How to Buy a Boat and Not Sink Your Budget

Are you eyeballing a vessel to get you out on the water this summer? You don’t have to be rich to own a boat, but you do want to chart a sensible course for your money — by choosing a boat that you can afford to buy and afford to maintain.

The array of possible vessels is mind-boggling, including things as different as:

  • Ski/wakeboard boats
  • Pontoon boats
  • Aluminum fishing boats
  • Fiberglass runabouts
  • Sailboats designed for ocean cruising

But how do you know what’s right for you? Take into account your activities first, then look at preferences such as passengers, propulsion and transportability.

Before you start shopping, ask yourself these seven questions:

1. What will you use your boat for?

This should be your first question, experts say.

Perhaps you like to fish, or to go tubing or water skiing. Other top reasons to own include cruising and sailing. Buy the simplest, cheapest boat for your use, Money Talks News founder and Florida boat owner Stacy Johnson advises.

2. Do you really have time to enjoy your boat?

Stacy’s 30-foot cabin cruiser sits on the water just 20 feet behind his office, but he has said he only gets out on it about once a month:

“I try to use it once a week, but it usually doesn’t work out that way. If it was in a marina, I’d probably be too busy to ever use it.”

And this is a common story. If you love boating, but really don’t have much time for it, consider options other than exclusive ownership. For more tips, check out “4 Cheaper Ways to Go Boating Without Buying a Boat.”

3. Do you really need a big boat?

How many passengers do you want to carry? Do you need room for cocktail hour with friends, a kitchen and sleeping quarters? Or just a place to sit alone as you drop a fishing line into a lake?

Generally, the bigger the boat, the more expensive it is to operate. Costs include:

  • Registration and insurance
  • Fuel
  • Moorage
  • Dry docking in the offseason
  • Launch and lift-out fees
  • Hull cleaning and treatment
  • Engine maintenance
  • Sail and line replacements for sailboats

You’ll also pay for equipment that ranges from fire extinguishers to life jackets, and stocking your boat with goodies, water skis, dinghies and more.

4. Where will you keep it?

Some people want to tote their boats on trailers and explore a variety of waterways. Others dock at home port marinas. The bigger the boat, the larger and stronger the trailer and car or truck you’ll need to pull it.

As size increases, you may need permits or professionals to move your boat. Also consider the cost of storage options when you’re not using your boat for long periods.

5. What should propel your boat?

Looking for a powerboat? Or, maybe you prefer paddles so you can quietly explore along a coast or race down a river. And then there are sailboats — propelled with skillful use of wind power.

Know what you like before you shop.

6. Should you buy new or used?

Pre-owned boats are far less expensive than new boats because they have already depreciated. Before buying used, Stacy says, have the boat checked out by a professional — who may be found through the National Association of Marine Surveyors — to determine its condition and value.

Are you a boating enthusiast, interested in plunging into this market or poking around at the marina wondering if there is a cautious way in? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Expenses You Should Not Put on a Credit Card
10 Expenses You Should Not Put on a Credit Card

Sometimes it’s simply safer to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Affordable Products for a Better Night’s Rest
13 Affordable Products for a Better Night’s Rest

These Amazon products can help you finally catch 40 winks — or more.

9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive
9 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look Expensive

These products from Amazon add elegance to your home without the expense.

Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021
Prepare to Pay More for These 31 Drugs in 2021

More than 700 prescription medications have seen price hikes so far this year. Here’s a look at the worst.

10 Colleges That Offer Free Tuition for Seniors
10 Colleges That Offer Free Tuition for Seniors

These schools let retirement-age students study, tuition-free, while earning college credit.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

You probably don’t realize these items are worth decent cash.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire
These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire

If you expect to have modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.