There's a whole lot more to consider than just the purchase price. Here's everything you need to know as you consider the costs of boat ownership.

Owning a boat can provide you with exciting adventures and lasting memories. If you love spending your holidays on the water fishing, cruising, or touring with your family, owning a boat should be on your bucket list. Unlike a rental boat, boat ownership allows you to enjoy a journey whenever you like, with no time limits.

Setting aside the thrill of owning a boat for a moment, can you afford one?

When buying a boat, it’s not only the sales price that counts. You must also consider the average cost of boat ownership, such as fuel, maintenance, insurance coverage, and storage. It would help if you researched all the options before diving into such an investment.

This guide will give you all the information you need to own a boat. Let’s start with some of the things to keep in mind before purchasing a boat.

Table of Contents

Purchase Price vs. Ongoing Costs

The first thing that comes to mind when considering owning a boat is, obviously, the purchase price — how much are you going to have to pay upfront to buy the boat of your dreams? By making online price comparisons and asking around, you probably already have a rough idea of how much your dream boat costs.

The purchase price of a boat depends on many factors, most significantly the size of the boat, and the type of boat — which can vary drastically depending on whether you want something for the occasional weekend family day on the water, multi-day boat trips, something suitable for large parties, a small and simple cruiser for fishing, or any number of other boat types.

If you're the social type, make sure the boats you're considering have room enough for a group.
Want to have boat day parties like this? First, you've got to consider the cost.  

The purchase price can also vary greatly depending on the boat's age and condition. Buying a new boat can range from $500 to $500 million though looking at used boats can offer considerable savings and might enable you to set aside more cash for the inevitable ongoing costs you'll face in the future.

And of course, these prices are highly variable depending on the specific boat features and construction, but the biggest price jumps come when comparing entirely different styles of boat. For some rough ballpark examples, a brand-new cabin-free motorized fishing boat can easily cost up to $35,000, whereas a yacht will run you closer to $250,000 for a used one to $500,000 for a brand-new one.

But, is that purchase price all you need to consider?

Unfortunately, no, it's not. Owning a boat doesn’t end with paying the purchase price. You also have to consider the ongoing expenses, which can cost even more than the initial boat price in the long term. A simple thing such as trailering a boat can add significantly to your ownership cost, depending on how often you do it.

Some additional expenses that come with owning a boat include:

  • Maintenance costs
  • Storage costs
  • Fuel expenses
  • Insurance coverage
  • Equipment and accessories
  • Taxes, title, and registration
  • Boat trailing expenses

Are Boats a Good Investment?

A boat is a major life purchase, and even if you're not planning to use it for any commercial purposes, it could be considered an investment — and a significant one. But, is it a good investment?

To be frank, no, not really. Many financial experts don’t consider a boat a sound investment because of the ongoing costs of maintaining it. Also, since it is a depreciating asset, many do not view it as a wise purchase because you’ll spend more to own it in the long run. The specifics and calculus of depreciation are complex, and it's worth diving into some of the thorough reports that you can find online — you can try using a boat depreciation calculator, or studying the depreciation of specific boat types.

But wait! Owning a boat is about a lot more than just the financial side of it. If boating is your life's joy and a major part of your lifestyle, overall happiness, and how you like to spend your time, that's a very significant emotional element to weigh against the more cold and unforgiving financial numbers. And consider the other values a boat can bring to your life:

  • Personal fun: Some people can’t get enough of water adventures. You need a boat if you love being surrounded by blue skies and water. When personal enjoyment with family and friends gives you that adrenaline rush, no dollar amount can exceed such experiences.
  • Commercial value: Owning a boat can provide you with a side income. When you’re not using it for a family adventure, consider renting out your boat for an attractive cost to another family. If you take advantage of the rental feature, you can also offer water tours, fishing, or sporting activities and earn some extra money.
  • Resale value: While you will unquestionably take a big hit in depreciation to some degree, you can reduce it somewhat by taking excellent care of your boat and keeping it well maintained. And while you should never expect to be able to recoup all of what you spent on your boat purchase, your boat is still an asset with some resale value, unlike a consumable good.

Can I Afford a Boat?

It's natural to dream, but think carefully: are you really in a good financial position to turn your dream of owning a boat into reality? When you think about the purchase price of a boat and all the expenses of owning one, can you still afford it?

Of course, you need a solid budget before making this huge investment. Aside from the purchase price, list the monthly expenses for repairs, maintenance, insurance, storage, equipment, and accessories. Budget for a certain percentage, such as 20% of the value, to cover these expenses.

Also, think about the face value of your boat. More expensive boats tend to cost more on storage, maintenance, and gas than cheaper ones. If you buy a luxury boat, you’re also buying the life that comes with owning one.

To figure out whether you can afford a boat or not, you have to think about the following factors:

  • Your credit score: If you’re securing financing for a boat, you must consider your credit score to know how much you qualify for. If you have a high credit score, you’ll qualify for higher financing and pay a very low-interest rate. A score of 690 or higher will likely get you the best deal.
  • Consider your DTI: Your debt-to-income ratio will play another role in determining whether you can afford a boat. To calculate your DTI, add your monthly debt payments and divide them by your gross income. If you get anything less than 43%, you stand a good chance of being approved for a loan to buy your dream boat.
  • Your budget: How much you plan on the purchase price for a boat and the ongoing costs is important in determining if you can afford it. Don’t go above your budget just because you can afford it. Sticking to your budget will save you from the looming stress of owning a boat.

Generally, affording a boat means buying and maintaining one well without affecting your living expenses. Consider the initial purchase price, financing implications, and the expenses of keeping the boat on the water. If you find it hard to afford one after reviewing these factors, give yourself more time.

The Upfront Cost

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of buying a boat is the upfront cost. Other things, such as maintenance and fuel, tend to come later. So, what is the upfront cost of owning a boat? And why are boats so expensive?

A less expensive $150 floating boat will do for modest near-the-shore adventures. For a luxury cruise sure to turn heads, budget for thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

The upfront cost of a boat will depend on numerous factors, such as the brand, type, size, and extra features. For example, if you plan to purchase a luxury boat with all the amenities that money can buy, you’ll probably have to pay for an arm and a leg to get it.

How much does it cost to buy & own a boat?

You can control the price depending on your primary purpose of using the boat. For instance, you won’t want to spend money on all the technology and luxury amenities to enjoy a simple cruise on a holiday weekend. You can save on various accessories, such as lights and entertainment, if you only spend a short time on the water.

Some of the factors to keep in mind when deciding the upfront cost of purchasing a boat include:

  • Brand: Boats are available in different brands, affecting their prices. The cost of a small boat, 6-10 feet, can cost anywhere from $500 to $800. If you’re looking for brand-name superyachts, prepare to spend millions of dollars from the start.
  • Style: If you care much about the style of your boat, recognize that the most stylish ones will cost more. Higher-end boats will cost more than less elegant ones.
  • Size: If you want a bigger boat for your family and friends, prepare to pay more than you would for a simple one that accommodates three to five people. Any boat over 12 feet will need a bigger engine, which means a higher purchase price.

Used vs. New Boat Prices

There’s a huge price difference between used and new boats. Buying a new boat can be more expensive than buying a used one of the same type. Of course, the condition of the used boat will also factor into the price difference versus a new one. A second-hand boat that has only been running for two years will be more expensive than one that has been around for more than five years.

New boats come with luxury features and the latest technologies. They are generally immaculate because they’ve not experienced any wear and tear. The engine is still at maximum working capacity, and other amenities have not been touched. All the shine, beauty, and glamor are much more expensive.

Aside from the higher price, new boats tend to depreciate faster. In the first year of using your new boat, it will depreciate at about 10% and then reduce to around 8% to 6% per year in the subsequent years.

Even though buying a used boat comes with some added risks, used boats are much less expensive than new ones. You can find a good deal on a used boat on classifieds websites like Craigslist,, and Facebook Marketplace. Frequently, you can buy a good used boat for less than 50% of the cost of a new one.

Compared to new boats, used boats depreciate at a much slower pace. A used boat has already experienced much depreciation and tends to retain its value more than a new one.

The risk of buying a second-hand boat can include higher maintenance costs. Unless it is well-maintained, you risk buying a boat with pre-existing issues, from appearance and functionality to safety. Buying a new one guarantees peace of mind that you won’t get if you opt for a used one.

Different Boat Types & Sizes

Another significant factor determining how much upfront you’ll pay for a boat is its type and size. Boats come in different sizes and types; some might be wildly out of your budget range, and others quite affordable.

Typically, boats are classed by length:

  • Class A: 16 feet or under
  • Class 1: 16–26 feet
  • Class 2: 26–40 feet
  • Class 3: 40–65 feet

Many factors will determine the boat size most suited for you, including previous boating experience, storage space, activity, docking space, and budget.

Once you decide on the size, the type of boat you choose is another factor that drives the purchase price. The most common types of boats include:

  • Pontoon boats: Many owners start with a pontoon boat to enjoy water adventures. These boats are perfect for fishing or just traveling in the water. They’re not good for water sports because they are very slow. Pontoon boats cost between $10,000-$80,000.
  • Sailboats: A sailboat is another common type used for recreational activities such as cruising and racing. These boats are very economical, as you can use the sails and not fuel. You can get a quality sailboat for as low as $5,000.
  • Yachts: A yacht is usually associated with luxury and prestige. Yachts have high-end facilities and entertainment features, allowing people to live comfortably inside for lengths at a time. All this luxury does come at a price. A small-sized yacht can cost a whopping $500,000.
  • Fishing boats: Buying a fishing boat will ensure you enjoy unlimited fishing adventures. They tend to have a small seating area with an open deck space for storing caught fish. A new aluminum fishing boat can start at $25,000, while a fiberglass boat can range from $32,000-$35,000.
  • Speedboats: Speedboats, also known as motorboats, are equipped with engines. Because of its powerful engine, a speedboat tends to go very fast but consumes a lot of fuel. You can get a new speedboat for $30,000-$75,000.
  • Cabin cruisers: Cabin cruisers are also packed with all the best features money can buy. They work like mobile mini vacation homes, perfect for family adventures. A new cabin cruiser starts at about $100K and ranges to $500K.

The Best Value Boats for Your Money

To determine the best value for your money, return to the question, “Can you afford a boat?” Having looked at various boat prices, you can see that some boats are quite affordable, but others are expensive. But no matter how cheap or expensive a boat is, you must still consider the intended use.

How much does it cost to buy & own a boat?
An RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) can be a great and cost-effective choice for a casual boater.  

For example, you can’t buy a fishing boat for racing. So, even if a fishing boat is cheaper than a speedboat, you’ll still go for the latter because it will fulfill the intended purpose. You won’t get value for your money if you’re buying a boat you won’t use.

So, the best value for your money is one that fulfills its intended purpose. For instance, it won’t matter if you pay a hefty price for a cabin cruiser or a yacht as long as you spend a wonderful vacation with your loved ones onboard. So, when choosing the right boat, consider how it will serve you before considering its monetary value.

The Ongoing Costs

Whether buying a new or a used boat, you must look beyond the upfront costs. Keeping the boat active and ensuring it serves you well come at a cost. Knowing all the expenditures of owning a boat will help you devise a better plan so that these expenses won’t catch you off guard.

So, before buying your dream boat, consider the following ongoing expenses.

Marinas and Storage

Where will you keep your boat when it’s not on the water? If you plan to store it at a marina, you’ll have monthly fees for the storage. Marina costs vary, including indoor or outdoor storage, the storage period, and other services such as cleaning and security.

Storing your boat can range from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars monthly. For instance, storing your boat at a privately-owned storage facility might cost less than mooring it at a municipal or private marina. Additional fees with boat storage include utility fees, maintenance fees, car parking fees, and live aboard fees.

Fuel Costs

How much you spend on fuel will depend on a few things: your type of boat, how often you use it, and the specific type of fuel you need. A sailboat will obviously be much more economical regarding fuel, since it can run primarily on wind power. On the other hand, a speedboat will tend to have additional costs because it consumes more fuel to power the engine.

You might also spend more on boat fuel if you carry a huge load or encounter unfavorable sea conditions. And remember that fuel prices often fluctuate with the current economic situation, so plan your boating trips accordingly.

Apart from the fuel, you’ll also have to pay for other operational expenses such as oil, pumps, lights, batteries, and specialized equipment. One thing you can do to reduce fuel costs is to use a fuel consumption gauge. Also, consider buying newer model boats designed for better fuel efficiency.

Equipment & Accessories

To take your boat out on the water, you’ll likely equip it with different accessories. Some accessories are for your own use, while others are essential for running the boat.

The good news is that some of these accessories are one-time expenses. However, you must factor them in because they contribute significantly to overall boat costs.

Some accessories and equipment to consider for your boat include:

  • Lifejackets
  • Fishing tackle
  • Watersports equipment
  • First aid kits
  • Towels
  • Personal locator beacons
  • Marina radio
  • EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon)
  • Extra fishing rod holders
  • Fire extinguishers
  • PFDs
  • Electronics
  • Visual distress signal
  • Sound-producing device
  • Boat cushions
  • Tackle storage
  • Coolers

Of course, the accessories you need depend on the boat type, your purpose for using the boat, and how long you will spend on the water. Your needs also depend on the season, so you might only need some things at a time. Budget for the equipment as you need it, and treat your boat to an accessory upgrade occasionally.

Licenses and Education

A boat operator license and a boater’s safety education course are mandatory in many states. When boaters are educated on operating a boat and safety measures, they’ll be less likely to get into an accident on the water.

The weather conditions can change at any time, and it might be difficult to control the boat if you don't have the training you gain from taking safety courses. These courses remind boaters about safety rules, operational laws, and general boating knowledge.

Every state has specific boater education requirements that you should review. Don’t just take the course because it’s a requirement; consider the benefits. You can select online or in-person classes for free or for a small instructional fee.

After training, you’ll also need to pay title fees and registration. Your boat registration is the identification number on its bow. Getting your boat registration and title varies from state to state, so look into your state's requirements. Registration and title costs range between $20 to more than $200, depending on the vessel's type, size, and purpose.

Maintenance Costs

Whether you buy a used or new boat, you have to maintain it well to keep it in good condition and retain its resale value. Boat maintenance includes cleaning, waxing, engine tune-ups, and painting. You might also have to deal with repairs, such as electrical and plumbing issues.

Yearly boat maintenance can cost about 5% to 10% of the boat's total value. The cost might be less or more depending on factors such as frequency of use, boat age, and weather conditions. You can also handle some maintenance issues yourself to save money.

Remember that a new boat will cost less to repair than a used one. However, as the boat ages, it will depreciate and require more maintenance. Also, if you use your boat in freshwater, you’ll save more on maintenance and cleaning than if you use it in salt water.


You need to insure your boat against unexpected occurrences, such as an accident or damage. The right coverage will give you peace of mind whenever you are out on the water or have your boat in a storage facility.

The costs of insuring your boat also depend on several factors, such as the type, size, and frequency of use. Other factors influencing the cost include add-ons such as towing, salvage, docking, and storm coverage.

Boat insurance coverage varies from state to state and with the insurance company you choose to work with. Conduct extensive research and read reviews before choosing an insurer for your boat. Once you identify one, let them give you a quote so that you can estimate your annual premiums and if they fit into your budget.

So, What's the Total Cost?

Buying a boat will be expensive or cheap, depending on what you want and how prepared you are. It’s important to research the purchase of various boat types and the ongoing costs before you make the bold step.

You might pay twice the actual boat price if you calculate annual fuel costs, maintenance, storage, repair, accessories, and more. For example, if you bought a yacht for $250,000, the ongoing costs might add up to $500,000 annually.

Remember, this figure includes one-time costs such as registration, training, and equipment. The amount might not be the same for subsequent years since you won’t have to register your boat again or take certain educational courses.

The total investment also depends on your lifestyle. Apart from mandatory costs, other expenses accompany spending time on the water. These include food, drinks and ice, a tour guide, and other things to make your boat adventure enjoyable. Consider all the factors of owning a boat and fit them to your situation, then calculate your total cost.

The Bottom Line

Given the fun and memories that owning a boat brings to the family, buying a boat can be a good ‘ROE’ - Return on Emotions. However, if you don’t prepare for all the expenses of owning a boat, you might not enjoy it in the long run. You must research and understand all the costs and aspects of a boating lifestyle.

Remember, you’re not just buying a boat; you're buying the luxury of owning one. You can only enjoy your boat when you’re not stressing about the finances of owning it.

Boat Buying FAQs

How do I determine the cost of a boat?

Boat prices vary by brand, size, and type. You also look beyond the purchase price for ongoing maintenance, fuel, storage, and insurance costs.

Why do boats consume so much fuel?

Boats run on water instead of land, consuming more fuel than cars. Many forces drag it behind, such as wind resistance, waves, and aerodynamics, which contribute to more fuel consumption.

How long does a new boat last?

A new boat can last between 5-50 years. Factors affecting a boat’s lifespan include material (wood, aluminum, or fiberglass), frequency of use, and maintenance.

What is the most expensive type of boat?

A yacht and a cabin cruiser are the most expensive boats, ranging from $500,000 to millions.