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Costs of having a boat

So you’re planning to buy a boat and spend some time on the water with your family or friends. But are you fully aware of the estimated costs of having one

Most people know more or less how much money they want to spend on the boat, but the post-purchase costs are not as clear. And a boat is just like a car, a bike, or a house – you need to pay for its repairs, insurances, and general maintenance.

If you don’t know how much does it cost to own a family boat, then you’re in the right place! The more knowledge on boat ownership you have before getting one for yourself, the less stress and uncertainty you will have afterward.

How much do I pay for mooring a boat?

You surely need a safe place to keep your boat when you’re not using it. One of the first questions that pop up when estimating the cost of having a boat is: how much do I pay for its storage? For small boat owners, the answer is simple: nothing, if you have enough place on your property (either in the garage or outdoor).

Small boats for fishing or for family trips can be easily stored on trailers. If their size doesn’t exceed 5 meters in length, you’re probably good to go even with a small-sized trailer.

If for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to keep the boat on your property, you’d need to pay for dock or harbor space. Prices vary in different countries, but you shouldn’t spend more than 300€ per year for a small boat mooring, including both winter and summer season.

…Unless you know someone, who knows someone, who can moor your boat for even less money than that. Small boat owners definitely catch our drift. 

Maintenance and equipment

Having a boat comes with the price of maintaining it. These costs, however, hugely vary on its type and the way you use it. Some key factors that influence the cost of boat maintenance are:

  • boat size 
  • engine type and size (if there’s an engine at all)
  • usage frequency
  • boat condition (brand new or used)
  • type of usage
  • number of accessories 

Obviously, the bigger the boat, the more accessories it’s equipped with or the bigger its engine is, the more maintenance costs you will bear. Especially if you’re a gadget freak or want to boat with as many home comforts as possible. 

If, on the other hand, you’re a fan of affordable boating and you’re planning to just equip your boat with items required for sufficient boating, then the baseline of maintenance cost won’t be high. 

It goes without saying that there are companies that will happily take care of your boat’s maintenance. In exchange for money, obviously. And you know what? We have good news! If you plan on having a small boat with basic equipment and no engine, you can keep it low cost and do most technical work yourself!

Boat maintenance doesn’t have to go much further than to flush it down with fresh water after each use and make sure it’s properly stored. Just these simple tasks can keep your family boat fresh and ready to go.

What about the service, though? Generally speaking, a small boat should be hauled out and antifouled at least once a year. The same rule applies to an engine. You should have it serviced every 12 months or 100 hours, whichever comes first. However, if all you do is go on family or fishing trips and don’t have an accident in the meantime, you might as well do every 3-5 years.

If at all. 

Insurance costs

Do I have to insure the boat?” – many first-time buyers ask. For the majority of countries in the world the answer to this question is “no”. But having in mind that the boat insurance costs are particularly low (especially compared to e.g. cars), you should definitely get to have your boat insured. 

Marine insurance is a very competitive market, where prices are reasonable, especially if you’re aiming for low-risk boating. At the lower level of the market, it’s entirely possible to get third-party-only cover for less than 100€ a year. 

For yachts, and luxury boats these costs don’t hurt too much, either. The usual cost of insurance equals approximately 0.5% of the boat’s value.

Fuel costs

This cost is very much dependable on the number of times the boat is used during the season. You can more or less figure out how much it will cost you, by estimating the distance covered, and checking your engine’s fuel consumption figures online.

Many boat users, however, intentionally choose not to use engines, for different reasons. Then the cost of fuel translates into the cost of food needed to fuel your muscles with energy for rowing.  

Or your crew’s muscles, obviously. 

License and registration fees

This is a good one because, just like with insurance, the costs compared to other vehicles or houses, are way lower, or even non-existent. In The Netherlands, for example, you don’t need a license if your boat isn’t over 15 meters long or it’s not a motorboat that can extend the speed of 20 km/hour. 

Do you need to register a small boat, though? No, you don’t! It’s not compulsory for small boats either. It might, however, come in handy if you’re planning to travel with it abroad. A license might save you lots of time when dealing with other countries’ law enforcement and officials. 

On the bright side of it: in most countries, registering a boat is a very easy procedure, with minimal paperwork and no need for a particular country’s nationality or even residence.

Ready to go for a family trip or go boat fishing?

The only certain expense you need to cover is the registration. All the other costs, such as storage, insurance, or repairs, you can either keep at a very low-budget or even fully avoid.

Are you ready to set the sails, then? Be sure to read our guide on things you need to know before you buy a boat, too!