How Much Does It Cost To Keep A Boat In A Marina Boat Slip

Hundreds of boats in boat slips in a very large marina.

The cost of keeping a boat in a marina boat slip is dependent upon your location and the length of your boat. Boat slips are very convenient.


In the largest marina on the Great Lakes, it costs about $70 per foot of boat, for a season rented boat slip. This includes electric, fresh water, storage box, and gated security. You also have access to bathrooms, showers, fuel, restaurants, picnic areas, beach, mechanics, pump out, etc.


This is on the high side for the national average, but our local inland lakes have similar pricing. This is due to being a heavy boating community. There are some things to consider before selecting a slip.



How Long Does The Marina Think Your Boat Is?


If you’re looking for dock space at a marina, they may consider your boat a different length than you do. On your boat’s documentation, it reflects the LOH (length of hull) for how long your boat is. However the most common way for a marina to see it, is as the LOA, which is “Length Over All”.


The LOA considers the length from tip to tail to include any bow pulpit and any swim deck out back. Another thing they may add into your boat length is your dingy on larger boats.


It only makes sense that the marina is going to want to rent you a space that accommodates the full length that your boat is going to take up. They want to be sure that you don’t hang out into the water lane or over the walking area of the dock.



Geographic Location Matters


Where I am located, which is between Chicago and Milwaukee and right on Lake Michigan, wet storage (marina boat slip) is higher than the national average. I am also located close to a large chain of inland lakes, which happens to average about $70 per foot for seasonal boat slips also.


If I look at any of the marinas that are directly in either of the big cities, the price jumps to about $165 per foot for the same “all in” priced amenities as I get in my location.

A text image example showing the cost of renting a 30' boat slip in DuSable harbor at $126 per foot plus all the different fees comes to $4943.89 for non-resident.


There are much more expensive places in the country to rent a boat slip, but hopefully where you live, it will be within the normal range of $12 to $50 per foot length of your boat for a season of marina wet storage.



Keep Your Boat Close


When you consider the cost of renting a boat slip, it’s tempting to hunt for the lowest price. This is most likely going to be a mistake for most people.


Too often people will get summer dockage for their boat based on the cheap rate and then find themselves not getting the use out of their boat that they would have liked to. The reason for this is because the cheapest boat slips are going to be on bad lakes, remote locations, or no amenities.


If you’re not going to feel like going to your boat as often, then what’s the point of having one? Your first consideration, when shopping for a marina to keep your boat, is knowing that you’re going to love being there, and going often.


Be sure your boat is on a great body of water, because that’s where you’ll use it most, if not all, of the time.



What Does The Area Have To Offer


The surrounding area should have the amenities you may need also. You never know when you’re going to forget something or have a break down and need parts.


You may also want there to be some shopping, theaters, restaurants, etc. in case you bring guests for a beautiful day on the boat, then the sunshine turns to rain. If you made the trip out to the boat and planned on a good time, everyone can still have some fun.



Picking The Right Marina


Once you found the body of water you want your boat kept on, then you need to pick the best marina for your boat slip. Naturally you’re comparing slip rates between the available marinas, but you don’t want to compromise on the amenities that you’ll need.


You may have the choice of a few different dockage options like, mooring, trailer, dry dock, or wet dock. The least expensive will likely be the mooring, but that’s not a very convenient way of accessing your boat.

Four boats tied to mouring balls out in a lake with steam coming off the water in early morning sun.


We’ll assume you’re renting a boat slip.





There is some level of crime everywhere, so you want to be certain that your boat is going to be safe while your not there.

  • Are there gates on the marina entrance that get locked at closing time?
  • Are there security gates to access the docks?
  • Does the staff monitor the grounds on foot, golf cart, or cameras?


24/7 video surveillance is important, because it is relatively inexpensive and if something does happen, it will be caught in the video backup. The other (and more important) aspect to having video surveillance, is that criminals know they’re being watched and may prevent the crime from ever happening.


It’s not an uncommon occurrence in some areas, to have parts, equipment, or fuel stolen from a boat in it’s rented slip. A friend of mine had his pontoon boat in his rented boat slip, and one day he went out there and couldn’t keep it running. Turns out, someone else had this issue, so they swapped fuel tanks with his boat!


He chose a marina with absolutely no security because it was cheaper to rent a slip there.



Marina Staff And Grounds


Some marinas have one staff member in charge of running the main sales counter, parts counter, slip rental, fixing client issues at the docks, etc. This situation doesn’t usually lead to a good experience for slip owners.


You want a marina that’s adequately staffed with a helpful, friendly, knowledgeable staff. Each staff member shouldn’t be overworked or rushed. The less attentive these staff members are, the more your boating experience is reduced.

Winthrop Harbor Marina with over half of the slips being empty overlooking Lake Michgan.

Take note of:

  • the cleanliness of the marina grounds.
  • condition of the docks and any amenities for your boat.
  • the organization of the office and store.
  • are vehicle parking spaces close and wide enough. (Do you have an assigned space?)
  • enforcement of slip owners keeping their area clean and quiet.
  • is there fire protection at the docks?



Marina Traffic


An important thing to note, is the amount of traffic in and around the marina. You might not think this has much to do with you when your boat is already in the water, but there is an impact on your experience in several ways.


If the boat ramp is near your slip, and you’re trying to relax and enjoy your friends at the dock, all the noise and confusion that always happens at boat ramps is going to interfere with your fun.


What if your car is parked out by trailer parking? New boaters often bump into surrounding objects with their trailers. Even worse, maybe you and your kids have to walk through the marina traffic to get to and from the marina store, restaurant, and car?


You also have to consider the traffic within the marina docks and surrounding area. It may be a good idea to sit and watch this activity on a nice day of a weekend for a few hours, before committing to your slip rental.


Your boat sitting in a slip always has some exposure to collision. Obviously, the more traffic activity around your boat, the higher the chance of damage for you. Another issue with high activity within the dock area, is that you may have delays in being able to get your boat out into open water.



Lake Traffic


A channel entrance with many boats congested trying to get in and out.

Sometimes the marina may be on a channel that leads to other lakes. It’s common for the marina to have the exit from the dockage lead out into the channel. If the channel has high traffic, this may cause congestion within the dock areas also and cause delays getting out to open water.


Lastly, is the traffic out on the lake itself. Assuming that the open water traffic is acceptable to you (that’s why you picked this body of water), the thing to look for is the waves that make it into the slip area. On a busy weekend, how badly are the boats being thrashed around due to wave activity in the slips?


If there is no barrier or breakwater, your boat could take a real beating in some locations while it is just sitting in it’s slip. Also consider if your lake system is prone to water level changes. If so, you may want a slip on a floating dock system to allow for these water level changes.


If your boat is tied to a piling (posts driven into the soil) set dock and water levels increase, things can get real expensive for you. This happens on chain of lakes that are fed by rivers most often.



Available Amenities


1. As mentioned above, I like the added security of there being a gate access to the boat slip areas. It usually requires a slip owner to input a unique code that is assigned to just them, in order to get to your boat. This records who is in the the boat slip areas at any given time. It also keeps out anybody that doesn’t have a boat slip.


2. Are there dock carts available for slip owners to use? A dock cart makes hauling all your equipment and food from your vehicle to your boat MUCH easier.


3. There should be plenty of trash receptacles available, so it’s easy for people to properly dispose of their trash.


4. A marina dock with two lockable storage boxes for the slip owners to use.Having a lockable dock box available right in front of your boat slip can save having to haul more equipment each time you visit your boat. Many marinas can add another box if needed for an extra fee. We don’t always think of all the things we need to bring (cleaning supplies, life vests, tools, etc.), so to be able to leave the things that don’t need to go home is fantastic.


5. If your boat sits higher in the water, you can often ask the marina to install a dock step in your specified location to make accessing your boat much easier. For an extra fee of course.


6. It’s nice to have access to showers, because sometimes you may want to go out to eat after a day on the lake. In some more upscale marinas, you can get an assigned locker in the shower area.


7. Also at some marinas, there is a laundry area. This makes it nice for taking clean, dry cloths back home, or even longer stays on the boat.


8. Bigger boats may have a dinghy. It’s nice to jump in the dinghy and zip over to the restaurant, store, or whatever. There are sometimes special dinghy dock available, or extra space in your slip.


You soon forget the small extra cost on some of these amenities, when you see how much better your boating experience is, as a result of having them.



Ease Of Docking


With the slip you have selected, you may want to test-park your boat into the slip to be sure there isn’t anything that makes docking difficult.


Many times when you rent a boat slip at a marina, you rent one that just fits your boat. This helps keep the price down. However, depending on how the marina laid out the dock system, you may find it a bit tight trying to dock your boat. If you have trouble fitting in your slip, how’s your neighbor going to do when docking next to your boat?


“Test-park your boat in the spot before you commit to a slip.”


Another reason for test-parking your boat is to feel if there’s any water current fighting you as you try to dock your boat. Even if you get a slip the has a current pulling you into the dock, the boat next to you has to fight from the current pulling them into your docked boat as they are pulling into their slip.


In windy conditions, the wind usually will be coming from one general direction. Again this is similar to having a current pushing you one way or another. Check out this video where a big boat is being pushed by wind while trying to fit into a small spot.


Having a prevailing wind push you into the dock in your boat slip is great for you. But again, if there’s no barrier between you and the boat that’s upwind of you, you run a risk of damage to your boat based on their driving skills. You could always leave bumpers hanging off your boat to help protect it from a collision.



Water Conditions


Often times in lower cost marina boat slips, there will be a lot of algae growth around more stagnant water. That means, around your boat. This algae growth is not easy to remove from your boat. Nor do you want to be getting this vegetation tangled in your propellers, impellers, or jet drives.


Make sure that the marina has water treatment/circulation systems in place, or controls any growth in some other manner.


A stone breakwater feature with a low clearance entrance where some boats may hit their propellers.

Another major water condition you need to look at before signing on the dotted line, is water depth. Can you navigate to your slip, and dock your boat safely without having to trim up your drive unit? Direct drives and V-drives don’t even have the option to trim up, so be sure you have plenty of bottom clearance.



Rent Your Boat Slip


There are many factors that come into play when you’re looking for the right boat slip. You need one that provides you with the best boating experience.


You can see that “price” isn’t the main deciding factor to consider. If don’t want to, or can’t trailer your boat each time you want to go boating, then get to your favorite marina and rent your boat slip.


Just remember that the marina and slip you choose is almost as much a part of your overall boating experience as your boat is. Pay a little extra to have a great time.


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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