7 Key Factors to Consider


If you’ve been wondering about the cost of owning a boat, it’s important to understand first and foremost, that there is a boat for every budget. Boats can range from very basic jon boats and aluminum fishing boats to offshore sportfishing boats that are 40 feet in length or more.

Cost to Own a Boat

How much does it cost to own a boat? If you consider a lower tier starter boat, such as a 16 to 18-foot Jon boat or aluminum utility boat for freshwater boating, an average cost for the boat would be in the $3000 to $6000 range (not including trailer, motor, or other costs). Jon boats are a great way to get out and experience fishing and boating on calm inland lakes or rivers at a very cost-effective level.

The cost to own a boat will vary depending on the type of boat and factors such as boat registration, insurance, boater education, fuel, storage, and equipment, as well as maintenance. If you’ve never owned a boat, there are entry-level books, along the lines of Owning a Boat for Dummies or Power Boating for Dummies, that can give you a beginner’s overview of what’s involved and how to own a boat. Consider these seven factors when learning more about the expenses of owning a boat.

1. Boat Registration

Each state has different titling fees and registration costs (also check with your county to see if there are any fees that are specific to your county), these numbers usually depend on the class and length of the boat. In most cases, boat registration costs are paid to either the state fish and wildlife agency or the department of motor vehicles. Check with your state fish and wildlife agency or department of motor vehicles to get specific boat registration costs and registration information that applies to your state.

2. Boat Insurance

Your boat’s age, boater safety training (safety courses can lower your insurance rate), boat type, your boating history, levels of coverage, and the location of the boat will all be considered when you are given an insurance rate. When you are close to making a final purchase, call your insurance company to get an idea of how much your annual premiums will be.

3. Boater Education

Studies show that educated boaters are less likely to be involved in accidents on the water. Learning the boating rules of the road and boating safety best practices is important to ensure the safety of those onboard and all others who use our waterways. Check into the boater education requirements for your specific state and learn about the benefits (such as insurance discounts) that come from completing an approved online boat safety course.

4. Boat Fuel

Fuel costs are a factor that new boaters often inquire about. According to the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, nearly 95% of boats on the water today are under 26’ in length. Boats of this size don’t require excessive amounts of gas, but if you want a rough estimate, there are online boat fuel calculators that you can reference. Of course, you’ll need to remember that fuel prices will always fluctuate.

5. Storage Costs

Unless you plan to buy a small boat to keep at your own dock or have room for storage on your property, storage should be factored into the cost of owning a boat. Call a marina near you or check with a dry boat storage facility to find out what monthly storage or dockage fees are likely to cost.

6. Boat Equipment

Budget for safety equipment and boating accessories. This can include, but is not limited to, items such as life jackets or PFDs, personal locator beacons, EPIRB, marine radio, electronics, extra rod holders, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, visual distress signal, sound producing device (such as an air horn), life raft (depending on size of vessel), coolers, boat cushions, and tackle storage.

7. Maintenance and Repairs

As a general guideline, boating experts estimate that owning a boat (applies to new boats) will cost somewhere around 2% of the purchase price to maintain each year. For used boats, the general estimate is around 10% of the purchase price for maintenance. Although, it’s important to keep in mind that maintenance costs will vary quite a bit depending on the type and size of the boat and how often you use it.

If you want to “test the waters” before buying a boat, there are other budget-friendly options that will give you access to the boating lifestyle. You can join a local boat club (which saves you storage, insurance, maintenance, and repair expenses) or you can ask about boat rentals at a nearby marina. Summer has arrived and the water is open – there’s no better time to start making boating plans.


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Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.



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