Texas Living

The Hidden Costs of Owning a Boat

By Peter Simek 4.1.21

The idea of owning your own boat may conjure a range of romantic images: radiant sunsets at sea, water skis zipping over the curling wake of a speedboat, a freshly baited hook dropped into a glassy lake at dawn. Rarely, however, do the dreams that motivate aspiring boat owners to take the plunge on their first boat purchase include all the hidden costs of owning a boat.

The price of a new boat can range from a few thousand dollars to a few million, but that purchase price doesn’t include the many annual costs that some new owners don’t discover until their investments have already set sail. But you don’t need to let the fear and uncertainty of these unexpected expenses keep you from your dreams. With a little research and planning, understanding everything that goes into being a boat owner can help make your time on the water less stressful and more fun.

To get you started, here are eight areas of expenditure to calculate into the cost of owning a boat.

1. Type of Boat

The costs of owning a boat are dependent on the kind of boat you plan to purchase. The lowest entry into boating are Jet Skis, which can set owners back anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 but come with fewer costs than larger powerboats or sailboats. But all boats will require fuel, maintenance, insurance, and other back-end costs.

Whether you are on one of Texas’ many beautiful lakes or cruising the bays and oceans of the Texas coast, there are typically four kinds of boats you’ll see: pontoon boats, outboard motorboats, inboard motorboats, and sailboats. Each come with their own related costs. Powerful speedboats may require more fuel than a small sailing dingy. Larger sailing vessels will require regular sail replacement and rigging refits. The age and condition of a boat will also play a role in ongoing maintenance costs.

2. Mooring and Docking

Where is your boat going to live? The answer will determine a substantial portion of your overall costs. Smaller powerboats that can be taken in and out of the water with each use won’t need to pay a monthly rate for a mooring or dock slip — but trailers can still run from $2,000 to $5,000.

Slip rates will vary by location, design, and the size of your boat. For example, a 28-foot covered slip at Lewisville Lake’s Cottonwood Creek Marina runs upward of $4,000 per month. On the Gulf Coast, a slip at the Bayland Marina will cost about $2 per foot per night. It differs across Texas, so research the slip rate at the area you’ll be sailing before purchasing the boat to grasp the larger financial picture.

3. Winterizing and Storage

Texas boaters are lucky: Hot summers and temperate winters mean that you can usually use your boat year-round. But when your boat needs maintenance or protection during hurricane season, it will need to come out of the water — that’s why winterizing and storage is an important (and often overlooked) cost of owning a boat. Haul-out costs run, on average, about $26 per foot. Then it can cost between $10 and $15 per foot to shrink-wrap your boat for storage, with an additional $50 per foot to actually store it. In total, that’s as much as $91 per foot for the entire package — a substantial cost to factor in if your boat undergoes annual maintenance.

4. Maintenance

While not entirely hidden, maintenance is one of the costs of owning a boat that can be difficult to estimate. If you’re boating in saltwater, the wear and tear on the boat’s systems and gear will be greater than in freshwater. Like car repairs, some years you may go without needing much maintenance, while in other years everything seems to break at once.

The age and condition of the boat will also determine how much annual maintenance you may expect. On average, prepare to budget up to 10% of your boat’s total value for annual maintenance costs. These costs will also be dependent on whether you hire professionals to do the work or if you can do some of the maintenance yourself.

5. Fuel

Annual fuel costs depend on your boat and its frequency of use. Some motorboats can burn through 20 to 30 gallons of gasoline per hour. If you are burning fuel at that rate and spend five hours on the water each outing, then you’re looking at 100 to 150 gallons of fuel per day. Depending on how often you take your boat out, you’re potentially looking at spending thousands of dollars a year on gas. Consider fuel costs in your budget accordingly.

6. Gear and Upgrades

Like any new toy, after a while, you’ll be looking to upgrade. Whether it’s new engines, onboard fishing gear, new sails, or rigging, every boat is going to require investment over time. A brand-new fish-finder, for example, could set you back $900 or more. A radar system for an offshore sailboat could run north of $2,000. And don’t forget to set aside some budget to make sure your onboard safety gear is up to date and in good condition.

7. Insurance

Texas sees thousands of boating accidents every year, resulting in hundreds of deaths and millions of dollars in property damage. Boat insurance is simply a must. Thankfully, your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent can guide you through the insurance process. You are always welcome to contact your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to learn about what policy could be right for you.

8. Depreciation and Off-Loading

Sadly, like your car, your boat begins to lose value as soon as you take the keys. While depreciation costs will vary based on the make, model, age, and condition of the boat, a good rule of thumb is to expect a 10% depreciation during the first year and 7% depreciation during subsequent years. When the time eventually comes to sell your boat, there are hidden costs there too. Factor in around eight months to market and shop your boat and a 10% to 15% brokerage fee when the deal is done.

As the old adage goes, the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. But the days in between don’t have to be filled with stress and anxiety. With a little planning and budgeting, each day on the water can be worth every penny.

With your brand-new boat in tow, embark on a tour of our favorite Texas lakes.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. 
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