The true cost of boat ownership

In this article we’ll look at capital costs, depreciation, mooring, insurance, maintenance, disposal and more. By examining these areas in more detail, you will be able to determine the true running costs of any boat you are considering purchasing.


Annual cost of ownership at a glance

To give some quick headline numbers, excluding the purchase of a boat, we calculate that the total annual running cost of a new typical Solent boat is as follows (based on costs of the boats in our fleet):

• sailing boat (around 34ft) – £31,620

• motorboat (around 34ft) – £35,250

These include finance and depreciation costs, plus all operating costs such as insurance, mooring and maintenance (both routine and unexpected), and that’s before any little extras you inevitably decide you want to add to your boat.

So now let’s break it down in detail to help you understand how to adjust each element to the specifics of the boat purchase you are considering.



Boat ownership: A breakdown of costs


Just like buying a new car, you can expect your boat to depreciate every year. It can be tricky to pinpoint exactly how much because used market values are effected by economic conditions, exchange rates, inflation in new prices and boat type and brand, but a general rule of thumb is to expect at least 10% depreciation during the first year and then 7% for the following 4 years.

After 5 years, values tend to level off and depreciation slows, although running costs increase as you find yourself upgrading sails, electronics, engines, etc.



Whether you borrow or use cash you have in the bank, the capital has a cost. We think 5% is a reasonable estimate.



The reality of owning a boat is that you are restricted to the one you have purchased, and at some point your circumstances will likely change. Be it an upgrade, a temporary break in boating where you keep paying for the upkeep or just selling your boat, costs are significant. It takes on average over 6 months to sell a boat and brokerage fees are between 5-10%.





These costs vary according to geographic location, the size of your boat, and the facilities you require. Do you want access to washrooms, restaurants and on-site boat care? Or do you want to keep it simple?

You can find somewhere for as little as £1000 a year if you are happy with a swing mooring with no power that you row out to, but if you want to be in a premium Solent marina with 24hr security, reciprocal moorings, access to excellent facilities, you are looking at more like £8500 a year for a mid sized boat.



Generally speaking, the cost to insure a boat is roughly 0.6% of the boat’s value, per annum.  So a boat costing £150k will cost around £900 per annum to insure, with reasonable excesses.


Maintenance, equipment servicing and replacements


The true cost will vary according to the size and age of your boat, but generally the shopping list of work to be done will be similar. This includes everything from routine items like engine servicing, winter lift and anti-fouling, safety equipment servicing, sail and rig servicing to one off problems like electrical equipment failures, interior wood and upholstery repairs, hull damage and engine issues.

You may be a dab hand at carrying out some maintenance yourself (some people enjoy tinkering!), but there are almost always some jobs that you will require external help.

Also bear in mind that boat maintenance isn’t just a financial burden.  It can be a significant drain on your time too. Don’t overlook the management time in keeping lists, organising contractors, as well as administrative tasks like renewing your insurance and annual mooring.


What’s the total cost?

When you count everything, estimated costs are many and varied, not to mention alarming, so to make it simple we have categorised into the following, based on new and nearly new boats we run, moored in Port Hamble marina:


PURCHASE COSTS 34′ Sailboat 34′ Motorboat
Boats and equipment £150,000 £175,000
Cost of capital (5%) and depreciation (7%) £18,000 £21,000
Mooring, Insurance and Maintenance £13,620 £14,250


Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to talk through the detail of any of these costs with our expert maintenance team. It’s an eye-watering total to keep your boat on the water, especially considering most owners will use their boats for no more than 20 days each year.


Is there an alternative?

The primary alternatives are to charter or to join a boat club. The charter market is established and understood but the new “boat clubs” provide an ownership experience offering more freedom and less hassle, for a fraction of the cost. They are especially good as a try-before-you-buy option.

You can get a membership that provides the same level of usage (15-20 days) for less than the cost of an annual mooring, and all the maintenance and insurance is accounted for, so no hidden costs along the way. You also get access to new and nearly new boats with great availability (stay tuned for our new Hanse 348 arriving very soon!) – plus a host of training and support options.


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