Using tools like our Boat Loan Calculator makes it easy to nail down accurate monthly expense figures when you’re purchasing a boat, but like any substantial asset, there are other costs of boat ownership. You can, however, find plenty of way to save money on annual boat ownership.
These 10 tips will be a good start as you decide how to manage your boat ownership expenses in the most cost-effective way.
- Take tax deductions
- Run at maximum efficiency
- Consider fractional ownership
- Keep the boat well maintained
- Take a boater’s education course
- Consider boat storage options
- Learn to do DIY repairs and maintenance
- Fuel up on land
- Assess your insurance options
- Join a peer-to-peer boat sharing marketplace to defray cost
Now, let's dig into the details of some of these cash-saving tips...
1. Take full advantage of tax deductions.
There are a number of ways boats can help you reduce your tax burden at the end of the year.
- Your boat may count for a second home mortgage interest deduction;
- In some cases they qualify as a business expense, boats that are chartered for profit may be a legitimate consideration;
- If you use your boat to commute expenses could be deductible;
- And when you’re ready to move on to a new boat you may be able to donate your old one to get an additional tax break.
Naturally you’ll want to make sure that any exemptions you file for are completely legal and legitimate. But that may well be the case, so a discussion with your accountant is in order.
2. Run your boat at its most efficient cruising speed to save fuel.
If you have a sailboat you’re in luck—any time the wind cooperates your fuel costs will be around zero. But power-boaters will see a drastic reduction in their fuel bill if they run their boat at its most efficient speed—this involves knowing what it means to trim a boat, and how to properly trim a boat, which will improve its performance and fuel economy.
All boats have a “sweet spot” where they get the best MPG (commonly around two-thirds of full throttle), which you can determine by watching fuel efficiency on your engine monitor or through trial and error. Either way, the important thing is to identify that most-efficient cruise, and then operate your boat at that specific speed whenever appropriate.
3. Consider fractional boat ownership.
Why own 100-percent of a boat, if you’ll only be using it half the time? There’s nothing wrong with sharing your pride and joy with another owner or owners, and the financial benefits of sharing the cost can be huge.
Plus, there are fractional ownership companies that take care of many of the ownership issues, so you can enjoy fractional ownership even if you don’t have a group of friends or family who want in. Particularly when it comes to large boat or yachts, for people with limited time availability fractional ownership makes a lot of sense.
4. Keep your boat and its power system properly maintained.
This includes things like making sure the bottom isn’t covered in growth and keeping the engine(s) in good running condition so you don’t lose efficiency. But keeping the boat well maintained will also pay off in the long run, because expensive break-downs and equipment failure becomes much less likely.
5. Take a boating education course online or on-water.
It's always a good idea to continually expand your knowledge and skillset when it comes to boating, and taking a boating class can help you do just that. The better educated you are the less likely it is that you’ll make a costly mistake while running your boat. Plus, in some cases being better educated can get you an insurance break. Since many boater education courses are free, that makes taking one a win-win.
6. Reassess your boat storage options.
You may be able to save money on your slip by shopping at several different marinas, because pricing can vary widely depending on the marina’s location and amenities.
You may also be able to save money in the long run if you buy a trailer and store your boat rent-free, at home. And in the off-season you might find that there’s less expensive winter storage available inland, as opposed to leaving it at the boatyard.
7. Brush up your DIY (do-it-yourself) skills.
While significant mechanical work should probably be left to the professionals, there’s nothing wrong with handling minor chores ranging from cleaning your boat, to winterizing it, to installing new boating accessories.
Naturally you’ll want to use good judgement and be sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew, but a little bit of elbow grease and determination can prevent some big bills from arriving in the mail.
8. If your boat is on a trailer, fill the fuel tank up at a gas station on land.
Fuel costs are usually substantially higher at marinas, and boats hold a lot of fuel. However, whenever you fill up a trailer boat on land be sure to check the pumps and verify that you’re using the proper one. Many land-based gas stations carry E15 these days, and that can damage marine engines and fuel systems.
9. Make sure you have the proper boat insurance.
While insurance is certainly a cost of ownership, it’s also the best way to prevent dipping into your bank account to cover large, unexpected expenses.
And while it isn’t by definition “insurance,” also consider getting an on-water assistance and towing membership. All mechanical items including boats can break down, and a tow can be a very large and unexpected expense if you don’t have all the bases covered.
10. Consider placing your boat into a peer-to-peer boat sharing marketplace.
Many boat owners find that they can defray a large proportion of the cost of ownership—and sometimes even make a profit—by joining one of the boat sharing companies and letting some lucky renters get in on the fun.
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