Owning a boat is financially intensive for many people. And the biggest part of the upkeep is the maintenance cost. Before investing in a watercraft, it helps to know what to expect regarding the maintenance.
We’ve researched this topic and provide a detailed checklist of the top maintenance considerations before you buy that boat.
Are boats hard to maintain?
Boats are easy to maintain if you know how to care for your watercraft. The maintenance of boats is like that of automobiles. However, inexperience turns boats into dollar-guzzling toys for many people. By doing most of your maintenance, you can drastically reduce the running cost of your boat.
You must realize that a boat quickly depreciates which means it’s naturally maintenance-intensive. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible to keep your watercraft in mint shape.
19 Maintenance Issues To Be Aware Of
Cutting boat maintenance costs require a lot of foresight prior to buying the vessel. The following are some things to consider before buying your boat to avoid hemorrhaging funds on maintenance.
1) Have a Solid Maintenance Plan
Lack of a coherent plan makes it impossible for many boaters and ex-boaters to enjoy maximum satisfaction from their watercraft. Regardless of how frugal you are, a boat is an expensive transaction.
Buying one without having a plan on how to maintain and run it without ruining your purse is a recipe for disaster.
You want to have as much information as you can get on the best boat for your budget. Part of your research should include shopping for brands with a reputation for being reliable and easy to maintain.
There are boat brands that deliver maximum utility with light maintenance with cheap and off-the-market spares.
Don’t buy a boat without thinking hard about the maintenance and other related costs.
It’s the best way to avoid costly mistakes.
Remember that selling a boat a few years after buying will end in a loss. Buy a boat you can own for the next 10 years so you can get optimum value for your money.
2) The Boat Price Gives An Indication Of The Level Of Maintenance
The price of a boat often gives a clue about the cost of maintenance. If you want to save money on maintenance, buy a boat you can afford. That way, it becomes easier to bankroll any expenses that come your way.
The higher the price of a boat, the more expensive its parts and maintenance costs.
It’s like owning a Porsche versus a Toyota Corolla. The premium price of the former means every product and service attached to its maintenance will command high prices to reflect the class of the vehicle.
With a Corolla, most people can DIY many of the maintenance and even complex engine and electrical works if they have the right tools.
So before you sign that contract to finance your dream boat, think about the accessibility of spare parts and the technical knowhow. If you are going for the best thing on the market, budget for top dollar maintenance.
3) Smaller Is (Often) Better
Have you heard that the smaller the boat, the bigger the fun? The fun part of buying a small boat includes the fact that they are easier to maintain compared to bigger vessels.
Everything from the storage, use, function, and cost of a smaller boat is more affordable than a bigger alternative.
A smaller boat usually comes with systems you can maintain yourself and the parts will be more accessible.
4) Ask for Help
If you are new to boating but want to become a boat owner, one way to save cost is to ask experienced people.
Whether you have problems choosing a boat, don’t know the best finance options, or need advice on DIYing your maintenance, many veteran boaters are always happy to help.
But you need to ask. So don’t be shy to call for help when you feel stuck. A timely word of advice can save you thousands of dollars in boat maintenance and repair costs.
5) Learn How to Operate Your Boat Properly
Like a car, your boat’s maintenance cost heavily depends on how you use it. Sadly, most boaters know little about how their crafts work or the best way to care for it.
If you own a sailboat, do you know when to use the sail or auxiliary power? At what depths should you turn off the engines? What maneuvers do you use to reverse into your slip?
Many of the core boating skills people need to operate their boats without incident are lacking and this ultimately drives up maintenance and repair costs.
Learn how your boat responds in different situations to optimize its efficiency and reduce costs. It will improve the value of the boat and save your purse.
6) Consider Simple DC and AC Connections
As said earlier, the more complex the boat, the higher the maintenance costs. The AC and DC connections in a boat can eat up a large chunk of your money if they are sophisticated.
Instead of complicated electrical connections, consider a boat with a simple wiring system.
Systems with simple electrical installations are easier to maintain because the components are cheaper and more readily available. Plus, they are easier to work on so you can DIY their maintenance with little or no professional help.
7) Read the Engine Manual Page To Page
The engine is one of the most expensive and complex parts of your boat. Except you have a background in technical knowledge, maintaining your marine engine might prove difficult.
Thankfully, most manufacturers provide detailed manuals that offer a step-by-step guide on how to maintain and service their engines.
Check whether your boat comes with the engine manual. If not, download the document online via the manufacturer’s website to understand how to care for your boat’s engine.
Once you know how to maintain the engine, you should be able to handle simple tasks such as regular tune-ups, filter changes and others with ease.
That way, you eliminate the cost of hiring professionals, saving money and getting to know more about your boat.
8) Become a Diver
Whether you are experienced or a novice, a major part of your boat maintenance and repair costs will come from propeller issues. While propellers are not very expensive, the cost of simple maintenance tasks such as removing entangled seaweed and lines can quickly stack up.
But you can DIY these tasks if you are a diver.
Getting certified as a diver will allow you to carry out repetitive underwater maintenance tasks. You will save money and also enjoy an excellent view of the marine environment.
9) Upgrade Your Boat
An excellent way to reduce maintenance costs and complexity is through upgrades. As technology advances, marine engineers continue to create products that are longer-lasting, more energy-efficient and with increased redundancy.
If your boat has components that always need replacement after a few cruises, consider upgrading to better and cheaper alternatives.
Fortunately, there are so many over-the-shelf parts you can buy online to keep your boat in excellent shape.
10) Clean Your Boat Often
Boats can get dirty, especially if you love fishing. Smelly decks and stained cushions can mean hundreds of dollars in cleaning costs but you can avoid that if you DIY it.
To be honest, cleaning a boat is more difficult and time-consuming than an automobile, but it is worth it.
When you do your boat cleaning, you cut the cost of hiring someone else. You choose the cleaning agents to use for the cleaning. Often, commercial cleaners use bleach and other harsh chemicals to wash stains off cushions and other boat parts.
While these chemicals leave a flashy and squeaky clean finish, they can degrade the materials and reduce the longevity of your boat’s interior and exterior surfaces.
So you will save on cleaning expenses and increase your boat’s valuable life when you do the hard but rewarding job of cleaning.
11) Weatherproof Your Boat
A good deal of maintenance costs results from the effects of weather on the boat. Why not weatherproof your boat to reduce the abrasive force of the elements and reduce maintenance and repair costs drastically?
Sun damage is a serious issue on land and the water, so protect any gear or component which the solar rays can degrade or damage.
Whenever you pull your boat out of saltwater, give it a good bath of freshwater to remove corrosive salts to protect the hull. If you own a sailboat, don’t leave your sails out in the open at the mercy of the wind and the sun.
It’s important to understand the effects of the elements on every part of your boat and take steps to mitigate them.
12) Do It Yourself
You can do most of the maintenance on your boats yourself. Some tasks are straightforward but you may need the help of YouTube to pull off others.
If you will sacrifice some time, you can save thousands of dollars per year in boat maintenance costs through DIY efforts. You only need to dedicate a few hours every weekend to your boat, and you will cover a lot of ground in a short time.
It also helps if you have boater friends who can teach you some of the tricks of maintenance.
13) Learn New Skills
The last step in DIYing boat maintenance may require learning new skills. For example, you may need a short vocational course of woodworking to perform some maintenance and repairs on a boat with many wooden parts.
A course in electrical repairs can also empower you with the technical know-how to diagnose, troubleshoot and repair complex electrical installations in your vessel.
The best part is most cities have public institutes that offer many of these skills acquisition training for almost free.
You only need to have a strong desire to own the skill and you will learn how to keep your boat running without help. While this requires time, it will save you a lot of money and maybe even your life during emergencies.
14) Share Tools
Have you ever borrowed a tool from a friend or neighbor? You can do the same with boat maintenance.
Boaters who DIY their maintenance understand that boats require a lot of tools, some of which can be expensive.
But it makes no economic sense to buy a special tool you might never use while trying to save cost?
You are better off borrowing from someone or teaming up with other boaters to buy the tool.
That way, you spread the cost and everybody has access to the tool when the need arises.
15) Do Not Over-speed
Many people get a high from watching their boat’s speedometer rise as they race it to the limit. But it’s better to monitor your rpm as that gives you a better idea of the strain your engine is taking to deliver that massive propulsion.
The harder you push your boat’s engine, the more maintenance, and costly repairs it will need in a short time.
Rather than power through the water, identify the optimal rpm to achieve the best engine performance. This will allow you to get the best out of your engine and reduce maintenance and repair costs.
16) Go For Basic Gear
There is a huge temptation to buy the most advanced gear and equipment for your boat.
But the new and shiny doesn’t always translate to superior performance.
And remember that more complex equipment require more specialized and expensive maintenance. So whenever you can, always buy quality but easy to maintain parts.
Well-maintained old boats with antiquated equipment can provide the same level of entertainment and reliability you can get in newer and more costly gear.
Unless the new stuff offers a marked improvement in performance and costs, it’s best to stay with the basics that work.
17) Get Proper Battery Care
Boat batteries don’t last long because many boaters don’t take measures to prevent discharging when they are not using the boat. With good care, your battery can last 3-4 times longer than the average boat battery, helping you save on costly replacements.
One way to do this is to use solar panels to recharge the battery when the boat is moored.
Another option is to use energy-efficient LED lights to reduce battery drain. You can also use rechargeable batteries for some equipment and appliances to reduce the cost of replacing them frequently.
18) Polish the Hull
The hull takes a beating every time you go into the water, making it one of the most maintenance-heavy parts of a boat.
Experienced boaters don’t repaint their hull every time, they’d rather polish it.
Re-polishing the hull takes only a few hours and can last longer than new paint. That way, you save on the high cost of repainting. Even if you need to repaint the boat, polishing it will help you buy some time.
19) Re-Galvanize Your Anchor
The anchor is highly susceptible to corrosion at it spends a lot of time in the water. But you don’t always have to replace the anchor because you can re-galvanize it.
If the anchor is still in good shape, professionals can help remove the rust, leaving a shiny metal beneath. The new improved anchor is then galvanized. Now you have a new anchor at a fraction of the cost.
Like automobiles, boats start depreciating fast as soon as you buy them. This is because the marine environment is harsh on every component of a boat.
It causes corrosion, eats up the paint and makes parts to fail prematurely.
This means you can’t get top dollar for your boat if you sell it right after you buy it. For more information about this topic, check out our boat depreciation guide.
Hunt for the Best Boat Deals
There is a huge competition among boat builders to win over new and old boaters. A lot of these companies offer generous incentives regarding warranties and upgrades which can reduce maintenance costs and reduce depreciation.
Unfortunately, most novice boaters don’t do enough to research options.
When they see a boat they like, many people can’t wait to dig deeper in search of better deals. And there are far better and more affordable boat purchase deals out there if you know where to look.
Besides boat purchases, another expensive component in the boat ownership is insurance costs.
Here, many people are leaving money on the table. If you shop enough for insurance deals, many carriers cover some maintenance and repair costs including towing fees.
But few people know they can get these bonuses and they don’t even ask. You will miss out on a lot of cost-reducing privileges if you buy the first insurance premium that comes your way.
Take your time, perform due diligence and ask questions before signing any insurance contract for your boat.
Maintaining a boat is time-consuming and expensive. But experienced boaters always have a maintenance plan that allows them to cut costs.
Most of the activities involved in boat maintenance require being proactive. By having a well-articulated plan on maintenance, parts, and budget, you won’t have any issues with keeping your boat in excellent condition.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.