When it comes to boats there is no doubt that they allow you to have so much freedom, exploring open water while whipping your hair around and spraying water in your face. But this all comes at a price. So, why are boats so expensive to buy and then maintain properly?
As a boat owner I know about this more than most so wanted to give you an overview of what cost are involved, and how just one little thing can cost you a large amount of money.
Here’s the short answer:
Why are boats to expensive? Boats are expensive to buy and maintain. As well as the cost of the boat to buy you also have mooring costs, insurance, licenses, and much more to pay for each year. Boat expenses for repairs are also very common and will hit you in the pocket.
If you are thinking about buying a boat, you can find a wealth of information on Pontoonopedia about how much things cost, how you do can do repairs, and how to make the most of your money.
But if it’s a relatively short overview you want on why boats are so expensive and what the projected running costs could be, please read on for some introductory notes.
Why are boats so expensive?
In a very simplistic answer, when it comes to purchasing a boat there are many factors that influence the upfront cost. This can include the brand, design, market demand and even the material that it has been constructed from.
Due to these factors, it can be rather expensive to ensure the boat is properly maintained and stored to provide you with seasons of fun!
Not only that, but you have additional costs of insurance, fuel, registration etc. all to consider as well.
Factors that influence cost when buying
Just like anything, every little detail is going to affect the price you are going to pay for something.
Let’s take a closer look into the factors that influence the price tag and how expensive your boat will be when you initially decide to buy it.
Boats have both low-end and high-end brands which influence the cost. The differences between high end and low-end brands comes down to reputation… and you honestly do get what you pay for most of the time.
A brand’s reputation is built on quality, awards and even how well they maintain their value.
For example, if you are looking at a big name such as Mastercraft, Bayliner, Sea Ray and so on then you need to be prepared to pay for the brand.
Boats come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, styles and designated purposes which impact the initial price you are going to pay. A boat’s design is ultimately one of the key aspects you look into.
The design you choose can depict what activities you are looking to do and what restrictions you have. For example, as a pontoon boat owner, I tried to strike a balance between my love of fishing and the fact every other weekend my family and kids want to come out for some leisure time.
With the larger and more versatile boats you can pay for more luxurious elements. It goes without saying that a glorious, large yacht is going to cost more than a little boat designed for fishing.
Here is a list of design factors that can influence your initial price:
- Cabin space (and how much you need).
- Length of the boat.
- Freshwater or saltwater (saltwater boat can corrode).
- Limited editions and sports packages.
- Luxury finishes such as bar and galley features.
- Upgraded Features e.g. leather seating, customized interiors, stereo equipment.
When buying a boat, one thing that should always be at the back of your mind is what you want your boat to be made of.
The material that is used to construct your boat can alter the labour hours, processes and durability, therefore influencing the overall cost, and how expensive the boat will be to buy.
Typically, a boat is made from:
- Wood: takes longer and more effort to craft as it is an organic material that can leak and rot over time if not maintained correctly (you might need to waterproof the wood).
- Fiberglass: often hand laid and shaped so the labour hours are higher and can be hard to clean.
- Steel: can be expensive to source quantity of material required
- Aluminium: most pontoon boats are constructed in this way.
A material which is better at resisting rotting, corrosion and any other wears and tears over time is going to be more expensive.
You need to make sure you can get from point A to point B and a boat without a motor is going to be pretty pointless, unless of course you want a kayak or canoe.
There are two types of motors, inboard and outboard.
An inboard motor will usually be more expensive due to it being located inside of the boat. This can make it more challenging when it comes to maintenance and repair.
However, an inboard motor is generally more fuel efficient than its counterpart.
An outboard motor is located outside of the boat at the rear. Due to the location it is often much easier to maintain and repair as it is accessible.
One of the best things about an outboard motor is that it can actually be raised out of the water. This will ensure your motor staying in working condition for longer.
You also have to consider the number of motors and the horsepower they offer. A motor that has a higher horsepower, that can reach higher speeds is going to increase the cost.
Supply and demand are just as important as any other product on the market. Those who want to own a boat is often a limited market, which tends to be confined to coastal areas.
I found that when I bought a used pontoon boat, the prices will vary depending on where the United States you are looking. Strange but true!
This comes down to the fact that the consumer is hesitant to purchase a boat as they may not be able to use it for a portion of the year, they won’t use it as much as they should and even storage expense during the winter months.
Then, after all that boats are more expensive to buy simply because manufacturers are unable to scale production due to the limited demand.
Therefore, costs can’t be lowered due to a high volume, efficient production line as generally, the more product that is built, the lower the cost of each unit is.
The cost of owning a boat
After you have purchased your boat, you have the continued expenses of owning your boat. This can come from a variety of factors and if you aren’t aware or prepared for it, you might get a shock (I certainly did – here’s what a pontoon boat costs to buy)
- Maintenance and Labour
- Mooring and Storage
- Insurance and Registration
Handy Hint: I published a guide to the running costs of a pontoon boat so you know exactly what to expect and why a boat is so expensive to maintain and buy.
Anything that is meant to be moving is going to require some sort of fuel, whether it is petrol, electricity or even food. Boats with motors are going to require fuel to run effectively and efficiently.
These costs fluctuate depending on the motor you have, the horsepower and even how often you go out on your boat.
You should also be aware that anything which affects how well your boat moves through the water is going to impact the efficiency. For example, a dirty hull with barnacles and god knows what else will increase drag preventing your boat from cutting through the water as smoothly.
Did You Know? How much fuel your pontoon boat uses will depend on a variety of factors. Take a look at how much gas you might use each year.
Maintenance and labor
A boat needs to be properly maintained from servicing the motor, replacing propellers and to repainting or re-sealing the hull. You should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on when to carry out maintenance, this ensures that your vessel is continuously going to be seaworthy.
For annual maintenance on average you are looking at 10% of the purchase price of your boat.
Typical maintenance tasks include:
- Cleaning top to bottom (here is some cleaning advice).
- Replacing oil.
- Checking or replacing propellers.
- Winterization (here’s a guide on how to do it).
- Addressing any issues (for example, electrical problems).
More often than not a lot of the basic maintenance tasks can be carried out by the boat owner themselves so save a little extra cash.
However, some repairs or issues may just be too complicated and require a professional. In these cases, you are going to have to pay for labour which will increase costs and how expensive owning a boat will be for you.
Just a heads up
Sailboats are slightly more expensive when it comes to maintenance as the yearly recommendations are more substantial. This includes:
- Scrubbing bottom.
- Sanding and painting.
- Transmission fluids and zincs.
- Fuel filters.
- Sails and lines – these need to be checked regularly and replaced when their condition is no longer up to standard
Storage and mooring
A boat belongs in the water, right? What happens when you don’t have a dock? What about when winter hits? These factors also increase the expense of owning a boat.
This is one of the main reasons why boats are so expensive, and so often overlooked by people just starting out. I recently did a study into how much covered marina slips will cost each year – it makes for sobering reading!
If you need to moor at a marina you will have to pay fees. These fees will vary depending on where you are, the season and how large your boat is.
The bigger an area you need, the more you are going to have to pay. You also have the option of mooring your boat on a quay, however you need to be able to get back and forth from land to boat, so you are going to need a kayak or canoe.
You may decide to launch your boat each time you wish to take it out and let’s face it not everyone has room to store their boat at their property, or perhaps your local government council have restrictions against keeping your recreational vessel in a publicly visible place?
So, what do you do? You will have to pay for storage, either outdoors or indoors which on average rates are approximate 200 to 300 dollars each month.
You should also budget for your boat to be stored during the winter months. This will ensure that your boat is safe and secure so it will last you much longer, as the elements can do some serious damage.
On average to pay someone to haul your boat out of the water, set it on blocks and shrink wrap it you are usually looking at an average of 2,000 dollars. However, this can change due to your boats size and location.
Handy Hint: Check your local laws if you are unsure of your local laws and regulations.
Insurance and registration
These days any vehicle that you use in a public vicinity has to be registered and ideally insured (see sample insurance costs), that includes your water vessel. These costs can vary quite a bit depending on your boats age, boats size and even your location.
Usually, registration can cost anywhere between 30 to 300 dollars – and possibly even more if you can’t find the seller’s registration documents!
When it comes to calculating your insurance, it is generally 1.5% of what your boat costs. There are a few additional factors that will impact the final cost; however, this is just to give you a general idea.
In addition to all the accessories that come with your boat, there are always the extras you can add on. You can spend hundreds, or even thousands on accessories to complete your boat so it is exactly how you want it. This will depend a lot on your usage.
A few accessories you may consider include:
- Swimming Platforms
- Rod Holders
- Boarding Ladders
- Bait Tanks
Handy Hint: See which accessories I recommend for pontoon boats. Many of these gadgets can also be used by other boat types so go take a look.
Don’t forget you need a trailer to haul your boat around as well!
Although, most purchases will include one, you may decide to upgrade for additional features such as custom paint, power winches and even additional lights.
Handy Hint: You should always check the laws and regulations in your area to ensure you have the licenses and/or training you require to captain a boat, as well as all the required safety equipment.
The last word…
A boat is expensive to maintain and buy, but once you break the costs down and the reasoning behind it, you begin to understand why. The choice is really up to you and your financial situation – there is always something out there for each and every captain, you just have to find it!