going to affect its seaworthiness, nor is a boat with a faded hull going to be less safe or reliable. So if you’re a pure pragmatist and don’t particularly care how the hull of your boat looks, spend your time and money on more important aspect’s of your boat’s maintenance.

Let’s assume though that you’re like most boat owners and you do care about how your boat looks, and you also care about maintaining its value. In that case, detailing is a necessary part of your boat’s maintenance regimen. With the majority of recreational boats being made out of fiberglass coated in gelcoat, detailing is a necessary step to protect your boat’s appearance.

As gelcoat on the boat’s hull and interior is exposed to sun, salt, and time, it begins to fade. How much it fades, and how noticeable it is depends on a couple factors. Boats with dark colored hulls like a navy blue hull or black hull with fade faster and have areas of more noticeable fading than a white hulled boat. However, even white and light colored hulls will show signs of fading and leave a chalky like residue behind as their gelocat begins to age. To correct and prevent this, a two step detailing process is used. A buffer is used to remove oxidation and restore shine and then a protective coating like wax is applied to protect the boat which will restore your boat to its former glory and keep it looking great.

A dark hulled boat that has been detailed recently.
Dark hulled boats need more frequent detailing than lighter colored hulls.

How often should you have your boat detailed?

Like with most things when it comes to boat ownership, it depends. The biggest factor affecting the rate at which your boat’s gelcoat will fade is sun exposure. If you keep your boat in covered storage or invest in a boat cover to protect your boat, it’s going to need to be detailed less frequently than if you store your boat in a sunny area. Likewise, dark colored hulls will fade faster and show a need for detailing sooner than light colored hulls.

Detailing is also a matter of personal preference. If you want to keep your boat looking like it’s still on the showroom then you’ll want to spring for detailing more often than if you’re simply detailing to keep the boat looking good. Plan on having your boat detailed anywhere from once a year to several times a year as your time and budget allow.

How much does boat detailing cost?

Boat detailing costs vary based on a number of factors. For starters, a larger boat is going to cost more to have detailed, which is why a lot of boat detailers charge by your boat’s length offering their services by the foot. In addition, the length of time since your boat’s last detailing and the condition of its hull will be factored into the price as well. Boat’s that are regularly detailed will stay in better condition and be quicker and easier to have detailed whereas a boat that has gone years without a detailing is going to take more time to service and thus cost more.

One of the nice things about BoatEasy’s platform is that it gives boat owners the ability to compare prices for things like boat detailing from marine service providers across the country. Take a look at the boat detailing section on BoatEasy found here – boat detailing near me. In it you’ll see that detailing prices range from roughly $10 to $20 per foot. Of course it’s best to contact a detailer in your by sending them a message on BoatEasy to request a quote for your specific boat.

As part of your boat’s ownership costs I would recommend budgeting for 2 details a year if you use your boat year round and 1 a year if you use your boat seasonally. For a rough approximation of your boat’s yearly detailing expenses, take an average price of $15 per foot and multiply it by your boat’s length and then multiply that by the number of times per year you expect to have it detailed.

Something that is relatively new and many boaters are having success with is applying a protective ceramic coating to their boat. These coatings can be applied to the hull surfaces as well as things like engine cowlings and britework and will help extend the time needed between detailing sessions. Be sure to ask your boat detailer about this and if it’s applicable to your boat.

Is detailing something you can do yourself?

As boat owners we’re always looking for projects we can tackle ourselves to save money where we can. Detailing your boat is definitely something you can do yourself, especially if you store it on a trailer and have easy access to the vessel’s sides. There are a lot of great YouTube videos on boat detailing that offer instructional tips on how to best care for your boat. One word of caution, if you have experience detailing automobiles, don’t expect to rush in and detail your boat the same way. The epoxy resin used in gelcoat is different than clearcoat on cars and should be treated differently. Below is a good how-to video on detailing.

However, if you keep your boat in the water at a slip or on a mooring, detailing it will be a bit more difficult. Many professional detailers who operate in marinas have access to dinghies or rafts that they can use to reach the side’s of your vessel from the water which allows them to detail the entire hull. Many also include cleaning and polishing your boat’s metal surfaces in a detail as well as maintaining any wood aboard.

Finding a good boat detailer can be a challenge. If you do decide to hire someone be sure to check BoatEasy’s boat detailing category for hundreds of professional boat detailers offering their services to boat owners across the US. BoatEasy’s platform makes it easy to reach out, ask questions, request a quote, and find a boat detailer that’s right for you. Many boat owners who are perfectionists will have a detailer do a “trial” section of their boat and view the results before accepting them for the whole job. If you’re not quite that particular about your boat’s detailing needs, at the very least you should ask for before and after pictures of prior detailing jobs they’ve done of boat’s similar to yours.

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