How Do Boat Clubs Work? 7 Things To Know (Before Deciding)

In Boatingby Morten Storgaard

Boat clubs allow access to a wide variety of boats for a set monthly fee. Joining a boating club can get you on the water for a lower cost than buying your own boat. However, there are several things you should consider before you decide to join a boat club.

Each individual boat club functions differently, and in this post, we’ll cover what you can expect from your average boat club.

Let’s get started!

What exactly is a boat club?

Boat clubs work by offering members access to a fleet of boats for a monthly fee. Members can reserve a boat to use without having to worry about the costs associated with maintenance, insurance, and boating education.

Boat clubs allow members access to a wide variety of boats for a much lower cost than purchasing a boat. This can make joining a boat club a good way to see if boating is the right hobby for you without having to commit to a large purchase.

In addition to providing members with boat training and well-maintained boats, boat clubs offer members many perks. Many boat clubs offer complimentary access to water toys such as skis and slides. Other clubs offer training for each specific vessel in their fleet to ensure your comfort and safety.

Boat clubs also act as social clubs that bring together people with similar interests. Many clubs offer member-only social gatherings, parties, and cruises.

These gatherings can be a great place to make new friends and connections in the boating scene.

How many boats do boat club members get access to?

The amount and variety of boats a boat club member will receive access to depends on a variety of factors. For example, a smaller boat club serving a lakeside community will have a different fleet than an oceanside boat club. Keep in mind that you’ll have more options in a boat club that serves a larger community, such as a popular tourist destination.

One thing to keep in mind with boat clubs is that members must reserve their boat time beforehand. During peak times, such as weekends or major holidays like the Fourth of July, there may be limited availability for the most popular boats. 

However, the vast majority of boat clubs don’t have a limit on how often you can rent a boat. Boat club members can often reserve specific boat months out in advance in order to celebrate special events, enjoy a relaxing vacation on the water, or spend time with family coming in from out of town.

Because each boat club operates differently, you should research the fleet size, reservation system, and holiday availability of each boat club you’re considering joining.

What are the main reasons people join a boat club?

Some of the reasons people join boat clubs include:

  • Boat club owners take care of maintenance
  • Many boat clubs offer boat training
  • Access to a variety of different boats
  • Many boat clubs have social club gatherings and parties
  • Boat clubs handle insurance and liability
  • Access to boating expertise and on the water training

One of the main reasons that people join boat clubs is because the initial fee and recurring monthly fees are less expensive than buying a boat outright. The cost of a new boat is much higher than the fees charged by a boat club.

By being a member of a boat club, people have access to a well-maintained boat for the cost of a monthly fee and fuel.

Another reason to join boat clubs is that many of the larger companies have locations across the nation and internationally. Often, your membership will allow you to use these locations at no extra charge. This can save you both time and money by allowing you to skip the boat rental on your next vacation.

Boat clubs also bring together like-minded people with a love for being out on the water. They can be a great way to make friends with fellow boaters and enjoy club activities together.

How many boat clubs are there?

During our research, we’ve come across many reputable boat clubs. There are hundreds of boat clubs across the country serving major lakes, river systems, and oceanside communities. Between local and international options, there are plenty of boat clubs to choose from.

Some of the larger and more well-known boat clubs, such as Freedom Boat Club, have hundreds of locations that can be accessed with a club membership.

If you travel often, you may consider joining a club with multiple locations in order to get the most out of your membership fee.

How do you join a boat club?

To join a boat club you must pay an initial membership fee and fill out your club’s paperwork. Today, most boat clubs use an online registration and reservation system. Your boat club’s administration will be able to walk you through the steps required to join their club.

Be sure to carefully read the terms of your agreement with the boat club, as these terms often contain important information about how the club’s reservation system works and any restrictions on the use of club boats (i.e. some clubs only allow boats to be sailed within several miles of shore.)

Many boat clubs require that new members go through training before taking boats out on the water.

Often, you are given the option between individual and group training. Group training can serve as a way to introduce yourself to fellow boat club members.

Can you share your boat club membership?

Some boat clubs do allow you to split the initial membership with a family member or friend for a shared membership plan. This can be a good way to cut the costs involved with joining a boat club.

Check with your boat club’s administration to see if this option is available at your club.

While most boat clubs won’t allow you to share your membership directly, they will allow you to bring family and friends aboard whenever you reserve a boat.

How much do boat clubs cost?

The cost of joining a boating club varies based on your location and the type of boats a club keeps in its fleet. Many boat clubs require an initial membership fee that typically ranges between $1,000 to $5,000. The monthly fee for a boat club can range anywhere between $150 to $500.

Despite the high initial cost of joining a boat club, many people find boat clubs a cost-effective way to enjoy boating when compared to the cost of purchasing your own boat.

Boat clubs often provide a wide variety of benefits to members at no extra cost, such as training and access to the dock. The cost of insurance, maintenance, and slip fees are also paid by the club owners.

The only additional cost for club members is the cost of fuel.

Each boat club will use a different fee structure, and some may allow you to pay part of the initial fee over time with additional monthly fees. Some boat clubs offer different levels of membership each with their own perks. You should consult with each boat club in your area to get a good idea of the standard fees charged in your area.

What are the main reasons people LEAVE a boat club?

People choose to leave their boat club for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, this is due to the selection of boats available at their particular club. Other times, people may simply want to purchase their own boat that they can customize.

One of the main reasons people may choose to leave their boat club is boat availability. During huge boating weekends around major holidays, many boat clubs put special restrictions in place. These restrictions can range from only renting out certain boat styles to only allowing half-day reservations.

Other people may choose to leave their boating clubs because of the fees.

Despite the annual cost of your average boating club being lower than owning your own boat, it can still be quite expensive. 

Boat clubs offer flexibility

Overall, boat clubs can be a great option for those looking for cost-effective and flexible boating. Because being a member of a boat club grants access to a wide variety of boats, you can take a new boat out every time your schedule allows.

In addition to being a resource for experienced boaters, boat clubs offer a way for those who have never gone out on the water to try their hand. Boat clubs often encourage beginning boaters to join their clubs for access to boat operational and safety training. You will also have access to many different boats, giving you the chance to find the boat that’s right for you.

However, there are things to keep in mind when joining a boat club. You should consider how many different boats are in a club’s fleet, how easy it is to reserve the exact boat you want, and what the rules of use are for a club’s boats before joining.

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