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The real cost of owning a boat

The real cost of owning a boat

Most people think of boating as a super pricey hobby, but in fact, the often quoted comparison is that the average sized boat in Australia, which is under 7.5 meters, costs about the same to run as a car.

Actually it's probably a fair bit more expensive, as you'll probably use your boat much less often and in much harsher conditons, so requiring more maintenance.

Given that, before you lash out and buy one it makes sense to check out the ongoing costs of boat ownership that you need to factor in.

These guidelines are for average size runabouts, walk-arounds, cabin cruisers, trailer sailers and small game boats. 

The basics

Before you launch you’ll need some essential items including:

  • Life jackets - average cost $75
  • An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon - average cost $300
  • Marine flares - average cost $200
  • Fire extinguisher - average cost $35
  • A GPS - average cost $1200
  • Boat oars  - average cost $80
  • Ropes - average cost $100
  • If you're planning to go more than five nautical miles off the coast you'll also need a marine radio - average cost $250 
  • A boat trailer - between $1500 and $6000 and may be much more.

For more information on the kind of equipment you may need download a list a copy of the Maritime Handbook (NSW).

Upkeep 

Prices vary depending on location, age and size of the boat and engine, but ballpark costs for an annual service is between $200 and $400.

Expect to pay more for time consuming items such as oil changes and anti-fouling.

It's recommended that you get your engine serviced at least every 100 hours.

If you can do maintenance yourself, then that will obviously keep the costs down. 

Keeping your boat covered and washing it down regularly with fresh water can also reduce the impact and associated costs of salt and weather.

Mooring and berthing

There are several options for storing your boat depending on its type and size.

If you’ve got the space, a driveway or garage is an easy option for a smaller boat and it will save you, because boat storage can be very expensive.

There are dry stack and rack options at most marinas and costs range from around $2500 to $4500 a year depending on size.

If your boat is large or you use it a lot check out a marina berth or permanent mooring options.

Mooring and marina berthing costs again vary enormously depending on location, size and whether it’s a private of public facility.

Fees start at around $100 a year for a simple mooring in a semi-remote location and can be up in the thousands at popular locations like St Kilda in Victoria, Queensland’s Gold Coast, or Sydney’s Spit.

The Marinas Guide is a great resource that provides information on every single berthing option in Australia, whether it’s a marina berth, swing mooring or drystack facility.

Fuel

Most boats of 7.5 M or less won’t require huge amounts of fuel, especially if they're sail boats.

However the amount of fuel you use on any given journey will include, the size of the boat, the size of the engine, the weather conditions, the distance and the speed you are travelling.

If you have a bigger boat and more horsepower then fuel can start to be very expensive.

Many newer marine engines let you monitor fuel consumption electronically, with a fuel monitor, so you can optimize fuel efficiency.

Boat insurance

The cost of boat insurance, like car insurance varies by the size and make of the boat being insured and the level of coverage you want.

Look for insurance that protect your vessel on and off the water.

NRMA Boat Insurance covers your boat anywhere in Australia against accidental damage, collision or crash, earthquake, explosion, fire, flood, storm, theft or attempted theft, tsunami, vandalism or a malicious act.

Registration, regulation and licence fees

These vary state by state. Powerboats with an engine capacity of more than 5 horsepower, sailing vessels over 5.5 metres, Jet-ski’s and all vessels that are moored or berthed at a marine must be registered when occupying most Australian waters.

Check with your state or territory regulations for costs and details.

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