Boating: The Perfect On-Demand Summer Vacation for Families

If you like the idea of taking an impromptu vacation whenever the whim strikes, you should be a boat owner. Whatever your favorite boating activities may be, you probably already know that when you step aboard a boat and cast off the lines, life’s stresses melt away in a heartbeat. And speaking of heartbeats, it's been scientifically proven that getting out on the water on a boat promotes a restful state, with various physiological and psychological benefits that we like to refer to as "blue mind." Not to mention, national surveys have shown that boaters report higher levels of satisfaction in marriage and romance, as well as many other aspects of life.

boating a vacation on-demand

The bottom line? Boating isn’t merely fun—it’s also good for you and your family in countless ways. It soothes the soul, recharges your internal batteries, and improves your attitude. Think of owning a boat like it was owning your own personal never-ending vacation.

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Boating is more affordable than you think.

Wait a sec, if being a boater is so great, wouldn’t everyone out there already own a boat of their own? Well, if all those people perpetually stuck on dry land knew how great boating was, they probably would.

Then, of course, there is the financial end of things. Hopefully you’ve already checked out our Boat Loan Calculator, and realized that buying a boat really isn’t very different from buying a motorized vehicle intended for use on land. There is such a thing as affordable boating. Don't believe us? Take a look at these 23 Affordable Entry-Level Boat Models, which may surprise you as many have starting price points at well under $30K, $20K, $10K and even $5K.

23 Most Affordable Entry-Level Boats

Let's compare the costs of boating to other vacations.

boating is affordable

What’s even most surprising for many consumers is how well buying a boat compares with other types of vacationing expenses. Consider the following...

A two-week vacation in the Bahamas will cost a family of five around $10,000, on average. If you vacation once a year for five years, that’s $50,000. There’s also a huge range of very nice bowriders, deckboats, and jet boats large enough to easily fit the entire family—plus several guests—in that price range.

But with your own boat you won’t be going back to the same place over and over again, and instead can visit virtually limitless lakes, rivers, and bays.

The list of all the fun activities you can enjoy on each and every mini-vacation never ends—and you can find more activities to do onboard by reading 10 Fun Things You Can Do on a Boat. You’ll never be shoe-horned into a campsite surrounded by crowds of other people, and you’ll be miles away from noisy hotel rooms.

A boat is long-term investment.

Another factor to keep in mind is how many days do you think you might use your boat? Those trips to the Bahamas ended up costing you about $714 per day. But you’re free to use your boat whenever you’d like, and if you use it just 30 times a year the cost per day of fun is less than half that, at $333. Or, it would be if your boat merely disappeared—poof!—like those vacations do. But since you own your boat you eventually gain back its resale value.

As a general rule of thumb (*note that resale value on used boats can vary quite a bit depending on their condition and location) a boat depreciates around 20-percent the year it’s sold, then about 10-percent a year beyond that. Crunch the math and you’ll find that the $50,000 boat should still be worth something like $26,244 five years after you bought it. To learn more, be sure to read our guides, Trade-In or Sell Your Boat: What Are Your Options? and How to Sell Your Boat.

Let’s play it safe, and say the boat’s value is half its original cost ($25,000). When you collect the proceeds from selling it that cost per day of fun also gets halved, which puts the bottom-line number at $166.50—less than a quarter of the cost of a day vacationing in the islands. So, what other fun experiences could a family of five have, for $166.50 a day?

  • Go golfing? Nope. The average fees of $36 per person at a public course add up to $180.
  • Maybe taking the kids to an amusement park would be fun? For sure, but with an average ticket price of $50 per person plus $10 parking fees, that day at the park will tap you for $260.
  • How about paintball? Not by a longshot, that shakes out to around $55 per person per day or $275 for the entire family.
  • What about taking the gang to a baseball game? At an average cost of $65.06, you’re looking at $325.30.
  • For an NFL game push that up to $150 per person, or $750.

Ouch—those few hours of fun are probably going to cost a whole lot more than an entire monthly payment on that boat, even if you bought it with no money down.

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boating is perfect for families

Is buying a boat the right option for your family?

Of course, we do need to realize that there are other expenses associated with all of these vacation options and activities. That includes boats, too, and we wouldn’t want anyone to go into the boating experience without a full comprehension of what’s involved financially.

To get a more complete view of the big picture, be sure to visit our Cost of Boat Ownership page. But when you break out the calculator, remember that each and every recreational activity we’ve mentioned also has peripheral costs associated with it.

And when you get right down to brass tacks, buying a boat isn’t much different from taking the family on a series of vacations, putting in an in-ground pool, buying a timeshare, or making a different sort of land-based recreational purchase like a vehicle or a piece of property. At least, it isn’t from a financial point of view. Because if you want to look at these options from the perspective of which will be the most fun, owning a boat is the winner by a longshot.

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Alternatives to Boat Ownership

It's also good to remember, if you're not ready to take the plunge into boat ownership, you do have other options. From simple full- or half-day boat rentals, to peer-to-peer boat sharing, charters, and even joining a boat club.

Read Next: Coronavirus & Boat Shopping: What You Need to Know


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