Boating comes with several expenses and responsibilities, including slip fees and maintenance costs. If you love getting out on the water but don’t want the hassle of boat ownership, a boat club membership can be a good solution.
To determine whether a boat club is a good investment, you can do the math to determine whether the cost of owning a boat is less than the monthly dues of a club.
Cost alone shouldn’t be the only thing you consider, though. Convenience and how much fun you can have should factor into your decision.
The Cost of Boat Ownership
Owning a boat lets you decide to hit the water on the spur of the moment, whether you want to go out for an afternoon or an overnight trip. A boat is also a valuable asset that adds to your net worth.
However, these perks come with several ongoing expenses, so be sure to budget for all of them to avoid surprises.
The Boat Purchase
If you’d like to own a boat and want a small pontoon boat or one with no cabin, your initial investment can be as low as $15,000, though bigger models can run into six figures. Cruisers with cabins and larger models will cost thousands more.
If you need a trailer to transport the boat, add at least a few hundred dollars to the bill. Bigger boats require more expensive trailers. A trailer could raise the cost of ownership by thousands.
Owning a boat can be expensive unless you have a private place to keep it. Slip fees and additional docking charges can range from hundreds of dollars per month to over a thousand dollars monthly, often with extra costs for electricity, taxes, and waste pumping,
Some marinas charge according to boat length with a set price per foot, while others have set prices for each slip. The cost for one night at a dock can easily be $100 or more. Longer leases can get discounts that lower the daily rate.
Off-Season Storage Fees
In states like Florida that have warm weather year-round, you might not need to worry about off-season storage. In those places, you’ll pay marina fees, though you may be able to get a discount for longer-term leases when the weather’s cool enough that you want to stay off the water.
If you need to store the boat on land, you have a few storage options. You can shrink wrap it, which can cost up to $600 or more depending on the size of the boat. Outdoor rack storage costs more, and indoor rack storage will be the most expensive out-of-water option at about $55 to $65 per foot.
If you can store the boat in a marina, the cost for a season can range from $1,000 to $5,000. The price will depend on the type of boat and the marina’s policies.
Supplies and Equipment
Safety equipment like signal flares, fire extinguishers, life jackets, and radio equipment might come with the boat you purchase. You’ll also want tools for minor repairs and first-aid supplies on board.
Licensing and Insurance
You’ll have to pay a fee and take a course on boat safety and operations in most states. Once you pass the test, you’ll be licensed. This cost is usually small, averaging about $30 to $50.
Insurance costs depend on the level of coverage you buy and the value of your boat. Basic insurance policies will cost around 1% to 2% of the boat’s value annually. Better coverage and an expensive boat could cost up to 5% of the boat’s value per year.
Fuel and Maintenance Costs
Regular maintenance to keep your boat in good working order, repairs, fuel, cleaning, and other necessary expenses can add hundreds to thousands of dollars to the annual cost of owning a boat.
You’ll also have to take the time to perform regular maintenance and winterize the boat each year.
The Cost of a Boat Club
A boat club lets you enjoy all the best aspects of boating without the hassle and expense of ownership.
Each boat club sets its own rules and fees, so you should research to find a premier boat club in your area that fits your budget. The biggest boat club in the United States, the Freedom Boat Club, has over 315 clubs across the US, Canada, and France.
The initial fee starts at about $5,000, and the ongoing monthly dues range from $350 per month and up. Each year of membership may require a payment to rejoin, in addition to the monthly cost.
The initial and yearly fee is much less than the cost of purchasing a boat, and the monthly expense is less than slip or storage fees. If you want to get on the water frequently, renting a boat each time can add up and become more expensive than a boat club membership, too.
Without the ongoing costs of maintenance, insurance, and storage, a boat club membership can be much less expensive than owning a boat or renting one regularly.
Boat Club Benefits
If the cost of joining a club seems high, consider all the things a boat club has to offer for the price.
Choose Any Boat
If you love fishing boats, deck boats, and sailboats, you don’t have to buy one and stick with it for years. You can choose any available model when you’re ready to take to the water. You can fish on Saturday and relax on a cruiser the following Wednesday.
The best boat clubs will have a large fleet to choose from and will present you with a clean boat, fueled up and ready to go.
Benefit From Years of Experience
Your boat club will have experienced captains ready to drive your boat so you can enjoy yourself without worry. This service is perfect for small gatherings or helping you learn how to operate a boat safely.
Clubs like the Freedom Boat Club or your local Carefree Boat Club offer education and water training. They teach you how to operate a boat with lessons and workshops.
One of the biggest perks of belonging to a boat club is the calendar of regular social events. Members mingle and enjoy the boating lifestyle on party boat cruises, dock parties, fishing trips, and group outings to restaurants and clubs.
Boat Club Drawbacks
Boat club membership comes with several benefits, but it also has drawbacks.
The initial fee and monthly cost might be too much for someone who doesn’t use the membership regularly. While it’s less than owning a boat in most cases, a sporadic boater will probably save money by renting a boat when needed.
You’ll also need to reserve your boat in advance, so you can’t decide to get on the water and spontaneously head for the dock. You might need to make reservations for some boats far in advance to get the one you want on weekends or near holidays.
Some boat clubs also have limitations on the hours or days when you can use a boat, so if your dream is night fishing or taking multi-day cruises, a boat club might not be the best solution. Research clubs that interest you to understand their restrictions before you join.
Is a Boat Club a Good Investment?
If you love boating, want to learn more about operating a boat, or want someone else to drive while you enjoy your time on the water, a boat club can be an excellent investment that costs up to 60% less than owning a boat.
The membership costs are an investment in your boating education and enjoyment without the stress and expense of boat ownership.