Buying a boat sounds exciting, doesn’t it? It seems that Americans are giving into that excitement because they’re buying boats for entertainment purposes at astounding rates. New boat sales are up 30% in 2021 compared to 2020 figures, according to the “New Powerboat Registrations Report” released by the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
So, if you’re thinking about buying a boat, now is the time. Boat manufacturers are trying to gain back some of the sales momenta they lost in 2020, and you can find plenty of great deals at dealerships throughout the United States.
Even the used market is on fire right now. The used market offers people on a budget to get more boat for their buck, and there are plenty of listings with choice deals available online. When you’re thinking about buying a boat, it’s easy to get lost in discovering the different designs, models, and brands available.
Settling on the right boat for you also means you’ll be working with a budget. You can find boats available for a few hundred bucks for an old beat-up kayak to tens of millions of dollars for a superyacht.
So, how much does a boat cost? That’s a challenging figure to pin down, but we’ll give it our best shot in this post.
- Boats Vary in Cost Depending on Several Factors
- Secondary Expenses for Boat Owners
- Totaling the Costs of Boat Ownership
Boats Vary in Cost Depending on Several Factors
Choosing the right boat requires you to understand what you want to do with it on the water. There are several boat styles available, and each of them comes with specific functionality for your recreational needs. If you like fishing inland on lakes in shallow water, a flats boat or Jon boat is a great choice. A cabin cruiser is probably a better choice if you enjoy getting out onto the open ocean tripping between islands.
The cost of the boat you want to own depends on several factors other than the design alone. Some of the other contributing elements of the vessel that influence the price tag are the following.
- Size and style.
- Manufacturing Brand.
- New or Pre-owned Status.
- Demand in the area.
- Location of sale.
- Accessories, features, and extras loaded with the boat.
Let’s unpack each of these cost factors to understand how they influence your boat’s price tag.
Style and Size
It goes without saying that the larger the boat, the more expensive the price tag. That rule applies across all categories of boats and all brands. For example, a 35-foot yacht is going to cost a fortune, but it’s going to be a lot less expensive than a 110-foot superyacht.
When you’re purchasing the boat, design elements, like cuddy’s, cabins, and V-berth accommodation, are highly prized by people that enjoy a longer experience out on the water. These boats are usually more expensive than open-plan models that don’t have this level of storage and accommodation onboard the vessel.
If you’re into watersports, factors like center console driver setups and Bimini tops are important to help you get the most out of your time on the water. Seating and engines are also a consideration, and you’ll need bigger motors to power longer and heavier vessels in the water, adding to the price tag.
Boats are like cars, and some brands offer you a premium boating experience, while others are more of a bare-bones manufacturing brand offering you the most affordable way of getting out on the water. If you’re looking at your boat as a long-term investment, then it’s a good idea to go with a premium boating brand that holds its value.
For example, a Yamaha boat will hold its value longer than a Kingfisher. That makes a difference if you ever have plans to sell the boat in the future. Typically, the premium brands have a much higher build quality than the cheaper ones, and you’ll get better service life, with less need for repairs during the ownership of your boat.
New or Used?
We all wish we had the option of buying a new boat, but sometimes, we might not have the money. If that’s the case, going used can offer you an affordable method of buying a boat. Buying used is also a great way to get more boat for your money, and you could end up stepping up a few models on your boat if you buy a pre-owned model rather than buying it at the dealership.
Some pre-owned boats come loaded with all the extras, and they have low running hours. The owner might have gotten bored with the boating lifestyle or decided it wasn’t what they expected. As a result, they list the boat for sale, and you get a fantastic deal.
It pays to spend time shopping around when you’re buying a pre-owned model. When assessing the boats you want, round it up to a shortlist and take some time to decide on the right choice. When you choose to make the purchase, make sure you have a professional assessor go over every inch of the boat to prevent you from missing unseen damage or mechanical/electrical problems.
Buyer Demand and Region
The demand for boats in your area also plays a role in the price of boats. If there is no stock in the market, it’s going to mean that people selling in the pre-owned market can ask for higher prices. When more inventory arrives in the market, the prices will start to drop.
If you can’t find the right boat at the right price, consider looking at other markets along the same coastline. You could always purchase a boat in the Carolinas and drive it back to Florida over a weekend or so.
Prices can swing widely, depending on the location of the boat and the season. In some markets like New York, the wintertime sees a slow in demand as the weather gets colder, seeing a drop in market pricing. However, there is no such issue in Florida, where prices seem to be more seasonally stable.
Average Boat Pricing by Model
The type of boat you buy also plays a role in the pricing. Some of the top flats boat fishing models could run you upwards of $200,000 for a 24-foot model, while the same size center console boat might be less than $20,000.
Here is what you can expect to pay for a new entry-level model in each of the following boat categories.
- Jon boats – $500 and $3,000
- Catamarans – $10,000
- Sail Boats – $12,000
- Pontoon Boats and Bow Rider boats – $15,000 to $50,000
- Deck Boats – $20,000 to $50,000
- Fishing Boats – $25,000 to $100,000
- Airboats – $30,000 to $100,000
- Cuddy Cabin boats – $50,000
- Speed Boats – $75,000
- Trawlers – $90,000
- Canal Boats and House Boats – $100,000
- Cabin Cruisers – $100,000 to $500,000
- Yachts – $300,000+
You can find deals at various price points depending on the brand of the boat and the model/accessories you buy. If you’re buying in the pre-owned market, you could find deals with up to 60% off the sticker price. The saving depends on the age and condition of the boat and the buyer’s motivation.
The Features of Boats and how They Influence the Price Tag
Similar to cars, boats come as standard packages with base features and optional extras. The features available for your boat can include items like upgraded upholstery or seating, custom paintwork, engine upgrades, entertainment systems, living quarters fixtures and fittings, and more.
You can select your features depending on your budget, how you intend to use the boat, and who will be using the boat with you. The needs of a family out on the water will be different to a 20-something looking for a party boat.
Some of the optional extras available when purchasing a new boat are the following.
- State-of-the-art GPS and chart plotter tech.
- Stereos and AV systems.
- Specialty RBG lighting.
- Solar systems and battery charging.
- Bimini top sunshades.
- Swim or diving platforms.
- Autopilot and power steering.
- Joystick user controls.
- Custom seating, flooring, and paint finishes.
- Paint sealing and protection.
- Vacuflush heads.
- Satellite Weather-tracking tech.
- Climate control and air in cabins and cockpits.
- Full kitchens and fridges in berths.
- Luxury accommodations.
- Suntanning areas.
- Different seating configurations and upholstery options.
- Engine configurations.
- Driver configurations.
- Fishing gear.
- Trailers and trailer accessories.
- Additional storage.
It’s important to note that you can end up spending a lot more on the extras than you plan, and it’s easy to go over budget. While you might think it’s worth it at the time, you need to consider the boat’s resale value. It’s important to note that the extras won’t add anything extra to the price tag over a standard model in the secondary market.
However, having extras on your boat does create more demand for it in the secondary market than other boats. For example, if someone’s thinking about buying your boat or another one exactly like it, the extras you have on your boat could end up making or breaking the deal.
Secondary Expenses for Boat Owners
After settling on the model and extras, you’re almost there. However, boat owners need to understand that there are ongoing fees and expenses involved with boat ownership.
Here are some of the extra costs involved with the lifetime ownership of your boat.
- Finance fees.
- Marina and mooring fees.
- Servicing costs.
- Repair costs.
- Storage costs.
- Insurance and licensing fees.
If you’re financing the boat, it adds significantly to the monthly costs of your boat ownership, so account the overhead costs into your budget before making your purchase decision. The last thing you want is to buy a boat you can afford, but you can’t afford to do anything with it.
Suppose we go back to our car analogy. Your boat also has annual running costs you need to consider, and then there’s always the maintenance. One thing about boats is that there will always be maintenance involved with ownership. Even the new models require extensive care and scheduled service plans to ensure they stay seaworthy and ready for your next trip out onto the water.
If you’re buying a new boat, the dealer usually includes a servicing plan for the first few years of ownership. This servicing plan reduces the initial cost of maintaining the boat. However, when these plans run out, the maintenance of new boats can get expensive.
As a result, many boat owners end up selling their boats when the servicing period ends. If you’re looking at a new model boat at a great price, the chances are that it’s out of servicing plan window, and the owner can’t afford to service it anymore. It may present a good deal but check on the ongoing servicing costs before committing to your boat purchase.
Regarding out-of-plan servicing costs, you can expect to pay around $500 to service and winterize a 4-stroke 150-HP outboard motor. Typically, saltwater motors require more frequent servicing than freshwater motors, so consider those costs when buying pre-owned models.
Marina Slip Fees
Most boat owners that live aboard their vessels dock it at a marina. The marina has all the services and amenities you need to make life on the water as simple as living in an apartment building. However, the marina charges you a monthly fee for the services and docking your boat in the slip.
Slip fees can vary depending on your location and the quality of the marina. You could end up paying anywhere from $85 to $1,000 a month in marina fees. It depends on the size of your boat, the reputation of the marina, and your location on the coastline.
Storage is also a premium on boats. If you’re purchasing a model with V-berth accommodation and storage, you’re going to pay more for the boat than a center console with an open plan deck.
Regarding external storage of the boat at a yard, you’re going to encounter some basic costs for storing your boat long-term. Shrink-wrapping of the boat usually costs around $10 to 15 per foot. So, a 21-foot boat costs between $200 to $300 to protect while in storage.
Winterizing the boat with covered storage can add around $50 per foot for interior storage, costing approximately $1,000 to store out 12-foot boat for the winter season.
The costs of in-season storage for boats range by waterway and region. You can use a guideline of around $1,000 to $5,000 per season. Indoor rack dry storage is approximately 1-1/2 times more than in-water dock storage space, but it’s the safer choice and less harsh on your boat.
If you’re buying a new boat, some dealer will include a trailer with your purchase or work it into the financing fees. However, you’re going to need to purchase one if you can’t get it included in the deal. Typically, most pre-owned boats will come with a trailer because the previous owner had to buy one.
The best places to get trailers included with a new boat are at shows and fairs where boat manufacturers are marketing. Or if your local dealer has a sale on, ask them if they’ll toss in the trailer included with the price.
You’ll also need to consider the maintenance of the trailer. New tires, greasing, and electrical checks for the lights and coupling are all additional costs of ownership included in your boat.
Education and Licenses
If you live in a state that requires you to take a boat safety course or learner course, you’ll have to include these costs into your boat ownership.
Some states don’t require this as necessary, but it’s a good idea for all new boat owners to complete this course before taking to the water in their new vessel.
Like cars, boats also need insurance. If you’re boat sinks and you don’t have insurance, you’re going to feel pretty silly.
If you’re financing a boat, the lender will require you to insure it before you can take delivery of the boat at the dealership.
Remember to shop around for your insurance and get quotes from at least three companies. Look at the deductible requirements for claiming, and ensure you’re getting the value you’re paying for with the insurer.
Totaling the Costs of Boat Ownership
- So, let’s assume you buy a pre-owned center console boat from a dealer in mint condition, and you spend $15,000.
- You’re parking it at a marina, and the marina fees are $500 per month or $6,000 per year.
- You head out for some fun at least once a weekend, spending around $12,000 per year in fuel.
- Insurance costs you $1,500 per year, and it’s $1,000 for winter storage.
- So, per year, you’re paying around $20,500 for base costs, and let’s assume you spend $2,000 in maintenance for a total of $22,500 a year in total ownership fees for your boat.
Is that worth it for you? Before committing to buying a boat, sit down and create a spreadsheet with all the costs involved with boat ownership and see if you have enough in your budget to cover the expenses.