How much does it cost to own a boat?

Out and About
Understand what is involved with boat ownership before buying.
Family having fun on their boat.

Queenslanders are spoiled for choice when it comes great boating destinations.

Nearly all of us live close to stunning coastal waters or beautiful lakes and rivers.

The idea of escaping onto those pristine waterways to enjoy water sports, pleasure cruising, fishing or just exploring is a great temptation for many.

But before making the decision to buy a boat, it is important to understand what it will cost.

While to many recreational boaters the answer to this question seems like an obvious one, the real cost can be quite difficult to gauge for those that are inexperienced, naive or new to boating.

Boats, like any vehicle, require regular maintenance and care to ensure safety and seaworthiness that isn’t covered in the vessel’s initial purchase cost.

If you are budgeting for a boat of your own or simply keeping your boat in a reliable condition, it’s vital that you understand the ongoing costs associated with boat ownership.

Regular boat maintenance

How often have you heard, “She’ll be right mate”? 

Many boat owners follow this adage and think that because their boat performed well on the last trip, it will do the same every time. 

It must be remembered, there is no substitute for good regular maintenance. 

This starts with simple tasks that any boatie can do such as thoroughly washing your boat with fresh water after each trip and running and flushing the engine with fresh water to avoid salt buildup and corrosion.

Subject to how handy you are, you should have your boat professionally inspected at least once a year to go over the hull, engine, electrical system and safety equipment to ensure its reliability.

A boat that is getting regular boat condition reports can be repaired and serviced before any minor issues have a chance to become major problems, whilst a boat that has been left to the elements is likely to have a much higher overall maintenance cost.

Investing in an annual service by a qualified marine mechanic is also highly recommended to ensure you don’t break down and get stranded at sea. 

The cost of maintenance is a difficult one to put a price on and will depend on how well you treat your vessel. 

You should expect most regular maintenance to cost about $400 on smaller boats and up to $2,000 on larger marina-based boats annually, so factor that into your budget.

RACQ members save on Seaworthy boat inspections

Batteries

One of the biggest failure points on a boat is the battery. 

The battery plays the vital role of starting your engine and running your electrics which includes lighting, instruments and marine radio.

But don’t be fooled. Not all batteries are the same.

Some boaties run a regular car battery which is not resistant to the pounding and vibration of a boat. 

A dedicated marine battery with the suitable capacity and power for your boat is essential.

Batteries can vary in price from $130 for basic lead acid or calcium construction up to $500 or more for AGM types.

Check out RACQ's range of marine batteries

Other cost considerations

  • Boat trailer

Often overlooked, the boat trailer is what gets your boat safely from home to your boating destination.

While the trailer looks like a simple beast, regular inspection and maintenance of the many moving parts are essential.

This includes the tow coupling, braking system, lights, suspension, wheel bearings, discs and rims and tyres.

Corrosion is the biggest killer of trailers, so a thorough wash after each trip particularly if used in salt water can help to keep your trailer in a good condition.

Boat trailers can be costly, depending on the construction, and the size of vessel and can vary greatly in price, with some coming in at as little as $2,500 and larger specialised units costing as much as $10,000. Maintenance of trailers for brakes and bearings could cost in the vicinity of $200 to $500 yearly.

  • Storing your boat

Many boat owners prefer to store their boat at home.

While there is no direct cost here, if the boat is not stored under cover there is no doubt some deterioration from weather and ultraviolet light will occur over time and may end up costing you more than it would for paid undercover boat storage.

Professional boat storage facilities are available and could cost anywhere from $250-$400 a month for basic storage or much more for marina-based boats depending on the level of services you require.

Do your research and see what options are available to you in your chosen area.

  • Boat insurance

With your hard-earned dollars invested in your boat, you should seriously think about protecting your asset.

There are a variety of boat insurers that can provide you with coverage and as they say, “you pay for what you get”.

The type of vessel you want to insure, for example a motorised vessel or yacht, will help you determine which insurance company and coverage suits you best.

Where your boat is garaged, stored or moored will also have a bearing on the type of policy you need to protect your boat.

Typical coverage for pleasure boat owners includes boat, engine and trailer (if appropriate).

The equipment and contents of your boat can all be covered in case of loss and usually requires you to submit a detailed list of the major items.

Some insurers offer the option of a lay-up period which means you can nominate the number of months that you will not transport or use the boat, but still be covered for accidental loss or damage at the place of storage.

This can save you money if you do not want to go boating in the cooler months or are away on leave for an extended period.

Beware though as the devil is in the fine print, so take the time to read what is and what is not covered before committing to insurance and ensure the coverage you require is included in your policy.

RACQ offers Comprehensive Boat Insurance or Third Party Liability Boat Insurance

Is it worth it?

All of this may seem a little daunting, but it’s easier than it seems.

Boating is a truly rewarding activity and while having all of these costs laid out can make it all feel quite pricey, most of the more expensive items will be purchases that you shouldn’t have to worry about for a long time after the initial payment. 

As long as you treat your boat well, get regular boat inspections and keep some money aside for maintenance and upkeep, you should have many enjoyable boating experiences.

Want to learn more about all things boating? 

Visit Seaworthy Inspections blog for more information, news, tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your vessel.

Related topics

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.