How Expensive Are Boats to Maintain?

How Expensive Are Boats to Maintain?

Written by Zuzana Prochazka
July 31, 2023

Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Boatsetter Team

The cost of boat ownership extends well beyond the purchase price, and a rule of thumb is that you’ll spend 10% of the price on maintenance each year.

Additionally, boats over 40 feet can tack on a 20%-40% premium over smaller boats. For example, if you buy a watersports tow boat for $100,000, add $10,000 each year to keep it in top shape. A 50-foot yacht with a price of $700,000 will set you back significantly more.

Lots of boat maintenance is priced per foot (the length of the boat) but that’s just the beginning. Geography (where you keep your boat), its shape, the number of engines, and its age also play a factor. DIY maintenance is significantly cheaper, but you must have both the skills and the time to do it and remember that the opportunity cost of working on your boat is enjoying it.

Below, we’ve listed regular maintenance tasks and a rough estimate of costs per item. Most of the tasks are done annually or once per a 100-hour season, while others will be done on a more regular or monthly basis.

Post summary

  • Hull detailing
  • Bottom cleaning & antifouling paint
  • Bilge cleaning
  • Batteries & electrical systems
  • Pumps
  • Engines
  • Winterization
  • Trailer
  • Other factors & alternatives

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Cleaning a boat.

Hull detailing

Maintaining the hull includes frequent washdowns, which can cost $10-20 per foot and should be done often. Complete hull polishing, waxing, canvas care, and brightwork (wood varnish and stainless steel polishing) are done less frequently but are more expensive; for larger boats, expect to pay $10-$40 per foot, depending on how comprehensive the service.

Bottom cleaning & antifouling paint

For boats kept in the water year-round, the hull under the waterline is subject to growth. Warm water grows algae and barnacles quickly.

So, depending on where you keep your boat, you may need a bottom-cleaning dive service every 4-8 weeks to scrape soft and hard growth off the hull and running gear. Scheduled service usually runs $100-$200 per month depending on the size and shape of your boat– meaning if you have a catamaran, expect to pay nearly double.

Bilge cleaning

For larger boats, you’ll pay $300-$400 to deep clean the bilge, which should be done annually or if there is a problem with leaking machinery.

Batteries & electrical systems

At least once per year (more often for boats that work hard), you’ll need to check on the health of the batteries and electrical connections. This work usually requires qualified electricians that charge $80+ per hour.

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Boat batteries.


Boats have many pumps for bilges, freshwater, saltwater, and engine cooling. Checking electrical connections and proper pump functioning can be challenging depending on where these pumps are installed and may need a professional.


Engines (inboard diesel or outboard gasoline) require seasonal maintenance. Outboards will need flushing after each use, periodic oil and filter changes, spark plugs, lower unit service, prop checks, and more.

Inboards need oil and filter changes, hose inspections, corrosion checks, and replacement of worn impellers. Dealers can perform this kind of work, and they may charge a fixed fee like $250 per engine, or they may charge $75+ per hour, and it may take an hour per engine at least.

Boat engine maintenance.


For those who live in colder climates where boats aren’t used during the winter, there are winterization costs. Smaller boats are usually cleaned, the engines are drained, and the batteries are disconnected.

This service is priced as a lump sum, perhaps around $600, depending on the number of engines. For larger boats, this may be priced per foot ($10-$30), and the boat may be “shrink-wrapped” to protect it from the weather if it’s kept in the water.


If you tow your boat, don’t forget annual trailer maintenance. Check the wheel bearings, tires, electrical connections, and skids. This is perhaps the simplest work for DIY, and the cost may include replacement parts as needed. Otherwise, expect to pay $100-$200 for this service– labor only.

Boat trailer.

Other factors & alternatives

The above is an approximate summary of the types and costs of maintaining a boat. To this, you must add the cost of fuel, insurance, moorage, debt service, registration, taxes, and depreciation.

One way to lessen the burden of both the work and the cost of boating is to rent. Peer-to-peer rental services like Boatsetter take the hassle out of boating. As a renter, you literally pay for what you use and then walk away – most times without even having to rinse the boat off after an outing.

Learn more about boat ownership

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