Are boat clubs worth the cost

Boat Clubs: Are They Worth It?

Written by Boatsetter Team
May 3, 2024

Last Updated on May 3, 2024 by Boatsetter Team

On the surface, boat clubs seem like a great idea. Instead of buying a boat, you pay a monthly fee and have access to a range of different vessels. The problem is that, in reality, things don’t work out quite that smoothly. Here are five major drawbacks to joining a boat club that they keep secret from you. 

  1. Limited selection of boats
  2. Too much pressure
  3. Limited locations and blackout days for boating
  4. Overcrowded club and a false-promising waitlist
  5.  Unreasonable costs

Let’s look at these together to save you loads of money and get you the best boating experience.

Explore on the water destinations & experiences with Boatsetter

What is a boat club

A boat club is a membership-based organization that provides individuals with access to a fleet of boats without the burdens of ownership. While boat clubs offer convenience and cost savings, it’s important to consider certain limitations before joining. Joining a boat club means paying a regular fee and booking boats according to availability, which gives members the chance to enjoy boating experiences. Nevertheless, it’s important to consider some possible disadvantages.

What are the drawbacks of a boat club membership?

1) Limited selection of boats

When we join a boat club, there is this idea that one weekend we can take out a family-sized pontoon and the next, a luxury catamaran. The problem is that most clubs really only offer a pretty narrow selection of boats. And, with most people having the same free time as in being off—weekends, holidays, and summertime—then you may find yourself standing empty-handed.

2) Too much pressure

One big problem with joining a club is you feel pressure to get the most out of it. The average annual boat club is $275 per month. If you don’t boat that often or have a hectic month, it feels like money just is thrown down the drain and just another wasted expense.

3) Limited locations and blackout days for boating

While some clubs have locations worldwide, you’re pretty much chained to one location, typically a touristy spot. Freedom Boat Club, for example, is one of the largest boat clubs in the world, and most of its locations are in the US. On the other hand, smaller, more affordable local-based boat clubs may only have one or two locations that make getting the most out of the boat club, to be blatant, difficult!

While boat clubs may offer you different tiers of membership based on where and when you plan to go boating, keep in mind those plans come with restricted access. One option might be a week day only membership, another may be limited to your city’s club. As life changes and your schedule along with it, you soon come to realize being locked into these plans isn’t the best bang for your buck.

4) Overcrowded club and a false-promising wait list

This is what they really don’t want to tell you: the club is full! Instead, they’ll put you on a waiting list and have you pay an upfront fee without having enjoyed anything yet. If you do get into a club that is overcrowded, getting on the water might be really difficult because there are too many other people trying to do the same thing as you.

5) Unreasonable costs

It all comes back to cost. At the end of the day, the price of joining and maintaining a boat club membership is simply unreasonable. Typically you pay several thousand dollar initiation fees and several hundred dollar monthly fees, so often it’s cheaper to own your boat or just rent one!

Pro tip: Read our comprehensive guide if you’re interested in owning a boat: How Much Does It Cost to Buy & Own a Boat? 

boat club memberships

Ding, ding, ding: Boatsetter V. Boat Clubs (Comparing Costs & Benefits)

Instead of dealing with all this consider renting a boat through Boatsetter! You have a huge range of unique boat brands and models to choose from, a network of USCG-certified captains, and trip planning tools like Add-ons, Multi-day booking, and more. While you think some more about it, let us show you the differences between our proud peer-to-peer (P2P) boat-sharing community and a few popular boat clubs in the US.

Find available boat rentals near you on Boatsetter

Boatsetter V. Carefree Boat Club 

Carefree Boat Club operates on a membership-based model. Individuals pay a one-time initiation fee and monthly dues in exchange for access to a fleet of boats.

These fees vary depending on the location and may even be monthly. According to some of the Care Free Boat Club websites the upfront costs range from $1,950 to $4,450 and the monthly costs range from $150 to $375. 

As you can see, the costs associated with boat clubs get pricy, quickly. You might get the full value out of Carefree Boat Club, but it won’t be easy. By renting a boat with Boatsetter, you can avoid all inflated fees! Just pay each time you would like to take out a boat, and you are all set for a fun day out on the water. With over 4500 active boats on our platform across the country, you can find the perfect boat for your needs.

Boatsetter V. Nautical Boat Club

Like many other boat clubs on this list, Nautical Boat Club has an initial one-time membership cost and an ongoing monthly cost. The monthly membership cost may vary depending on the boat and the location. The total for your first year with Nautical Boat Club can range from $4535 to $14,355.

Our goal at Boatsetter is to make boating accessible to everyone by not tying our customers to recurring fees. All of our boats across the country are available for rent—no catch!

Boatsetter V. 321 Boat Club

321 Boat Club is a Florida-based boat club with initiation costs ranging from $975 to $3,450 and monthly costs ranging from $149 to $249. 321 Boat Club membership levels largely depend on what day and time you would like to take out a boat. With 321 Boat Club’s fleet being limited to specific parts of Florida, this may not be the best option for everyone. With Boatsetter, you can rent boats across the country on any day of the week!

Boatsetter V. Freedom Boat Club

Freedom Boat Club has a one-time entry fee and monthly membership plans that vary by location. The club offers access to boats, free training, insurance coverage, and special events. Fuel costs are not included. It emphasizes the club’s transparency and commitment to providing a great boating experience for its members.

Boatsetter, on the other hand, is a boat rental marketplace where individuals can rent boats directly from boat owners. The cost of renting a boat on Boatsetter varies depending on factors such as the type of boat, location, duration, and any additional services or amenities requested.

Boatsetter offers a wide range of boats to choose from and provides insurance coverage for both boat owners and renters. The rental fees generally do not include fuel costs, which are the responsibility of the renter. The biggest benefit of using Boatsetter vs Freedom boat club is that there is no long-term commitment or costs!

What to read next: How to Rent a Boat

About us 

Boatsetter is a unique boat-sharing platform that gives everyone—whether you own a boat or you’re just renting—the chance to experience life on the water. You can list a boat, book a boat, or make money as a captain

List. Rent. Earn—Only at Boatsetter 

Editor’s Note: Prices and information are accurate as of last date of publish.

Browse by experience

Explore articles