Unexpected Boat Ownership Costs

Considering purchasing a new boat, or maybe you’re a new boat owner? If so you’ve probably had someone tell you that B.O.A.T stands for “break out another thousand”. This common expression among boaters provides a little levity to offset the financial sting of the many unexpected costs that come with boat ownership. For new boat owners it can be hard to see beyond their boat’s purchase price, which may be substantial. However, it’s important to factor in the other costs that come with boat ownership so that they don’t overwhelm your budget. Like any major purchase, proper budgeting and education can make boat ownership fun and enjoyable while not breaking the bank. When it comes to expenses, there are those you can easily see coming like regular maintenance, fuel costs, and the cost of gear for  your boat. However, there are also a lot of expenses that most first time boat owners fail to account for.


Boat Storage Fees

New boat owners are often caught up in the excitement of their new purchase and haven’t given much thought to where and how they will keep it. For  smaller boats kept on a trailer, storage in their owners yard is a perfectly acceptable option that works great for millions of boat owners. Storing your boat at home isn’t always an option though. Boats that must be kept in the water, most sailboats for instance, will require a slip or mooring to keep your boat at. Both options can easily add up to several hundred to over a thousand dollars a month in fees dependent on your boat’s size and your location. Similarly, dry storage marinas where your boat is kept in a rack with other boats, can also cost several hundred dollars a month but are usually more affordable than a slip.

The solution? Plan ahead. Research the type and size of boat you’re looking to purchase and the storage options available for it. Storage facilities and marinas usually charge by the foot so longer boats will cost more to store. Weigh your options and choose the one that best fits how you will use your boat and your budget. It’s a good idea to start this research well before you buy a boat since many facilities often have long waiting lists for prospective clients.

Regular Boat Cleanings

One thing new boat owners can find hard to appreciate is just how important regularly cleaning your boat is. A house or a car certainly looks better when it’s cleaned but cleaning isn’t essential to their use and they’ll probably be ok if you miss a cleaning or two. Not so with boats, especially those kept in salt water. Salt water has two mechanisms that are actively harming your boat at all times; salt and marine growth.

Boats are designed to be kept in salt water but even the best designed boats will suffer from prolonged exposure to salt. When left on exposed metal parts, salt can cause rust and corrosion which then lead to mechanical and electrical issues aboard your boat. While problems aren’t likely to occur immediately, a single exposure left unattended can cause problems down the road. Make sure to thoroughly wash your boat to remove all salt spray, whether you do this yourself or hire someone to clean your boat for you is up to you, just make sure to have it done regularly.

Marine Growth is the other issue boat owners need to watch out for. Also known as biofouling, marine growth is the accumulation of marine organisms on your boat’s hull. As your boat sits in salt water it becomes a part of its environment, providing a surface on which organisms can attach themselves and grow. To combat this, regular cleanings of your boat’s bottom are necessary. For new boat owners, you can think of these cleanings like mowing the grass and no matter how well you mow, it will grow back. The best way to keep your boat’s hull clean is to hire a diver that offers boat bottom cleaning services. Divers perform regular cleanings on boats kept in the water and also provide other services like hull inspections and zinc anode replacement. You can expect to pay somewhere between $2-3 per foot of boat length per cleaning which you’ll need to have done about once a month depending on your location. While each cleaning may not seem that expensive, make sure to factor the total amount for the year into your annual budget.

Boat Insurance

Boat insurance can be easy to obtain and affordable or almost impossible to obtain and incredibly expensive, it all depends. Factors that influence the price of insurance are the type of boat, your experience, and most importantly your location. In general, faster boats with more horsepower are going to be more expensive to insure than smaller boats or sailboats and new boat owners with limited experience will be charged higher rates than more experienced owners. Additionally, boats kept in locations where risks like hurricanes and theft are more common will be more expensive to insure than those in more secure locations. Because of these factors, the same boat can have vastly different insurance rates depending on where it’s kept and how much experience you have boating. The best way to budget for your boat’s insurance is to talk to several insurance agents and ask them for a quote. Many times major insurers like Geico that you might already have a policy with can give you the best rate. However for some boats and some locations your best bet will be to contact an agent that works with specialty insurers that focus solely on insuring boats.


There will always be unexpected expenses when it comes to boat ownership, hence the popularity of the “B.O.A.T.” expression. As a new boat owner your best course is to budget for as many “expected” expenses like regular maintenance and cleanings as you can, and then leave some of your budget in reserve for the expenses you don’t see coming. Want to save money on your boat’s expenses? Learn to do some of the work on your boat yourself. Paying a professional to work on your boat is expensive. If you can troubleshoot basic issues yourself, you’ll save a lot of money over the years. And for what you can’t handle yourself, find a reliable and affordable professional in your area that you can trust to work on your boat.

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