If you’re considering becoming a new fishing boat owner, or perhaps you’re planning on getting a cruiser, you might be wondering if there is a less expensive alternative like boat clubs.
Boats can be costly. Even if you can afford the initial purchase, can you afford docking fees, maintenance, fuel, and all the required gear you need to hit the water?
When I bought my first boat, the salesman laughed and reminded me of an old saying: BOAT stands for ‘Be Only Another Thousand.’ This little euphemism was a subtle reminder that nothing on a boat is cheap. I wasn’t too worried because I had only purchased a small fishing boat.
But I saw the potential for huge expenses. You might have heard that boat clubs are ideal for avoiding huge costs and paying only a fixed fee to enjoy time on the water. What is the average boat club cost?
Instead of wondering on your own, let’s find the answer so you can stop dreaming and start enjoying your boating lifestyle.
Why Join a Boat Club?
Purchasing a boat club membership grants you access to a fleet of vessels you may be able to take out, depending on your level of skill and availability. You’ll also be joining a social club where everyone there shares your love of the boating lifestyle.
In places like Florida, where watersports are the centerpiece of many social events, your membership fees open the door to a whole world that you might not see if you’re trying to access the waterways on your own.
Plus, some clubs offer perks like free towing in case of breakdowns, unlimited training, safe anchoring at marinas in other locations, and even free access to water toys like pontoon boats and paddleboards.
Consider if you have a family member visiting who wants to rent a kayak. Instead of searching for a loaner, your boat club might have one you can borrow as part of your membership. There are lots of perks associated with a boat club membership.
How Much do Boat Clubs Cost for New Members
The payment structure for membership in a boat club has two main expenses: The initiation fee and a monthly participation fee. Typically, a discount is applied if you pay all of your monthly fees upfront as part of an annual plan.
Boat club membership initiations usually cost a few thousand dollars. Premier clubs with the largest fleets in the best locales can cost up to $10,000 to join. Smaller clubs can be much more affordable. Monthly fees vary similarly, with some costing only a couple of hundred dollars and the premier boat clubs costing $500 or more per month.
You’ll also be responsible for the fuel you burn while running your boat out on the water. Boat ownership also involves paying for fuel. But boat owners will also have to pay for maintaining and outfitting their boat, as well as the purchase cost. Large boats can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even smaller boats are quite expensive. You could easily end up with a $1,000 monthly payment.
Boat owners will also be responsible for many other unpredictable costs, including:
- Slip rentals
- Lifejackets and flares (required by US Coast Guard)
- Cleaning and waxing the hull
- Licensing, insurance, registration
- Storage fees
- Engine maintenance
- Propeller tuning
All this translates to a minimum of thousands of dollars beyond the cost of the boat itself on an annual basis. And if your motor breaks down or you damage the hull, you could get stuck with an enormous repair bill.
Boat Club Membership: Big Upsides
Boat club membership, especially in a top-tier club like the Freedom Boat Club, has a lot of upsides. The number one advantage is the fixed nature of the costs. Once you pay your membership fees, you’ll only be on the hook to pay for the fuel you use.
But besides that specific financial benefit, you’ll also enjoy other perks that come along with a membership in a boating club. You can go from taking out fishing boats with an angler center console design on a weekday to taking out a cruiser for a Saturday evening cruise to a local destination. You’ll have access to a whole fleet, not just one boat.
Disadvantages to Joining a Boat Club
Boat club memberships can be very appealing due to their fixed costs and the freedom of potentially walking away if you lose interest. But, there are also a couple of disadvantages to consider.
For instance, the money you spend on your membership dues doesn’t get you any closer to owning your own boat. So, if you’re an experienced boater, you have your heart set on ownership, and you can afford to pay for it, you might want to skip a club membership and just buy a boat. Just make sure you carefully consider the totality of the financial implications of owning a boat.
Another potential negative with a club membership is that you may end up unable to get the exact boat you want on a given day. There will be a schedule with other members vying for opportunities to cruise, so there is a bit of give and take.
Are There Other Advantages to a Boat Club Membership?
Boat club memberships also other big perks in addition to their fixed costs and access to a varying fleet. One of the best advantages is that you aren’t responsible for maintenance and winterizing the boat. The club handles all of that. So, if you take a cruise and the boat breaks down, you’ll get a free tow back to the slip.
You might even be able to get right out on another boat and enjoy the rest of your day without haggling with a marina mechanic over how much it will cost to repair the outboard engine. That same advantage carries over to the end of the season, where you won’t have to deal with hauling the boat out of the water, wrapping it, or winterizing it.
Even in an area with warm weather year-round, there are significant seasonal costs. And, with the right boat club membership, you could even travel to club destinations around the world. High-end clubs offer opportunities for extended cruises to destinations around the United States and Canada, and even Europe.
Boat Club Membership Costs: Bottom Line
The cost of buying a membership in a boating club varies quite a bit. That’s because there is a huge variance in the size of a given club’s fleet, its amenities, training programs, and more. So, you will have to do a bit of research to find the right one for you and your boating lifestyle.
But, on an annual basis, the cost of boat club membership will likely be much less than the cost of boat ownership. Consider that in a bad year where you need significant repairs on a boat you own, you could end up paying many thousands of dollars. And if the breakdown happens during the boating season, you may miss out on much of the year.
The relatively low cost of a membership in a boat club is a good way to save some money and also take advantage of their service, flexibility, and social events. Don’t waste time. Get started on finding the best boat club for you today!