Costs To Paint A Boat: A Top-To-Bottom Guide

You love your boat and you want it to be in perfect condition. But do you know the cost of painting a boat? Well, it depends on several factors.

Costs To Paint A Boat: A Top-To-Bottom Guide 1

How much does it cost to paint a boat?

Painting your boat may cost you between $400 and may go as high as $10,000. This may vary depending on factors such as the boat size, the quality of the paint, and whether you hire a professional or go the DIY route. Other factors such as hauling and storage fees may also affect this cost.

While I had to search various sites on the internet including boating forums to find the cost of painting a boat, I felt that this wasn’t enough. 

As such, I had to ask various boating painting companies for their painting job estimates and compare these estimates to come up with actual figures in the market.

Costs of boat painting by types

As a boat owner, one of the main things that you should decide before starting the boat painting job itself is whether you want to paint the whole boat or just a part of it. 

Of course, this will have a direct effect on your boat painting cost and the amount of work or labor involved.

Now, let’s look at some of the common types of boat painting jobs that most boat owners always seek.

Costs To Paint A Boat: A Top-To-Bottom Guide 2

Bottom painting

Commonly known as antifouling or hull painting, this is a boat painting job that covers the vessel part that’s below the water level. 

Although many boat owners may ignore bottom painting, it’s of great importance as it helps in protecting the boat’s hull from damage that might be caused by weeds and barnacles. 

The boat paints that you choose for bottom painting must have antifouling properties to protect your vessel from damage caused by fouling. 

With that in mind, here’s how to choose the right paint for the bottom painting.

Hard bottom paint

This is a highly-durable hard coating paint that’s ideal for powerboats and other fast boats. The only disadvantage of this hull painting option is that you’ll have to include paint stripping costs as you have to remove the old paint before repainting your boat.

Costs To Paint A Boat: A Top-To-Bottom Guide 3

Ablative bottom paint

Ablative hull paints are self-polishing boat paints that are ideal for slow-moving boats.

One of its main features is that the previous paint will gradually wear away as you sail and release biocides. 

For this reason, painting your boat in the future will be a lot easier.

Hybrid paint (Semi-hard ablative paint)

Perfect and ideal for most boats, these paints provide both smooth and hard surface resistance to most conditions.

In addition to the type of paint, the cost of hiring a professional to paint your sailboat hull will be affected by the following:

  • The boat’s material (painting an aluminum boat would be higher than painting wooden boats or aluminum boats).
  • Boat size
  • Boat condition
Size of the boatAverage cost (Min to Max)
16-20 feet$400-$1,000
21-30 feet$1,000-$1,500
31-40 feet$1,500-$2,500
41-50 feet$2,500-$3.000

The table above summarizes the costs of hiring professionals to bottom paint your boat.

You have to remember that these are rough estimates that I collected from various professional boat painters to at least give you an idea of what to expect.

DIY hull painting

If you’re on a budget and looking to save money, you may want to resort to DIY boat painting because it’s a cost-effective alternative to more expensive professional services. 

That being said, the cost of DIY painting your boat hull will range between $200 and $1,800. Of course, this will depend on the size of your boat, its material, and the materials used. 

Size of the boatAverage cost (Min to Max)
16-20 feet$200-$500
21-30 feet$500-$1,000
31-40 feet$1,000-$1,500
41-50 feet$1,500-$1,800

It’s important to note that painting a boat’s hull isn’t easy at all.

Besides the need to have the right tools for the job such as a spray gun, sandpaper, and brushes, you should take your time to learn how to do it and prepare properly. 

For example, you have to know how much paint is required, different types of hull paints, the paint removal process, and whether you need to use a gel coat, or regular paint.

Topside painting

Costs To Paint A Boat: A Top-To-Bottom Guide 4

Painting your boat isn’t just about bottom painting.

Instead, you must also give priority to topside painting thanks to its aesthetic benefits and for protecting your boat from sunlight exposure. The first step is to choose among three topside paints:

  • One-part polyurethane – It’s very popular because it’s cheap and easy to apply especially for DIY topside painting.
  • Alkyd enamel – This is an oil-based boat paint that’s easy to apply. Although it’s cheaper and ideal for a DIY project, it’s a low gloss paint with poor retention color. 
  • Two-part polyurethane –  This is an expensive high-gloss topside paint that’s quite challenging to apply and should be left to professionals.

In terms of cost, the average cost of professional topside painting ranges from $10 to $20 per square foot.

This means that the cost of topside painting can range between $2,000 and $4,000 for a 20-foot boat. Here’s a summary of the average cost for topside painting.

Boat size Cost per square footTotal cost
20 feet$10-$20$2,000-$4,000
40 feet$10-$20$5,000-$10,000

You can also calculate this boat painting cost per linear foot which can be between $15 and $50 depending on various factors such as the size of the boat, the type of paint, and the cost of labor.

Here’s a summary of the average price of topside painting per linear foot assuming that the average price per linear foot is $40.

Length of boatCost per linear footTotal costPremium upgrades (per linear foot)
20 feet$40$800$160
30 feet$40$1,200$210
40 feet$40$1,600$340

Factors that affect the boat painting cost

The quotes that you get for painting your boat will always vary but they’ll also be affected by the following.

Type and quantity of paint

The price of paint range from $100 to $300 per gallon. 

You’ll require a single coat if you choose a modified epoxy paint and a double coat or two coats if you use ablative paints.


Professional boat painters will charge you between $25 and $125 per linear foot, so it comes down to the size of your boat and whether your boat requires additional work and repair.

Extra costs

You’ll pay extra costs for consumables such as rubber gloves, paint stirrers, sandpaper, and masking tape.

You’ll also pay for services such as paint stripping, customization, and insurance costs on paint toxicity.

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Key Takeaways

  • Painting your boat will prolong its life and make it more valuable.
  • The overall cost of painting your boat will vary depending on its size and type.
  • Hiring professionals for your paint job is ideal but DIY painting is a cheaper option.
  • Always get several quotes from various boat painters to get the right costs.