The Frugal Boat Owner: How to Boat on a Slim Budget

Is It Possible to Enjoy Boating on a Frugal Budget?

Most people believe that owning and operating a boat is too expensive to manage. It's true that some boats are extremely expensive, and that it can be expensive to keep a boat operational (especially if it’s a large yacht, which can cost millions). However, it's also possible to boat on a slim budget – without sacrificing any quality or fun in the process.

So how can you be an active boater on a slim budget?

Starting With the Right Boat

Everything starts with buying the right boat. There are dozens of different types of vessels available, with many different manufacturers and models to choose from. You could invest in a mega yacht worth tens of millions, or you could simply invest in a rowboat, with plenty of room in between.

For a standard vessel capable of supporting most aquatic activities, you should probably be prepared to spend at least a few thousand pounds/dollars/euros. For most people, this can be affordable – as long as you follow a few simple rules:

  • Buy used. Consider buying a used vessel instead of a new one. Buying new has a lot of benefits, but boats depreciate quickly, so after even a few days of use, the price of a new vessel will drop. That means investing in a new boat might not pay off for you. It also means you can frequently find inexpensive used boats that might as well be new. As an added bonus, shopping for used vessels means you'll instantly double the options available to you, so you have more varieties to choose from.
  • Explore a wide variety. Even if you have a general idea of what kind of boat you want to buy, take your time with this decision and explore a wide variety of different vessels. This way, you'll get a better feel for what's available and you'll be more likely to find a reasonable option for a low price.
  • Avoid overbuying. Resist the temptation to overbuy. New boat owners often overestimate how often they're going to use the boat and get excited when they see big, powerful, or attractive boats. This makes it quite easy to buy a boat that's bigger and more expensive than what you truly need. Take an assessment of the activities you want to try with this boat and use those as parameters for your purchasing decision.

Saving and Financing

You'll also want to save money and finance your boat appropriately.

  • Know your budget going in. Before you start formally shopping around for different boats, you should know what your budget is. How much are you willing to spend on a boat on a regular basis? Consider not just your boat payment, but also insurance, fuel, mooring fees (if they apply), maintenance, and more. Analyse your current income and expenses to make sure this is something that can fit in your life.
  • Embrace financing. For most frugal boat buyers, it makes sense to embrace financing. As long as interest rates are favourable, this is an easy way to boost your purchasing power without demanding much money from you up front. Shop around with different financing providers to make sure you're getting the best deal.
  • Save up a reasonable down payment. It's also a good idea to save up a bigger down payment, if you can. The bigger your down payment is, the smaller your monthly payments will be and the less interest you'll pay over time. Many lenders require a down payment of at least 20 percent but consider offering more.

Store Your Boat at Home

You can store your boat at a marina, but in exchange, you'll owe a monthly fee for storage and any other services you're using. If you spend a lot of time on the water, this may be worth the expense. Otherwise, you can save significant money by keeping your boat stored at home. Use a boat trailer to take your boat to the water whenever you want to launch it.

Learn to Do Your Own Maintenance

You'll spend a lot of money on maintenance if you constantly take your vessel into a professional repair shop every time it needs a minor adjustment. Instead, it pays to learn to do your own maintenance. This is also valuable because it teaches you about the anatomy of your boat and empowers you to make certain repairs on the fly.

The most common maintenance for boat owners includes:

  • Oil changes. Changing the oil of a boat is similar to changing the oil in a car. It's a simple and straightforward procedure that becomes routine quickly.
  • Filter changes. You'll also be responsible for changing the filters in your boat to make sure they're working as intended.
  • Lubrication. Gearcase lubricant may need to be changed or reapplied periodically.
  • Winterisation. If you live in an area that deals with hard winters, you'll also need to learn how to winterize your boat for months-long, seasonal storage.

Use Fuel Wisely

Another major cost of boating is paying for fuel. But there are a few strategies you can use to minimise your expenses in this area.

For example, you can shop around for better fuel prices. You may not have as many fuel stations to choose from on the water as you do on land, but if you're willing to take an occasional extended trip, you might be able to fill up at a location with lower prices. It may also be a good idea to moderate how often you use your boat, based on current fuel prices; in other words, when fuel prices are high, consider traveling shorter distances or using your boat less often.

Subsidise Your Purchase

You may also be able to subsidise your boat purchase, using your boat to make money to offset some of the expenses of running it. If you fish regularly, and eat the fish you catch, you can save money on food. You can offer water tours or rent your boat to other people as well.

Are you ready to start shopping for an affordable boat? With so many options available, it’s easier than ever to find exactly what you need for a price that works for you. Start your boat search at TheYachtMarket today!


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