If you’ve ever looked into buying a boat, you know that they can often be quite expensive. In some cases, they can even cost more than cars.
This seems strange to many people since cars often offer more value than boats.
So, why do boats cost more than cars?
It takes more human labor to build a boat than it does to build a car. Boats usually cannot be manufactured by automatic machines on conveyor belts like cars. This will drive up the cost of a boat due to the cost of human time and effort put in to build them.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at what it actually takes to build a boat.
The Boat Building Process (Step by Step)
Different boats will be built differently, but we’ll try to cover the main types of boats that are built today.
We’ll talk about fiberglass, aluminum, and even wooden boat building.
Fiberglass Boat Building Process
A production level boat will generally start with a mold, also known as a plug.
This mold is then used to create the fiberglass hull.
Once the hull is constructed, another mold will be used to create a deck. This deck is then fitted onto the hull.
Throughout this process, technicians will be spraying fiberglass and hand painting any imperfections within the gel coat.
Technicians will also be using mil-gauges to ensure that all of the layers are as thick as they need to be. When thin layers are found, technicians will reapply more gel coat or fiberglass in the thin areas to bring them up to spec.
Depending on the boat manufacturer, you may have to place chop strand mat onto the boat mold followed by hand-laid fiberglass matting, or the boat could be made entirely of chop strand of hand-laid fiberglass.
Either way, the process is labor-intensive, and specialized training needs to be given to the people who are laying the fiberglass.
Aluminum Boat Building Process
An aluminum boat can be built using rivets or by welding pieces of aluminum together.
Some boats will even use a combination of both welded aluminum and riveted aluminum.
Different sections of the boat will use separate sheets of aluminum. For instance, the hull will always have thicker gauge aluminum versus other areas of the boat.
Luckily for boat builders, matching up these pieces of aluminum and welding them together in the right places is too complicated for machines.
This means skilled welders and riveters are needed to fabricate aluminum boats. Of course, this also means that the cost of building the boat will go up.
Wood Boat Building Process
While hobbyists and DIYers mostly build wooden boats, there are still some companies who hand-craft wooden boats to sell to the public.
This process is incredibly labor-intensive and requires an immense amount of woodworking knowledge.
The process begins when the boat builder makes a wooden frame for the hull. This frame is then sheathed to complete the hull.
Following this, the boat builders will need to build the deck as well as everything that goes above and beneath it. None of this can be done by machine, and larger wooden boats can take thousands of hours to complete.
This means the cost of a new wooden boat will usually be higher than that of the more modern fiberglass or aluminum boats.
Why Are Boats More Expensive to Produce Than Cars
Cars are highly complicated machines consisting of a multitude of components and materials.
They’re highly engineered so that they can safely transport people at high speeds.
As a result, you’d think that a car would be much more expensive than a boat. However, this isn’t always the case.
One of the reasons for this is that there are fewer car models built each year. This means that car manufacturers can create automated systems to build their cars for them.
Conversely, most boats are built in small batches, and this work is done almost exclusively by humans.
Why Are Boats Not Built by Robots Like Cars
The reason robots don’t build most boats is the fact that they aren’t made in large enough numbers to warrant investment into the types of robots that would be needed to produce the boats.
This could change in the future, though, as more and more boat building companies decide to mass-produce certain types of boats.
There are currently some larger boat manufacturers that are already using robots to build outboard motors, roundabouts, and even boat propellers.
A company in Germany is even using robots to build a wide array of aluminum boats.
These robots can bend and weld sections of the aluminum boat hull together much more quickly than humans can.
In the future, most companies will probably move to a more automated facility. This will be good for consumers as it will drive the price of boats down.
On the other hand, it could be bad for the job market as the boat manufacturers will need fewer boat builders to work at their facilities.
Are Boats More Expensive to Maintain Than Cars
It’s hard to say whether boats are more expensive to maintain than cars.
The main reason for this is that boats can often be so much different from each other.
For example, a small sailboat isn’t going to require you to do any significant engine maintenance on it. A large motorboat, on the other hand, may require you to maintain several engines.
Also, boats can sit in storage for many years without issue. Cars, on the other hand, will need to be maintained whether they are in use or not.
For example, car tires will dry rot over time, and car batteries will die. The hoses and the moving parts of the car may become dry, and they may need to be replaced before the vehicle can be rerun.
With a stored sailboat, you won’t have these issues.
This being said, while you may have to do more maintenance on your vehicle, it often doesn’t cost much. Most cars can be worked on by most mechanics, and you can shop around until you find the best price.
With boats, you may find your options limited. Parts may need to be fabricated, and specialists may need to be brought in to make significant repairs.
Boats are currently more expensive than cars because of the way they are manufactured.
As manufacturing techniques change, we could see a world in which boats are even less expensive than cars.
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.