Five Tips for Boating on a Budget

They say the two best days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells the boat. The implication is that boat ownership is expensive; it’s a constant drain on your wallet. But this doesn’t have to be true. If you’re smart about your decisions, it’s possible to be a boat owner, even on a budget, and still have fun. Thrifty boat ownership might sound like an oxymoron to most people, but plenty of owners manage to make it work. These are savvy individuals who understand the value of a dollar and how to make sharp, rational choices about how they spend their money and what they spend it on. If you’re looking for ways to make boat ownership budget-friendly for your household, here are five essential tips you should keep in mind.

1. Invest in Preventive/Proactive Maintenance

“Many boat owners adopt a relaxed attitude toward maintaining their boats,” Wholesale Marine says. “They perform a quick visual ‘once-over’ before and after a day on the water, and let it go at that. These owners may not be aware that a more thorough inspection could save them thousands of dollars and disappointment.” Preventive maintenance is a crucial facet of boat ownership. Though it may seem unnecessarily expensive in the moment, such attentiveness to your investment can save thousands of dollars in premature damage and incidents that would otherwise result from dependence on faulty or worn-down parts. It’s particularly valuable in relation to key systems such as the engine, which is particularly costly to replace.

2. Fill Your Tank on Dry Land

This one should be fairly obvious to most people, but too many boaters still wait until they get to the marina to fuel up. Sometimes, this may be your only choice (especially if you keep your boat at the marina), but owners who trailer their boats should be proactive about filling up at a gas station on their way to the water. Gas at marinas will sometimes cost as much as 15 to 25 percent more than the same fuel purchased at a vehicle service station. The price differential is largely due to the fact that marinas know they have a captive audience; but it also has a more logical component.  A marina sells fuel in much smaller quantities (and therefore it doesn’t tend to get deals that are nearly as good as major gas stations).

3. Store Your Boat at Home

If you have the space and proper vehicle/trailer setup, storing your boat at home is substantially cheaper than renting a spot at a marina. In some cases, storage space rental rates can run up to thousands of dollars per season. Parking in your driveway or garage, by contrast, is essentially free. It’s a pretty easy call.

4. Stick to Fresh Water

There’s nothing like boating along an ocean coast with the wind whipping through your hair and the sun setting on the horizon. But for all of the joys of saltwater boating, it’s also expensive. Saltwater eats away at everything, and requires extensive cleaning after each use. If you stick to fresh water, your boat and its component parts will last much longer.

5. Shop Around for Insurance

Insurance is one of the ongoing monthly costs for boat owners. Though you may think it can be included under your homeowner’s policy, that’s a stretch. “Many homeowners policies will have a minimal amount of coverage for really small boats with either no engine or a very small engine, like a sailboat,” says Mitch Jawitz, vice president of marketing and distribution at The Hanover Insurance Group. “But if you’re buying a $10,000 or $20,000 boat, your homeowners policy is not going to cover you for what you need.” Boat insurance is not hard to find, but you’d be smart to shop around a while to land the best possible rate. In most cases, it will be cheapest to bundle your boat policy with your home and auto policies.

Putting it All Together

In life, you have to decide which items you’ll spend money on and which you won’t. If you make up your mind that boating is something from which you will derive your joy and purpose, then by all means, you should buy a boat … but do it within reason.

And once you’ve purchased your boat, make smart, reasonable choices after that can help you enjoy it without draining your bank account dry. This article should serve as a starting point. You’ll want to research additional techniques and shortcuts that will make the experience worthwhile.

Where will you begin?

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