Sure, we all love a pocket full of cash—but setting economic arguments aside, there’s a great reason for using your boat to make money: in many cases, you’ll get to spend more time on it! And if you’ve spent some time checking out our Boat Maintenance pages, you’ve probably come to realize that allowing a boat to sit unused for extended periods of time isn’t good for it. So, not only will you feel better by making money with your boat (helping to pay off any potential financing or loans you still have remaining), your boat will be better off, too.
Just how realistic is it to try to make money with a boat? Although in many cases you can’t expect to make a full-time living with it, defraying the cost of the boat and then some is quite doable.
Here are the top five ways people make money with their boats:
- Peer-to-Peer Rentals
- Charter Fishing
- Vending from Your Vessel
- Operating Sight Seeing Tours
- Special Business Opportunities
1. Peer-to-Peer Boat Rentals
Boat sharing and peer-to-peer rental services are probably the fastest, easiest, most realistic way to bring in a few bucks with your boat asap. Like other peer-to-peer services (like Airbnb, for example), those designed for boats like Boatsetter, GetMyBoat, SamBoat, or RentABoat, are platforms you interact with via an app or webpage, where you can sign up to rent your boat to a fellow mariner who’s boatless.
How it Works
- You set the pricing and then the service takes a cut to cover their expenses and insurance.
- When someone applies to rent your boat, you get to choose whether to accept or reject the rental. So you always maintain control of who takes out your pride and joy.
- Then when the appointed date and time arrive, you meet the renters at the dock, show them the boat, hand off the keys, and watch your bank account balance go up.
“Boats need to be utilized in order to keep them in good working order,” notes Jackie Baumgarten, CEO and co-founder of Boatsetter. “Most owners come to us because it allows them to offset the cost of ownership and keep their boats in good working condition. The average owner will book $15,400 over a two-year period, and our top owners make several hundred thousand dollars a year.”
2. Charter Fishing
If you’re an exceptionally good angler and you have or are willing to get a USCG Captain’s license, as well as any guide’s licenses your state or locality may require, you can offer out your services on your boat and potentially make a bundle. In fact, this is one of the ways some folks make a full-time living on their boat.
You do need to remember that your income will be at the mercy of the weather, how well the fish bite, and mechanical break-downs, and truth be told many charter fishing captains have seasonal work or backup income of one form or another. But speak to any charter fishing captain and they’ll likely all tell you the same thing—that they absolutely love their job.
3. Vending from Your Vessel
You may have to jump through some licensing hoops to satisfy the government-types, but if you live near an area that’s popular with boaters you can turn your own boat into a money-making machine by selling stuff.
Concession stands are the usual move, and you can find boats rigged with freezers that sell ice cream, other that have grills for peddling hot dogs and burgers, and still others that have been rigged with huge livewells to sell live bait.
Aside from figuring out what licenses you may need, the biggest hurdle to making money with this method is usually the seasonal limitations. In most areas of the nation, you’ll only remain profitable during the warmer months of the year, and in others only prime summer weekends will have enough people out on the water to make it worthwhile. Still, imagine how much fun it would be to deliver ice cream to smiling boaters on a hot summer afternoon, and fill your pockets with cash at the very same time.
4. Operating Sight Seeing Tours
This is another venture you’ll need to have a captain’s license for, and since the local population already sees the sights this sort of operation only works in tourist towns. If you happen to live in a hot vacation spot, however, this could be great way to make a few bucks while introducing people to your local waterways.
In some areas eco-tours are a good bet, and in cities built on the waterfront you may find sightseers who are willing to pay extra to check out the scene from a unique point of view. Washington D.C. alone, for example, has about a dozen different boat tour services. The down-side? Like several of these opportunities, seasonality is likely to play a role in just how many months you can operate profitably.
5. Special Business Opportunities
If you’re really serious about making money with your boat and you want to turn it into a career, you could consider providing specialized services on the water.
Some examples of successful waterborne businesses include:
- Parasailing services;
- Dinner cruises;
- Scuba diving and snorkeling excursions;
In all of these cases, of course, you can’t just own any old boat. You’ll need to have a vessel that’s purpose-built for the service you want to provide, and licensing and insuring requirements are likely to be significant.
Still, all of these endeavors have the potential make some serious bucks—and could turn your boating addiction into serious business.
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