Renting a Boat: Boat Rentals Guide

renting a boat

Maybe you haven’t decided what type of boat to buy despite spending hours on our Boat Finder Tool, maybe the cost of boat ownership is forcing you to wait before buying, or maybe you’re just not ready to have your own boat yet and you want to rent one to get a taste of the boating lifestyle—whatever the reason may be, a boat rental will allow you to get your feet wet without taking the plunge.

Fortunately, you can find a boat rental service just about anywhere you find boats. Whether you’re thinking about a speed boat rental, an electric boat rental, or anything in-between, you’ll want to make sure you find the boat and the waterway that can offer the experience you’re looking for.

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How Boat Rentals Work

There are hundreds of different boat brands and manufacturers, making countless different styles and sizes of pleasure boats. Which will be the right boat rental for you? That depends entirely on what activities you’d like to try out. If you think water skiing looks like a blast, then ski boat rentals should top your list. But if you’ve always wanted to try fishing from a boat, then you probably need to ask yourself “where will I find fishing boat rentals near me?” Remember that some types of boats, like fish-and-ski models, are great for multiple uses. But some others, such as trawlers, are a bit more specific in what they’re used for.

One important factor you should consider prior to renting a boat is its condition and the rental company’s reputation. Rental boats are known to be used hard and if you rent from an outfit that doesn’t stay on top of issues like maintenance and repairs, your day on the water could be ruined by mechanical breakdowns or sub-par gear. This is often less of an issue with lake boat rentals as opposed to renting boats that live in a saltwater environment, but you should still do a bit of investigating prior to making any decisions.

Boat rental by owner, also known as peer-to-peer boat rental, is another option some people may want to consider. Again, note that you may encounter boats in varying conditions and take the time to read user reviews, which are available on the web sites of most peer-to-peer rental services.

Learn More About Peer-to-Peer Boating Sharing

boat rentals guide

Age Requirements to Rent a Boat

In most cases, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old to consider power boat rentals. In some others you may need to be 21 or even 25; the rental companies set their own policies and they may vary a bit from one to the next. Age requirements may be more flexible for a charter boat rental, since charters generally come with a captain who’s responsible for running the boat (other than “bareboat” charters).

Boat Rental Pricing

Boat rental pricing runs the gamut. A motor boat rental tends to cost more than a sailboat; larger boats rent for more than smaller ones; fishing boat rentals cost less than renting luxury cruisers; and geography also plays a role. You’ll find that vacation boat rentals cost significantly more in popular tourist destinations than in less-traveled waterways.

You can save a bit on hourly rates by renting over a longer period of time. Renting by the hour is the most expensive option when you look at per-hour cost. Full day rates bring that down, weekend boat rentals result paying even less per hour, and when you look at the big picture, on an hourly basis, comparatively a weekly boat rental is often the best deal.

What You Need For Your Boat Rentalwhat to bring on a boat rental

  • Food & Drinks
  • Water Toys
  • Fishing Rods
  • Fuel

When it comes to food and drink, remember that more is better. Especially when it comes to hydrating fluids, if you don’t pack enough it can ruin a day on the water. And of course, you’ll want to bring along whatever extra equipment you want whether that means hauling a wakeboard along for that pontoon boat rental, or taking fishing rods to go with your bass boat rental.

Fortunately, fuel is one thing you don’t have to worry about since rental services generally supply the boat fully tanked up and ready to go. You may, however, need to be prepared to re-fuel the boat at the end of the rental period. Some outfits consider refills (and paying for them) to be part of the renter’s responsibility.

Learning to Drive the Boat

What if you’re not an accomplished boater? Some rental outfits will give you on-the-spot instruction. In most states you need to have passed a basic boating or boating safety program prior to operating any type of boat, so before you even consider renting a boat you should have been exposed to the basics.

Rules of the Water

Aside from abiding by the USCG Rules of the Road there may be local laws or restrictions you need to be aware of. The business you rent from should inform you of any such regulations, but if the topic hasn’t come up it’s a good idea to specifically ask, prior to leaving the dock. Once you know about any such rules, there’s one over-riding rule that everyone aboard needs to know: you’re out on a boat, so have fun and relax.

Find Out More About Boating Etiquette

Boat Passenger Etiquette

Even if you've hired a captain or a member of your crew is driving the boat, it's important to follow passenger etiquette. This includes refraining from littering, listening to your captain's instructions, and sitting in your designated spot. If you're new to boating, be sure to watch our passenger etiquette video below!

Boat Rental FAQs

How much is a pontoon boat rental?

Pontoon boat rental will vary depending on the boat’s size and geography. If the rental location is in a popular tourist destination you have to expect to pay more. But the amount of competition has an impact on the pricing, too. In some areas you may be able to find a pontoon boat rental for just a couple hundred dollars a day, but in high-priced tourist towns expect to pay upwards of $500 a day.

How much do boat rentals cost?

Pricing runs the gamut. You can find small, open skiffs located on lakes that rent for as little as $30 or $40 an hour, and you can find cabin cruisers or motor yachts that go for 10 or 20 times that amount.

Where can I rent a boat?

You can rent a boat just about anywhere. But if what you’re really asking is “where are boat rentals near me,” the answer is a quick search on our Go Boating Today tool.

How much does it cost to rent a boat for a week?

The exact rate will vary wildly depending on the type and size boat, and it's location. But remember that when you get a weekly boat rental the overall cost may be higher than a day-rate, yet in the long run you end up paying a lot less per hour.

How much does it cost to rent a big boat?

The bigger the boat, the higher the cost. And the sky is the limit—in some places you can even rent a mega-yacht for tens of thousands of dollars a day.


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