Boats are a lot of fun. But unless you live on the water and spend weeks every year ON YOUR BOAT, the cost of owning a boat can be horribly expensive. And as I noted in my Neighbor's Upside-Down Boat, you can literally hemorrhage cash by owning a boat
We recently sold our boat in Georgia, taking a staggering $35,000 loss in depreciation. Some people on a boating site chastised me for "selling it so cheap" as they felt it was worth more. But the boating blue books and local boat brokers indicated that the price I got was about right. And besides, the people who said I sold "too cheap" only felt the boat was worth $10,000 more, which is not a lot of money.
Not a lot of money? Yup. You see, it cost $2400 to store the boat and another $600 to insure it. So you are looking at $3000 a year just in basic costs. So keeping the boat another year or two, on the premise that I could "get more money for it" would only result in me spending more in overhead costs. It was time to pull the plug.
Why? Because with all that goes on, on our little island, we hardly had time to use it. Since it was in rack storage, each boat trip was a major project, packing up things and getting ready to go, hauling it all down to the marina, and the loading it on the boat. When the boat was tied up at our condo, it was a simple matter of just untie and go.
So we ended up using the boat maybe 5-6 times a season, which is not enough to justify the cost - the storage and insurance alone made this about $500 a trip. Throw in about $5,000 to $10,000 a year in depreciation, and you are looking at $1,000 to $1,500 day trips. They were fun, but that's a lot of money.
One alternative, if you don't boat very often, is to rent a boat. Even though boat rentals seem "expensive" the cost per trip and overall cost can be far less than owning. For example, the 36-foot Grand Banks above, can be rented for $2000 a week, which sounds like a lot, but is less than the storage cost alone on our 28-foot Bayliner. And it is a heck of a lot more boat. So we can afford to "vacation" on such a boat for less than half the cost of owning our boat.
Plus, you can rent a boat where you want to vacation. As we learned the hard way, taking our boat from Georgia to Punta Gorda via the ICW and Okeechobee Waterway, it takes a lot of time to get from point A to point B (about a week, each way) and a lot of gas ($3000 worth) when traveling by boat - and our boat would go 30 mph, which is considered "fast".
Even for smaller excursions, renting can be a good deal. We rented runabouts in Pompano Beach for a few hundred dollars a day. Granted, they were pretty run-out boats, but if you want to explore the canals there, it is a lot cheaper than owning a boat, if you are just going out for the day. There are many places in the area that do boat rentals and charters. While the daily rates may seem high at first, if you are not going to be renting very often, you may come out ahead.
The company in the previous link also provides a "boat club" for people who want to rent more frequently. This is a good alternative for someone who wants to boat more, but not pay the high daily rental fees or commit to buying a boat. There are other schemes like this as well - so-called interval ownership or boating club memberships, that allow you to use a boat for so many days a year.
Another advantage of renting or belonging to an interval membership is that you don't have to wash, wax, maintain, store, or otherwise worry about the boat, once you are done. Just hand them the keys and walk away.
Chartering a boat is another alternative and can be fun. For only a few hundred dollars, you can charter a boat, complete with captain and crew, for a half-day or full-day, depending on the area and boat type. This can be a lot of fun - and cost-effective - if you want to go out with some friends for a day and see the sights or do some fishing. And since you have an experienced Captain on hand, you don't have to deal with navigating the boat or worry about running aground.
Owning a boat is a lot of fun, and if you live on the water and use it a LOT, it can be a cost-effective way to go boating. But if you find you are boating less and less, but still want to go occasionally, then sell the boat and rent one - or charter one. It is a lot less hassle, a lot more fun, and a lot less expensive.