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Why your next boat should be someone else's

Boat owners are getting savvy about how expensive boat ownership really is. Here are five ways to cut costs and maximize the fun without buying the boat.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 14, 2014 12:04PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyBoating for fun was once a rich person's passion. "Yachting," they called it. The boats were big and lavish. The costs were astronomical.

Sailboats and powerboats eventually became a middle-class pastime in the U.S. But the Great Recession and the rising cost of fuel made clear just how expensive boat ownership can be.

That made it clear to many that the next boat they own should not be theirs alone. We'll explain how this works and how you can substantially cut the cost of your boating pastime.

You couldn't give your boat away

After the economy crashed, you couldn't give away a used boat. In the recession, broke boaters dumped vessels in harbors, rivers and waterways, causing environmental and navigational hazards.

Today's boaters are wiser about the costs. Many conclude that they don't need to own the boat to enjoy boating and that cost-sharing options make much more financial sense.

fter all, 12.2 million boats are registered in the U.S. and the average boat is used just 26 days a year, according to the Miami Herald.

How much can you save? For starters, check the NADA boat guide for new and used boat prices. Used boats on eBay go for a few thousand dollars to $100,000 and up. There are other costs to consider, too: moorage, dry dock, fuel, repairs, upkeep, gear and engines or sails.

Boat Club LLC in Washington state estimates that (without specifying a boat size) the first-year costs of boat ownership amount to about $11,235, including a $3,500 down payment and $375 in monthly loan payments. In comparison, the club's fees run $2,550 a year for a midrange membership.

Boating without buying

There are many ways to get on the water without buying a boat.

  • Rent through one of the new peer-to-peer marketplaces that bring owners and renters together, making boating potentially cheaper for both.
  • Share the costs of ownership through a time-share arrangement.
  • Join a club that owns a fleet of boats.
  • Charter a boat, with or without the skipper and crew.

Peer-to-peer rentals

Peer-to-peer boat-sharing companies match boat owners with renters. Both national and local companies are entering the market.

Owners who rent out their vessel for one or two days a month could cover the boat's costs, one company claims.

Boatbound, a peer-to-peer company, takes a 35 percent cut. So, if you rent your boat for $300 a day, you receive $195. The company's fee covers insurance, towing, listing, promotion and support services.

Another company,, charges owners 40 percent. Along with other services, it conducts credit and fraud checks and requires renters to have a minimum of two years' boating experience.

Are you crazy?

Is it crazy to give a stranger the key to your boat? Some owners wouldn't do it. But others are happy to let a company manage the risk.

"His boat sits at the dock most of the time and (he) would love to offset the cost of ownership," the New York Boating Club writes of one member who's interested in the option.

The Miami Herald says of Boatbound:

All potential renters go through a vetting process. Every boat gets checked out before it is listed, and for boats over 10 years there may be additional underwriting requirements, Boatbound says. And if something should go wrong, Boatbound carries Lloyd's of London insurance -- $1 million for liability and $2 million for hull.

If you do offer your boat for rent, make sure to clear the details of the arrangement with your insurance company.


For renters, selecting a peer-to-peer boat to rent is like choosing lodging from Craigslist or VRBO. You look through the listings and read user reviews until you find a boat and price you like. Renters and owners rate their experiences and each other on the site.

Depending on the company, the inventory of boats might be huge, including kayaks, yachts, powerboats and sailboats, from 15-footers to 50-footers or larger. Some boats come with a captain. Most you operate yourself.

Prices range from $200 to $14,000 a day. You'll pay extra for things like a late return, dirty boat, no-show, damage, refueling and rental reservation. Some larger companies provide the insurance. Others offer it through third-party companies.

Before hopping aboard

With peer-to-peer renting and the other options below, basic due diligence will prevent ugly surprises. Policies, fees and rules vary by company and sometimes by state. Ask questions before hopping aboard, including:

  • Will I need a license or proof I can handle a boat?
  • Do you provide training? If so, what does it cost?
  • Who pays for the gas? If I buy it through the company, what's the price?
  • Who will I call if the engine breaks down or something goes wrong?
  • Does the rental fee include insurance for accidents and damage? If so, what's the deductible and who pays it?

Time shares

You may have heard of time shares for vacation lodging. Some CEOs use them to share private jets.

For some vacation time-share owners, time shares have been a source of disappointment and regrets, as Money Talks News' Stacy Johnson explains in this post.

Time shares are becoming ​available to boaters. BoatU.S. magazine says

In a time share, a fleet of boats is owned by a management company and the consumer purchases a specific block of time each year to use a specific vessel or a fleet of vessels. Time-share agreements usually last for one to five years.

Look for transparency

A search online for boating time shares turns up numerous companies and clubs. But few are transparent about how their deals are structured.

Life ring © Image Source, CorbisOne exception is Spinnaker Sailing, a boat dealer, charter company and time-share operator in the San Francisco Bay area. Here's how it describes its time-share membership program:​​

  • One person buys a new boat through the company.
  • A limited number of sailors share the craft's expenses and access.
  • All can use the boat for an equal amount of time.
  • Monthly fees, covering insurance, marina fees, cleaning and repairs, may come to less than the cost of a day's charter at a local sailing club.

A rental share in one of these high-performance sailboats, including insurance, maintenance and all the rest, costs from $295 to $1,295 a month, plus training fees and a deposit, Spinnaker president Drew Harper said in an interview. Owning a similar, 35-foot, $250,000 boat runs (after a $50,000 down payment) about $2,570 a month, including loan payments, slip fees, maintenance, insurance and other fees.

Approach time shares carefully:

  • Don't join impulsively.
  • D​on't sign a contract you don't thoroughly understand.
  • Hire a lawyer to review any documents before you sign.
  • If you feel pressure from a salesperson or are presented an offer that's good for one day only, back away from the company.

Boat clubs

Boat clubs offer access to a fleet of boats -- often smaller ones -- without ownership or long-term commitments.

Prices vary widely and depend on location and types of boats and services. Fees may be charged for sign-up, training, monthly maintenance and refundable security deposits.

Two examples:

  • The Rat Island Rowing and Sculling Club, in Port Townsend, Wash., charges $250 a year for unlimited use of rowing shells together with a crew.
  • Freedom Boat Club, with locations on the East Coast, Midwest, Texas Gulf Coast and California, has monthly fees ranging from $199 to $399. Additional sign-up fees start at $1,200, depending on the boats you'll use.

Nonprofit small-craft clubs often offer training. They make rowing or sailing accessible and affordable. Ask at colleges, community centers and city or county recreation departments.

With any club, read contracts closely and make certain you understand all benefits, obligations and costs.


Boaters sometimes fantasize about hiring out their boats and retiring to a life on the water. But it's not that easy. One former charter boat captain told BoatU.S. that he just broke even.

Says BoatU.S.:

Consult your tax adviser before putting your boat into charter. Federal tax laws apply when recreational boats are used commercially.

Prices for chartering range greatly, depending on the boat type and size and amenities included. Here are examples at the lower end:

  • At Destin Charter Boats, in Destin, Fla., fees start at $660 a day. Boats range from a 25-foot bay fishing boat to a 65-foot deep-sea sportfishing boat to a 90-foot party boat.
  • Santa Barbara Sailing Center charges $295 a day ($1,460 a week) plus insurance for a "bareboat" (you operate it) charter of a 28-foot Catalina boat. Prices increase for larger boats.
  • At South River Boat Rentals, on Chesapeake Bay, fees start at $800 a day to rent a 21-foot Wellcraft powerboat.

Add a skipper, crew and meals -- as many do when chartering -- and, as you can imagine, the costs can grow and grow.

For referrals to trustworthy charter captains and companies, try local yacht clubs, marine supply stores and bait-and-tackle shops. The American Sailing Association has links to charter companies in the U.S.

Do you have experiences to share with us about peer-to-peer renting and other options described here?

More from Money Talks News

Jul 14, 2014 1:56PM
People who say the happiest day of boat ownership is when they sell it typically don't own a boat or aren't passionate about it!  I have owned a boat for 25 years and would never live without one.  But I tell people, if you want a boat, you need to enjoy maintaining it, you need to love the water and you need to understand the cost.  It's not a money pit if you maintain it properly!!  And NO, it's not a car that you just jump into and drive, then put away till the next time.  
Jul 14, 2014 2:21PM
B - Bust
O - Out
A - Another
T - Thousand

Smaller fishing/ski boats are great, as long as you use them regularly and take care of them. Nothing worse on a boat than letting it sit, especially in the elements.  Mix the oil right on a 2-stroke, give it premium gas, disconnect the batteries and store it covered when not using it.  Most of the wear and tear on the engine occurs when you start it - if you don't know what you're doing, get someone to teach you...
Jul 14, 2014 2:17PM
Think a boats expensive, own a swimming pool
Jul 14, 2014 1:54PM

35 or 40% cut to rent out your boat? These yahoos are worse than lawyers. And to top it off, go hang around the boat ramp some day - half the owners have no clue as to how to operate their own vessel.

''What's taking so long?" ''Motor won't start.'' Did you check your lanyard switch?'' (emergency kill switch). ''What's that?"...... And you're going to rent it out to non-owner?

Jul 14, 2014 8:00PM
Buy a boat like John Kerry did and park it another state to avoid taxes.
I would never rent my boat out to someone I know and give somebody 35-40% to find the renter
Jul 14, 2014 4:12PM
hear about the ship that ran aground carrying a cargo of red paint and black paint?
    the whole crew was marooned.

did you hear about the thieves who stole an entire shipment of Viagra?
   police are looking for a gang of hardened criminals.

what is a mermaid's favorite song?salmon-chanted evening.

why was the little mermaid embarrassed? because she saw the big ship's bottom.

why did the mermaid look the other way? because the seaweed.
Jul 14, 2014 4:06PM
This article must have been written by a  Bean Counter, and they are trying tell everyone what fun should cost!  Most Bean Counters I know are too busy figuring out how much things cost to have fun anyway.
Jul 14, 2014 2:13PM
Renting makes no sense.  Just stay within you will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
Jul 14, 2014 4:06PM
The author of this article certainly does not live in Minnesota where going up North to the Lake would not be the same with out a boat!
Ive had my pontoon boat for 11 years and all ive ever done is change the oil and replaced the prop a few times only because I wasn't being careful, boats don't cost any more then a car to maintain if your not careless
Jul 15, 2014 8:32AM
No matter what you say, do, or think, there is always someone, that will disagree with you. If it is something that you or your family might enjoy, then do it. It's your money, your time, and your space.
Jul 14, 2014 4:38PM
Jul 14, 2014 1:50PM

Not sure I want a boat.  But I'm sure I like sex on a boat ;-)

Yeah, He was good, LOL

Jul 15, 2014 8:14AM
Would love to have a boat, but need to hit the lottery first.
Jul 14, 2014 1:47PM
Most people should name their boat something along the lines of "The Money Pit."

My sister's family and I went in 50:50 on a $25K boat in the 90's.  When gasoline was a little over $1/gallon I could collect $10-$15 from the 4-6 people, including myself, who would go fishing and pay for the 50-60 gallons of gas we'd burn up.

But when it went over $4 - most marinas require gas bought at the marina or at stations along the waterway (the Chesapeake Bay in our case) it would cost up $50 to $75 per person in gas.  That limited the number of fishing trips which made the $2K+ boatel fees not worth it.  We sold the boat a few years ago for a much reduced price: $3000.

Jul 14, 2014 4:36PM

Worst thing I ever bought was a boat. It was such a lovely boat too. 17-1/2 ft, open bow, Inboard/Outboard, 175 hp V6 OMC Cobra. This is all my fault. after the first couple of years, because of changes in my life, I did not use the boat often enough to justify the cost of the boat nor the maintenance. I wasn't committed to the boat, not to the water, not to the enjoyment of maintenance, like knowledgeable people on here like MonkeyMo and Wallace T and others. They speak with much wisdom, IMHO.

Unless you are enjoying your boat on the water every week or two and enjoying the maintenance and upkeep (opportunities) (hahaha), again IMHO, it is much better, and way more sane, to rent when you occasionally want to go boating.

Jul 14, 2014 10:45PM

A boat is a luxury (unless you make your living on one). Telling people they spend too much money on one is like telling someone they spend too much money on their toys. It is an expense that is for FUN. Our boat isn't cheap. We have a malibu response for skiing (with a wakeboard wedge, yay!) and we are on it EVERY nice day. It helps that we have a dock across our street. It maintains like a car (inboard corvette) so it is EASY to operate. If we were to rent we would have to ski behind something with a third of the horsepower AND we would have to pay 400 dollar minimum for a boat that is a hunk of crap. Maybe some marinas have nice boats for rent, but the local ones are poorly maintained and abused by tourists. Do we NEED a boat? Heck no! But, it makes a Maine summer even more fun. Not to mention, who needs to go to the gym when you can ski or wakeboard every day? Best workout!

Jul 15, 2014 1:30AM








Jul 14, 2014 3:26PM
B.O.A.T. - Break Out Another Thousand
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