Boats in a marina

Owning a boat vs hiring: Pros and Cons

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Owning a boat can arguably one of the best and worst experiences of your life! How does the saying go? It’s great to buy one, great to sell one, but what about all the in-between? That’s why it’s important to consider all the options when either buying or just hiring a boat.

Everyone would love to own a boat, and there is nothing better than that feeling of the wind rushing past you as you stand behind the steering wheel.

But they can be expensive. You will need to consider what you can actually afford. Some luxury boats are far out of the average budget and perhaps hiring a boat can almost be as rewarding.

Why we decided to sell our boat

Having owned a boat for years, and different ones during that time, owning a boat can give a great sense of pride, satisfaction and freedom, but does come at a cost!

Sara on her little Gannet boat back in 1998!
Sara on her little Gannet boat back in 1998!

It was a difficult, almost heartbreaking, decision to finally hand the keys over to someone else, and relying on hiring boats instead.

As our journey into minimalism continues and we prepare to go travelling full-time, selling was (in reflection) the best decision we have made yet in regards to saving financially. We miss the thought of just being able to take it out on the water when we wanted, but in all honesty, we didn’t do this as much as we thought we would.

We don’t miss the mini arguments though on a cold Sunday morning when Gill is grumpy for getting out of bed (and no coffee… grrrr!), often moaning about how much money we spend on it! As an older boat, she sure knew how to eat money with maintenance and fuel costs (it was a 2 stroke engine that would cost $20 just to get out of the marina and into the open sea!).

Cobalt Boat at Port Adelaide 2017
Cobalt Boat at Port Adelaide 2017

We’ve put together a list of pros and cons of owning vs. hiring from our experience to help you decide what’s best for you. This is based on a reasonably sized boat, needing a trailer and more care than just a tinny or dingy that can be stored and maintained more easily.

Pros of owning a boat

  • You can use it whenever you want and for however long you want to (weather permitting!)
  • It’s a great way to spend time with family and friends, when best convenient for everyone
  • Boating regularly can improve health and wellbeing
  • Learn lifelong skills and create an amazing lifestyle
  • You can choose a boat that suits your needs such as speed, comfort, handling, etc.
  • There is a great sense of pride, satisfaction and freedom from owning a boat
  • If it’s a luxury boat or a boat that you can sleep on, you can go on overnight trips or long weekends on the water
  • You’ll be everyone’s best friend!
Learn lifelong skills and create an amazing lifestyle by owning a boat
Learn lifelong skills and create an amazing lifestyle by owning a boat

Cons for owning a boat

  • Boating takes commitment – both time and financially
  • You will probably need a boat licence – check your location and boat size as some don’t require this
  • Skills and some experience is needed before jumping straight onboard on the water
  • Fuel costs generally go up, not down!
  • Most boat owners use their boats much less than they originally anticipated
  • Costs to maintain are significant – anything marine based is far more expensive
  • You need to know a good marine mechanic, especially if the boat is moored on the water
  • Storage of the boat and accessories can be costly, especially if you have no room at home
  • Boats depreciate in value, more so than cars
  • Taking accessories such as skis, kneeboards, fishing rods, nets, lifejackets, etc. can become a hassle if having to transport them each time (and don’t leave them onboard)
  • The more times you have to transport things to and from the boat, the more chance there is for something to break
  • Every boat should be cleaned after use and sometimes this can take as long as you were out on the water
  • You need to ensure the boat is constantly used – letting it sit for months or years at a time will cause significant damage

Pros of hiring a boat

  • It won’t break your bank account!
  • No storage, mooring or maintenance fees
  • You haven’t got the hassle of remembering to register or get the insurance sorted each year
  • Try before you buy, or just have the experience of driving different types of boats
  • Can be great for new boaties who want to work out what the best option is for them
  • More operators are setting up boat hire locations due to their increase in popularity
  • Some boats don’t even require a boat licence to operate
  • You will be given full instruction on how to use and all the safety gear and accessories available
  • No hassle of pulling the boat out of the water, cleaning, etc. Just moor and walk away!
  • You can travel around and have new adventures on the water without the hassle of trailers, etc.
Inside boat cabin heading towards land on the beautiful blue sea
Hiring a boat opens up new adventures!

Cons of hiring a boat

  • Spending time out on the water is great with family and friends, but could be harder to arrange to ensure everyone and the boat is available
  • Some deposits can be pretty significant (but still cheaper than owning)
  • Maintenance of hired boats can sometimes be questionable – check over before leaving the dock and make sure you know what to do if you break down
  • Hired boats are well used so you won’t get that shiny, new feeling you may have in your own boat
  • Not every location has boat hire available
  • Availability can be an issue, especially if a last minute decision
  • Sometimes finding the right boat can be hard, such as a fishing boat for anglers, or bowrider for water sports
  • If you hire on a regular basis, you may end up spending more than the costs of owning a boat
  • You’ll never get that full sense of pride and satisfaction from owning a boat
Bowrider boat with kneeboard on water at sunset
Not every type of boat is always available to hire

Another alternative

There is also another alternative to owning a boat, and that is boat sharing – a part ownership option with other owners. The US has been doing this for years and they also have some popular boating membership clubs. And it does seem to be becoming more popular in Australia. We’re looking more into this way of boating and we’ll share a new post on it soon.

Whichever way you decide to go, equally have their own pros and cons. You just have to make the right decision for you.

If you decide to buy, make sure you have a pretty healthy wallet, and budget for those unexpected costs. Boating is not worth financial hardship. Hire instead if you are in doubt.

For more in-depth information on the costs of owning a boat, this article from Discover Boating is great to consider upfront costs, annual fees, maintenance and costs in the real world. It is American based but useful for anyone considering buying a boat.

Let us know what you decide to do and leave us a comment below! We love to know other people’s experiences of owning a boat or just hiring one!

(P.S. If you decide to own a boat, where’s our invitation to jump onboard for a ride??!)

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