Boat maintenance, as a whole, is actually quite similar to automobile maintenance. There are a few very basic items that require constant maintenance which the owner normally takes care of, and a few items that require maintenance at regular intervals which some owners deal with but most people leave to the professionals. Any basic boat maintenance checklist would include the following items...
Boat Maintenance Checklist:
- The boat’s hull (bottom) and topsides
- Electrical systems
- Plumbing and HVAC systems (in larger boats)
- Moving parts (like hinges, tracks, and zippers)
- Canvass and upholstery
Decades ago this list would have been much longer, because a list of wooden boat maintenance tips would go on for pages and pages. Thankfully, modern fiberglass boat maintenance and aluminum boat maintenance is a tiny fraction of what was once necessary to keep Mom’s Mink afloat.
To get started, read our helpful guides to year-round boat maintenance:
- Marine Engine Maintenance
- Outboard Engine Care
- Spring Start-up Checklist
- Semi-Annual Checklist
Now, let's dive into the details...
Easy Ways You Can Maintain Your Boat
The most basic maintenance tasks are simply keeping things clean and, where appropriate, well-lubricated. This has a huge impact on a boat. The fiberglass gel coat, for example, will oxidize and turn chalky if you don’t wash and wax it regularly. So a basic boat hull maintenance chore with any fiberglass boat is washing and waxing. Dirt that sits on canvass and upholstery allows mold and mildew to attach and grow, so again, regular cleanings are very important. And having a dirty bilge means you may not spot leaking fuel or fluids, and can lead to clogged bilge pumps.
After a day out on the water, other than cleaning the boat and lubricating parts as necessary there aren’t many maintenance tasks you need to worry about. One important task, however, is flushing your engine after boating in saltwater. See Outboard Engine Care and follow your engine manufacturer’s recommendations, to get the low-down on how it’s done (inboard boat motor maintenance is a bit different, but some stern-drive boats have similar flushing requirements).
The one other maintenance chore that should be done after every trip is making a simple visual inspection of all the boat’s systems. If you spot anything wrong, then you can decide whether to tackle the challenge yourself or take the boat in for repairs.
Bringing Your Boat in for Maintenance
Most boaters leave annual boat care and maintenance chores, like changing engine oil, lubricating fittings, and painting the hull bottom, to professionals. Boat trailer maintenance is also commonly left to the pros, since you have such an important item riding atop that trailer (though if you want to take a shot at maintaining your trailer yourself, you’ll find some useful tips and hints in Trailers & Parts).
For more information on professional service for your vessel, read Boat Repair: Choosing a Marine Mechanic.
Cost of Boat Maintenance
Some people enjoy all aspects of working on their boat themselves, while for others, handling maintenance tasks is more a matter of saving on boat maintenance cost than anything else. But remember, virtually all watercraft sold today are relatively low maintenance boats.
As a general rule of thumb, even if you don’t want to lift a finger beyond washing your boat and flushing the engine, annual boat maintenance costs rarely exceed 10-percent of the boat’s cost. And in the early years when pieces and parts generally don’t need replacing, it’s often far less. Average boat maintenance costs are, of course, going to vary quite a bit depending on the type and size of the boat you buy and just how often and how hard you use it.
At-Home Maintenance Cost
Your at-home maintenance costs are negligible. You’ll need some boat soap, a scrub brush, wax, and rags, but that’s about it.
Boat Service and Repair Cost
When you service provider digs into more serious maintenance, obviously, the bill goes up a bit. You may also have to plan for the time and expense of hauling the boat and getting it to the dealership. Still, at least early in a boat’s life these expanses are usually minor. Oil changes for an average-sized outboard commonly do run more than the cost of an oil change for an automobile, but rarely twice as much.
If you’ve decided to leave this sort of maintenance work to the pros, you may be wondering: “where can I get professional boat maintenance near me?” The good news is that most dealerships that sell boats also service them, and in areas where boating is popular, you should have no problem whatsoever finding a shop that can do the maintenance work on your boat and motor.
To learn more about getting your boat professionally serviced, read Boat Repair: Choosing a Marine Mechanic.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the recommended maintenance for an inboard boat?
This will vary a bit depending on the specific engine and drive system. It’s always best to check with the manufacturer, and follow their specific recommendations.
How much is boat maintenance?
As a general rule of thumb most people find that annual maintenance costs run about 10-percent of the cost of the boat, or less.
How much boat damage is due to poor maintenance?
To be blunt, lots of it. Looking at a five-year-old boat that has been cared for versus one that wasn’t washed and maintained you can see an obvious difference. Even worse are the engine problems that accompany a lack of maintenance.
What type of boat has the least maintenance?
This is debatable, but the vast majority of modern aluminum and fiberglass boats require much less maintenance than boats built years ago. When it comes to boats built with alternative materials, like polyethylene boat maintenance or steel boat maintenance, it’s still a mere fraction of that for those old wooden boats.
Why do boat engines require maintenance?
All engines of any type require maintenance to one degree or another, and boat engines work harder than many other types of engines because they’re often run at high rpm for extended periods of time. What maintenance is necessary on a boat? Engine, hull and topsides, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, moving parts, and canvass and upholstery all need to be maintained on a boat.
To learn more about the overall costs of boat ownership and tips for first time buyers, be sure to read:
- Boat Storage: What Are My Options?
- Towing & Trailering
- Insuring Your Boat
- Costs of Boat Ownership
- Boat Loan Calculator