The terms “boat slip” and “dock” are often used interchangeably but do actually mean two different things. When you pull a boat into a marina, you could be faced with a couple of choices, do you dock, or do you slip? But what are the differences between a boat slip versus a dock? Let’s find out. 

What is a boat slip? Boat slips have just one open end, meaning the boat “slips” into it. The difference between boat slips and docks being docks having three open sides, as the boat positions “against” the side of the dock. Boat slips (aka dock slips) offer more protection, reducing the bumps that can happen in a traditional dock. 

What does a boat slip look like?

Below you can see a photo of some boat slips in a residential marina. A boat slip resembles a single parking space while. A boat slip creates ‘’parking stalls’’ with each section normally contained on all 3 sides.

what is a boat slip vs a dock

This is what a boat slip is and how it looks. Compare the differences to a boat dock further down the page.

In a boat slip, you place the boat between two walkways, with the 3rd one in front of it. The case is totally different with a boat dock, whereby the boat only has one side against the dock.

You will often find boat slips in marinas. It’s because they save on space, you can get more boats moored up, and the dock slips help to protect the boat, keeping it far more secure than a dock.

If the boat is moored well enough in the docking slip it can be position in the middle of space meaning there won’t be as many bumps and scrapes as you would get if positioned against a dock side.

What is a boat dock?

A boat dock is open on 3 sides, so the boat only docks against one strip of land. Docks aren’t as secure as boat slips as the protection from waves, bumps, and grinds isn’t there.

You are also limited to the number of boats that can dock, as the typically will park parallel to the dock side.

What does a dock look like?

Below you can see a photo of what a classic boat dock looks like, with this huge container ship parked up.

Boat Dock vs Dock Slip vs Boat Dock Differences

See how a boat dock is different to a boat slip. It’s open on all 3 sides.

Boat slip vs dock differences in detail

Let’s say you have just bought an expensive waterside property and own a boat. Should you dock against the side of the land, or invest some money in getting a boat slip or dock slip built?

One factor to consider the different types of boat or watercraft you’ll be using. A dock is the best option if you have a secluded area with just one boat. A boat slip is a better choice if you’re in a heavily utilized area with various different watercraft and might even have visitors needing to park up.

Boat slips are increasingly becoming popular among a good number of boat owners. This is especially true to those keen on having a more protected area to put their craft moored.

Let’s look at the differences between docking slips and traditional docks in a bit more detail.

Design differences

Boat slips are only open on one end to the water. Boat docks, on the other hand, have three sides open. The major difference between boat slips and docks is the former aren’t open in space compared to the latter.

Boat slips somewhat are akin to parking stalls for watercraft. Docks are more open and might only have a single large t-shaped section.

Marinas, as well as other locations, prefer the former for several reasons. Primarily, boat slips allow more cr