Are Boats A Waste Of Money: Pros and Cons – New or Used

An antique wood boat with bars of gold and lots of cash thown into it while it sits grounded up on the rocks.

There are many myths about boats being a waste of money. After a few decades of owning boats, I want to help put the value of boat ownership into perspective.


People who say boats are a waste of money, generally speak in regaurds to mistakes they have personally made. Boats can be a great investment vehicle for people who are experienced in buying and selling boats. For most people however, it’s the boating experiences that they provide for family and freinds that creates amazing memories, making boats a great investment.


A few ways people make boat ownership too expensive are:


  • Buying a boat that impresses your friends, but hurts you financially.
  • Purchasing a boat without fully inspecting it for defects.
  • Buying a pontoon boat to go wakeboarding. (You need the right style boat for the type of activities you want to enjoy)
  • Not taking the time to consider:
            • Where you are going to keep it.
            • The cost of insuring it.
            • Winterizing and storage expense.
            • General maintenance and repair costs.
            • License, registration, and fuel expense.
            • The size of tow vehicle required.



How You Can Tell If Your Boat Is A Waste Of Money


A boat out on the lake at sunset with hills in the background and text that states "Trust yourself enough to do your own research and make the decision that is best for you".One thing for sure is, whether you have a classic car, an airplane, a pool, or a boat, someone is going to say you are wasting your money. The fact is, nobody else can actually determine if you’re wasting money on your hobby.


Only you can place a value on the enjoyment you get from boating. There’s most certainly going to be expense to doing any hobby, but “at the end of the day, you’re the only one who knows if it is worth it”.


Most people reading this article, are likely considering buying their first boat and trying to rationalize the decision. Excellent! You came to the right place. We’re going to put the boat buying decision into perspective for you. The information that we’ll be discussing isn’t coming from someone who’s repeating old sayings such as:


  • “The two happiest days for a boat owner is, the day they buy it, and the day they sell it.”
  • “A boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into.”
  • “Don’t buy a boat, just make friends with someone who owns a boat.”


These are the same jokes told about people with pools, planes, etc. These jokes are true about some people, but those are the people that didn’t consider the big picture before making a decision. So don’t let any of these ignorant jokes play into your decision to buy a boat.


Your best defense against making a mistake on a boat purchase, is running the numbers and considering the FACTS. I have a free boat buyer’s checklist for you that will keep you focused on what to inspect on a boat and how to do it.



A Bad Purchase Decision


My friend Dan was thinking about buying a boat for some summer fun for his family. Of course we spoke about the pros and cons, but his wife’s family got to her with all the negative comments and stories they’ve heard, and turned her against the idea. (Incidentally, her nay-saying family never owned a boat.) So they ended up buying a convertible classic car. The kids don’t like it, because it’s too hot and they have to just sit still. Often, the kids just come with us to the lake to ski, tube and enjoy the water.


It’s nice for Dan and his wife to get out on their own once in a while, but that’s not why they bought a classic car. They truly are missing out on some incredibly fun experiences with their kids. Again, it comes down to considering the true pros and cons, versus the rumors people spread. With a little research and a wise purchase, life could be very different (in a good way).



Things To Consider When Buying A Boat


We all hate feeling like we’ve wasted money, but we’ve actually all done it at some point. The difference between people is that some people learn from the experience, and others don’t. So lets look at some of the expenses that are related to boat ownership that must be considered in order to not regret your final decision.


  • Boat Insurance:

Depending on the value of the boat you want to buy, you could choose full coverage or just go with liability insurance. However, to give you a great idea on what to expect with regards to the cost of insuring your boat, I did some quotes for you. These rough quotes were done through Progressive Insurance Company. They were also done in an inexpensive state (Illinois) and an expensive state (Florida) to provide a true range of rates.

We quoted A 2014 Crownline 195ss , valued at $25,000 and then a 2009 Crownline 195ss valued at $10,000. This is with a 250 HP V-8 motor. The owner is a 40 year old male with a good driving record. This is a nice median boat that will compare to what many new boaters are looking for to have some decent reliability. These quotes are for an annual full coverage policy, so look them over and compare.

2009 Crownline 195ss $10,000 Value In Illinois

An insurance quote for a 2009 Crownline 195ss with a $10,000 Value In Illinois of $206.


2009 Crownline 195ss $10,000 Value In Florida

A insurance quote for a 2009 Crownline 195ss valued at $10,000 Value In Florida at $315.


2014 Crownline 195ss $25,000 Value In Illinois

An insurance quote for a 2014 Crownline 195ss valued at $25,000 Value In Illinois for$262.


2014 Crownline 195ss $25,000 Value In Florida

An insurance quote on a 2014 Crownline 195ss with a $25,000 Value In Florida for $400.


You can see that it’s cheaper to insure your boat in Illinois, but in either case the annual cost of full coverage boat insurance isn’t really that much for a pretty nice boat. I would recommend quoting your potential boat with Progressive and a couple others, though you’ll probably find Progressive to be the best. So insurance isn’t going to break the bank, so lets continue with more of the expenses of boat ownership, so you can judge for yourself if boating would be a waste of money for you.


  • Storage:

Many boats stored in racks ata boatyard with cloudy skies in the background.There are several winter and summer storage options you can choose from. Lets look at some that are ranked from free to pricey.

    • Obviously if you have the space to store the boat and keep it safe from the elements of mother nature, it would be the best case scenario.
    • Another option is storing your boat at family or a friends space. With enough asking around, someone will know someone else who can accommodate your boat.
    • A great place to check for very low cost winter storage space for your boat, is your county fairgrounds. Don’t be afraid to check other nearby county fairgrounds either. There is some REALLY cheap storage out there. In cold climates, these fairgrounds shut down and have a TON of space. Where we have stored in the past is about $2 per square foot for the entire storage season. So a 20′ boat on a trailer would be about $400 to have the boat under roof and out of your yard for the entire storage season.
    • You can check Craigslist and other classifieds for property owners offering winter storage. They’ll most likely be just under the cost of our next option, so save money where you can.
    • A self storage facility can usually accommodate a boat, but often times it’ll be outside storage. Anything under roof is going to be quite pricey and I’d suggest finding another option. However, if you have your boat shrink wrapped, then outside storage is fine. Having your boat shrink wrapped will run you about $10 per foot of boat.
    • Then your most expensive option for storing your boat is going to be Rack Storage at your local marina. They have giant shelving units in big buildings. They take your boat off the trailer and place it up into the rack. It’s very safe and very expensive. This is used for winter storage, but also for “in and out service” (when you want to use your boat, you schedule the boat to be placed in the water for you. When you’re done, they stick it back in the rack. If your’re interested in making your boating experience a waste of money, then call your local marina and choose this option, (lol).


  • Winterize Your Boat:

I cold climates where freezing temperatures happen, your boat has to be winterized for storage to prevent the engine, out drive, head, sink, or anything else that has to do with holding water, from freezing. This is something you can do yourself for a very low cost. Your antifreeze might be less that $10 for a 8 cylinder motor. You’ll also need a can of fogging oil for 5 bucks.


For detailed instructions on winterizing a boat, read my article “Free Checklist To Prepare Your Boat For Extended Storage“. Be sure to bookmark this, so you can always refer back to it.


  • Maintenance:

A amrine mechanic working on an inboard motor while in a baot with water and dockage in the background.Maintenance is also something you can do yourself, however many new boat owners hire this out as well. As far as keeping your boat clean and in good working order, you definitely can do this. When it comes to oil changes for your engine and out drive, people get nervous. But here again, the article I just mentioned above, will show you how to DIY the process. It’s not nearly as hard as you may think.


If you were to have a boat like in the above insurance example, a dealership would charge around $450 to do both oil changes, fuel filter change, and full winterization at the end of the boating season. But if you did this all yourself, you would spend less than 1/4 of that and save yourself a few hundred bucks.


  • Repair:

A boat is a mechanical item, just like a car. Things will wear out and break from time to time. However, with regular maintenance, you’ll avoid most issues. Most times that I have encountered problems with a boat that requires a repair, it has been due to neglect (poor or no maintenance). You maintain your car to avoid problems, so just maintain your boat also.


If you crash into a dock or hit the bottom of the lake with your prop, you’ll need to pay for repairs. Just like anything though, if you make a mistake, it’ll cost you money. The boat isn’t the waste of money, the accident is the waste of money.


  • Boat Slip:

A few boats floating in the water in their boat slip on a sunny day with wodded hills in the background.Again, it’s best if you can keep your boat at your home, and trailer it to different lakes whenever you like. If you want to keep your boat in the water, so it’s ready at all times, then you may want to rent a boat slip.


There’s a wide rage in price to rent a boat slip, depending on location. If you are on an unpopular lake, you can rent a boat slip for the season for about $10 per foot of boat. However, if you want to be where the action is on a popular lake, where it’s hard to find a slip available, you could spend upwards of $250 per boat foot for the season!


  • Accessories:

You’re going to want all the toys to do the activities you’re planning for your family’s boating experience. I’ve found that much of the time when I buy a boat, they’re including many of the toys and safety equipment along with the sale. Not always, but sometimes. Either way, you can find nice used water skis, wakeboards, towables, ropes, vests, etc. on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, and Offer-up. Or just go to my Recommended Products page..


If you go with nice used equipment, you can get enough to get started for a couple hundred dollars. However, I have found some great products that I talk about on the “recomended products page”.



The Correct Boat For Your Boating Goals Prevents Wasting Money


This is quite simple. Sit down with your wife and kids and list out all the fun activities you want to do while boating. If you aren’t married yet, talk with your best friend. Your list will have activities such as:

  • Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Wakeboarding
  • A man standing on the swim deck of his ski boat getting his kids ready to tow behind in a towable tube in the water with trees in the background.Wake surfing
  • Fishing
  • Bringing friends along
  • Cooking out/picnic
  • Sunbathing
  • Swimming
  • Overnight stays on the water
  • Snorkeling
  • Going fast on the lake
  • Going to restaurants

You’ll notice that some of these activities don’t have to take place on the boat, but the boat has to accommodate the equipment and space needed for the activity. Knowing everything that you’ll want to do, or need to take along, will narrow down the style and size boat you’ll need.


If you like cooking out on the boat, you’ll need a grill that can hang on the side of the boat, or maybe you actually want a galley (kitchen) on board. You would also need a sink and a food prep counter. Sometimes, this type of person will want a Head (bathroom) on board as well. It also makes staying overnight on-board feasible. An on-board bathroom is nice so you have a place to wash up/shower before going into a restaurant also.


Sunbathers are going to want big enough areas to lay out on the boat without getting stepped on. Swimmers and snorkelers would benefit from a nice swim platform. Like going fast? Then get a big engine! I like going fast.



A man and his daughter sitting on a PWC (personal watercraft) floating in the water on a sunny day.After going over your list, it just may be that a PWC (personal watercraft/jetski) or two may be a great choice. They’re fast and nimble, and are a blast to jump big waves on big water. Most of the three place PWC’s have plenty of power to pull tubes and skiers also. I used to slalom ski behind mine with no problem. Many of them also have a surprising amount of on-board storage capacity to. Though for family fun, I feel that nothing beats a boat.



Be Smart And Wait For A Good Deal


First off, a boat doesn’t have to be an expensive one to go out and enjoy all the watersports and family fun. I’ve purchased some very cheap boats. I just purchased a 1995 Celebrity Stratus 190 for $200. Originally I planned on donating the boat and selling the trailer, but as I’ve been cleaning and inspecting the boat further, it’s looking like it just may be a decent boat in the end. I’ll know more once spring comes around so I can dig into it more. The way it looks now, with some work and another few hundred dollars, it’ll be worth between $4,000 and $5,000. We’ll see what happens.


I also bought a 2008 Monteray 268ss for $4,500 and by the time it is ready to be sold, I’ll have approximately $7,000 into it, yet it’s worth between $40,000 and $50,000.

A Monterey 268ss tied up to a dock next to a business district of town.
Same as my boat, but mine is shrink wrapped for storage right now.


The point of telling you this is, to give you a broad range of boat values, and that no matter what price range you’re looking in, YOU CAN FIND A GREAT DEAL!


One of the biggest mistakes that people make when buying a boat, is overpaying! That ends up making them feel like boating is a waste of money, but the reality is, that it was more about not researching the boat market and not knowing boat values. This is the primary mistake! The people who don’t think things through, will just go to a boat dealer on a whim and get talked into a boat that is:

    • too expensive for them
    • not the right boat for their needs
    •  at full retail price (or higher)

which won’t allow them to resell the boat to correct their mistake. When I buy any boat, I always pay the “worst case scenario” price. There are SO many boats available, don’t feel like you can’t find a better deal or a better fit for your needs. Specially when you’re buying your first boat, you want a great deal so that if things don’t work out for your new boating hobby, you’ll be able to sell everything without losing money.



Take Your Time And Look At LOTS Of Boats


Make researching and looking at boats a fun experience, and you’ll learn what a good deal really is. Plus you’ll also continue getting better at knowing what to look for to determine if you’re looking at a well maintained boat or not.


As I put up more videos on the Begin Boating YouTube channel, you’ll begin to see how easy it is to clean up and repair things that would make others run away from a boat that is actually a good deal. I’m not suggesting that you’ll always have to trade your labor to get a good deal, but this knowledge can be a huge advantage and provide you some options. If you do find a diamond in the rough, cleaning it up could also be a part of the boating experience that may help your family really bond.



Boating Is NOT A Waste of Money


Now that you have a good idea for

  • plotting out your search for the right boat at the right price,
  • knowing where you can keep the boat in the summer and winter within your budget,
  • knowing what to expect with insurance, maintenance, repair, and winterization costs,

you’re certain to make a great decision for you and your family. You can’t put a price/value on your family’s enjoyment, experiences, and memories created. You ‘ll absolutely know when it happens that it was all worth it. Boating has been some of the best money spent for my family, and without a boat, we would have missed out on MANY amazing memories and experiences.


I bought my first boat while in high school 1981. I had more hours working on it than using it in the water. I can't count how many boats I've had since, but I really enjoy reviving boats. I've had so many boats that I could never use them all. Once I fix a boat up, I play with it a couple times and sell it. My goal is to use my many years of experience, and help as many people Begin Boating.

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