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Home > Financial Resource Center Home > Financial Planning > Thinking About Buying a Boat?

Thinking About Buying a Boat?

Summer is here, and it’s hot. On your last visit to the beach, did you find yourself admiring all the marine vehicles floating on the waves? If so, you might be feeling the call of the sea. The idea of spending some days as the literal captain of your own ship is appealing to just about everyone. But before you set sail, make sure you’re ready for the financial burden of boat ownership. The sticker price is just the beginning of a long list of costs.

Boating Lessons and Safety Certificate

Before you take the helm, you’ll need to know how. Boats aren’t as easy to skipper as vehicles are to drive; there are no brakes. If you don’t know how to properly dock your boat, you could cause thousands of dollars in damage¾both to your boat and to the dock. Hopefully you can find a friend or relative willing to teach you because lessons can be very expensive.

Fortunately, unlike driving a vehicle, most states only require a reasonably priced safety certificate. You don’t need to pass official lessons like driver’s education for a license.

Docking and Storage

Unless you live on the water 24/7, you’re going to need a place to dock your boat. Docking costs vary with the size of the boat and the location, from a few hundred dollars for the summer season to thousands per month. For example, if you dock near the heart of a busy city, demand for space will cause fees to be higher than if you docked at a marina farther off the beaten path.

Unless you live somewhere with year-round warm weather, you’ll also need a place to store your boat for the winter. You can either buy a trailer and store your boat at home, or you can rent space at a self-storage facility. Depending on the facility, you can probably expect to spend at least $1,000 per season.


Boats can require even more maintenance than a vehicle, especially if they are used a lot. You’ll spend a pretty penny on everything from repainting the hull to annual engine tune-ups. Labor for engine service often runs about $30 to $40 an hour. There’s also all the equipment you’ll need on board, including life jackets and ropes.


Some states require boat owners to carry liability insurance, while others do not. However, even if the state you live in doesn’t require insurance, the marina you dock at may. Marine insurance isn’t as straightforward as auto insurance, so make sure to spend time shopping around for the best quote. You can expect wide variances in the cost of coverage.


Don’t forget: if your boat is motorized, you’ll need fuel. You’ll be filling up with either gasoline or diesel, both of which are much more expensive at the marina. The premium over “land gas” can be up to 100 percent. Many boat owners choose to fill up gas cans and lug them onto the boat to save money.


Depending on your state, you may have to pay sales tax on your boat, as well as property tax. Fortunately, you may also be eligible for certain federal tax deductions. Make sure to look up regulations for your state and factor them into your budget.

Despite the cost, few summer activities compare to spending a leisurely day on the water. If you’ve always dreamed of having a boat, doing your homework and boating within your budget will set you on the right course for many seasons of fun in the captain’s chair.

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