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23rd Nov 2017 by Rightboat

The Cost of Boating: Creating a Budget

Buying a boat is all about fun and recreation, and something you and your friends and family will enjoy for years to come. But boating does have a price and it’s important to know what expenses to expect after the initial purchase cost and to budget accordingly.

Many figures can be hard to quantify and of course the type and size of the boat, the age and condition, and where you keep it will affect those all-important numbers. 


Initial Costs

The price tag on your dream boat is just the beginning, so create a detailed budget list and do your research. You will get more use out of your boat and enjoy it for longer if it fits comfortably within your finances. 

Before you even put pen to paper to sign for your boat you will want to pay for a detailed survey to ensure there are no nasty surprises. Surveys begin at around £12-15 per foot for single inboard engine motor and sailboats. Once you’ve taken ownership you will need to factor in the cost of insurance, licensing and training. Insurance is a comparably low figure and can be in the region of £100 for third party liability on a small sailboat, RIB or narrowboat and slightly more for a small motor boat (or 0.5% of the value of the boat is another general rule of thumb). Depending on the size of your boat and where you want to use it training and licensing can be minimal or extensive. Be sure to undertake a thorough training course or tuition before setting off on your own. 


Running costs 

Mooring is one of the easiest figures to calculate and can be one of the largest monthly outgoings that you have. Smaller boats will have more mooring and storage options such as dry berthing or trailered which are significantly cheaper than marina berthing but can be less convenient and require more forward-planning. Another option for larger boats who prefer not to pay for the prime location and facilities offered by marina berths is a swinging mooring or river pontoon which are considerably cheaper. You will need to decide what to do with your boat over the winter months, and for smaller boats winter storage is the best option. Winterisation of a boat left in the water is important, and best undertaken by a professional. See our guide to storing your boat for more details. 

You will need a range of essential safety and navigational equipment on board. As a minimum ensuring you have serviceable life rafts, life jackets, signalling equipment such as distress flares, and ship-to-shore communication such as VHF radios are a must. In addition it is advisable to have a chart plotter with GPS as well as paper charts. 

Fuel is easily calculable but important to budget for. There is no longer differing prices for marine fuel in the UK, and petrol and diesel are at pump prices. 


Maintenance and Repairs

This is the part where the waters get murky and the phrase ‘how long is a piece of string?’ seems to crop up regularly. Ultimately, keeping your boat shipshape is safer and more cost-effective than letting problems unfold and fixing them when they do. If in doubt, opt for a smaller boat! An age-old calculation on the maintenance costs of a boat is 10% of the initial purchase price, although this isn’t set in stone.  

It is recommended that boats are taken out of the water once a year for general maintenance and repairs. You will need to get your boat anti-fouled, and the sacrificial anodes replaced. The sails, ropes and rigging will need repairs, there will be painting and varnishing to do, and the engine needs servicing annually (or following the manufacturer’s recommended hours of operation). Unlike a house or car, boat systems deteriorate rapidly and it is important to maintain and service electrical and mechanical systems such as marine toilets, generators, bow thrusters and refrigeration. 

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