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Buying a boat: Navigating the waters of total cost of boat ownership (A Guest Post)

So, you’ve been dreaming of early mornings speeding across the lake in search of big bass. Or afternoons anchored off a favorite diving rock with the family. Or just taking it easy, socializing at the marina on warm summer evenings.

Whatever your marine dreams, buying a boat can be the key to opening an amazing new lifestyle on the water. But it’s also a big investment with long-term costs.

Too often, first-time boat owners dive in at the chance to buy a used boat at a “great deal” without stopping to calculate total cost of boat ownership, such as maintenance, fuel and insurance. First-timers might also buy used without realizing that new boats often come with boat financing rates that make for an affordable monthly boat payment.

So which is it? New or used?  Let’s take a look at some of the different factors to consider when buying a boat.  

Where to start
First, you need to figure out what type of boat you’re looking for. From sociable pontoons to gnarly wakeboarding boats to a basic aluminum boat with a 10 horse outboard—it all depends on what you want to do. Boat shows are a great place to see what’s available. And there will also be some great deals. But beware of buying on a whim (see the next point)!

Total Cost of Ownership
Many new boat owners neglect to think about the true cost of owning a boat, whether it’s new or used. Not only do you have the upfront cost (which may have extras like a trailer, mooring cover, safety gear, toys to enjoy the boat, and possibly an extended warranty) there are also significant annual costs:
·         Transportation and Storage – Will you be trailering the boat or renting a slip at a marina? Winterizing it at a separate location? If you’re trailering it, is your current vehicle up to the job? 
·         Maintenance – Depending on the age of the boat and whether it’s still under warranty there can be significant maintenance costs. Even routine maintenance costs such as winterizing can add up if you don’t have time to do them yourself.
·         Fuel – This all depends on how big and fuel efficient your boat is, and how often you’re using it, but if a typical 20’ bass boat has a 40 gallon tank, at say $4.00/gallon (more at the marina) you’re looking at $160.00 every time you fill up. No small change.
·         Insurance – Premiums average about $275 US a year. Again costs depend on a number of factors.
·         Miscellaneous – Licensing, registration and other fees (e.g. ramp fees). None of these will be a major cost, but just like your plate stickers on your car, they can add up.

New vs. Used
If all the costs associated with owning a boat haven’t fazed you, it’s time to look at “new vs. used”. Just like buying a car there are pros and cons associated with each approach.

Buying New – Buying a new boat from a reputable dealer comes with many advantages. Well-maintained boats hold their value for a long time, which means dealers, who usually work with a marine lending specialist, can offer attractive boat financing rates with a long term. While car financing often tops out at 5 or 6 years, boat loans typically have 10 to 20-year terms—which means lower monthly payments.

Consider that a new boat will also come with a full warranty, that you know the boat’s history, and that maintenance costs should be much lower, and there are some definite “pros” to buying new.

Buying Used – Of course, the big benefit to buying used is that the upfront cost will be significantly lower.  And if you’re buying a used boat from a recognized dealer, you should also be able to secure used boat financing. You may just find that the interest rate is a little higher and the term a little shorter than with a new boat.

Other than cost, the other big thing to consider when buying used is the condition of the boat. Just like buying a used car, you will want to take it for a test drive and, even more important, get a marine mechanic to check over your prospective purchase. In this case, this detailed inspection is called a “marine survey”. 

You may luck out and get a great used boat with attractive used boat financing. Just make sure you do your due diligence first.

One other thing
Once you’ve got your new (or “new to you”) boat, and you’re ready to make waves, remember to check your operator licensing requirements for your state. In many states, it’s the law that you carry a boater education card (commonly called a boating license) whenever you’re operating a powered watercraft. You can get your boater education card online by taking an approved boating safety course at You can check your state’s regulations by visiting and choosing your state.

Happy and safe boating!

 About the author:
Brent McNamee is the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at Fresh Air Educators, inc, the leading provider of online education for BoatingHuntingSnowmobile, and ATV across North America. Join his Circle on Google+ to chat about anything relating to outdoor safety, responsibility and fun!


                The above-noted article is based on the writer’s personal thoughts. Nothing in the aforesaid article should be considered personal advice. The article may contain errors and the writer’s opinion may change substantially or in part based on actual facts and any number of variables. You should not make any decision based solely on the writer’s comments in the aforesaid article. Any decision you make as a result of reading the above-noted article is your sole responsibility. It is your money and your life and your sole responsibility!

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