Buy or Rent a Boat:
Which Is Better?


If you’re wondering which is better: Buying or renting a boat, we’ll look at both options to help you decide.

Owning a boat may appear to be more satisfying, but renting may be more affordable in the short term and leave you with money to enjoy other pursuits as well. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of renting or buying a boat so that you can decide which is right for you.

Advantages of renting a boat

When you rent a boat from a professional company or private boat owner, the per-use fee includes insurance, and sometimes also fuel. The boat rental agency or private owner has the responsibility for boat maintenance and storage costs. These costs get passed on to the renter at a fraction so you can focus on boating enjoyment without the ongoing costs associated with boat ownership.

For new boaters, renting a boat is a great way to determine what style of boating you enjoy. This experience will help you make an informed decision should you decide to buy a boat later on.

Disadvantages of renting a boat

Your ability to rent a boat may be limited by the distance to the rental location and by what boats are available. Some rental agencies have strict rules as to who can rent a boat. Minimum age and boating experience requirements can be a barrier to renting a boat. However, this can often be overcome by hiring a professional captain for the rental period.

Advantages of buying a boat

When you buy a boat, you get to choose exactly what you want: Make, model, amenities and power options. And, you can use it whenever you want.

A new boat can be a good investment if well looked after. Some boat types retain value better than others, and vintage vessels have been known to fetch a good price at auction. In either case, the intangible returns are far greater in terms of satisfaction and enjoyment owning a boat can bring.

If you are mechanically inclined and enjoy performing maintenance and repairs on your boat, buying used might be a great way to save on cost.

Disadvantages of buying a boat

Unless you are flush with disposable income, buying a boat in the current economy is beyond the reach of the average person. You may be able to save money by purchasing a pre-owned boat, but a thorough survey must be performed to look for any potential repairs and hidden damage. And you might have more frequent maintenance on an older boat that eats away at the initial savings.

Most people finance a boat purchase over several years. The down payment is the first hurdle and it can take years to accumulate the amount needed. Monthly payments that follow must be budgeted for like a car or house payment. Banks will require that the boat be fully insured. A hurricane storage plan will be necessary to fulfill the insurance company’s requirements for boats stored in high-risk areas.

Once you are a proud boat owner, you must consider the cost and time needed to maintain not just the cosmetics, but the engine as well. Hourly maintenance schedules must be adhered to, to be eligible for engine warranty work. To get the best performance, propellers must be correctly sized and tuned to the particular boat and engine. New boats don’t always come with the ideal propeller, but one that will get the job done. This can eat into your fuel budget.

That brings us to the next point. Do you have convenient access to fuel your boat at a local gas dock, or can you trailer it to a gas station? If your boat is stored in the water, and you own the dock, it is a real plus. However, renting a dock slip will add cost to your monthly payment.

If you buy a boat with a trailer, allocating space at your home may not be feasible. Some HOA neighborhoods don’t allow boat parking. So, off-site storage may be your only option.

Boats are subject to much harsher environments than cars, and while they are built with that in mind, salt and sun can still wreak havoc over time. The hull must be maintained by washing, waxing, and occasional compounding.

Even with good maintenance, on average a boat loses about 25%-30% of its initial value in the first five years of ownership.

Plan a Boating Budget

Even if you can’t afford to purchase a boat right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy boating. Renting a boat is a viable option even for those on a budget.

Having a “Boating Budget” is a fantastic way to include time on the water as a regular activity, without breaking the bank. Start with learning the rental rates at local boat rental companies. Make sure to inquire about what is and what isn’t included in the rental rate, if there is a minimum charge and if blackout dates or holiday rates apply.

Since deposits are taken, it is not unusual to have a minimum hold on your credit card that will be returned at the end of the rental period. Make sure your credit card has sufficient funds.

When vetting boat rental companies, it is important to see their boats in person. Are they well-maintained? Are they clean? Are the boats stored indoors between rentals? Are the models newer with fuel-efficient engines?

Once you have determined the right boat rental facility for your needs it’s time to factor the rental rate into your budget. Will you be enjoying the rental with friends? Great! You can share the cost.

Or, maybe you would enjoy a bit of alone time out on the water. Regardless, the amount needed for a day of enjoyment on the water is most likely less than boat payments. You can ask your boat rental agency if they have discounted rates for multi-day or weekly rentals.

Should I Buy, or Rent a Boat: Conclusion

The pride of owning a boat is hard to beat. Knowing you can take off when you want and having control over all aspects of your boating lifestyle is its own reward. But it does come with a high price tag and a boat-load of responsibility. And since most boat owners only use their boats a few times a month, especially if they are working full-time, it makes sense to pay-as-you-go with a boat rental. You won’t have to worry about repairs, upkeep and storage.

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