How to Build a Budget to Buy a Sailboat
Budgeting is key to financial soundness. It should come as no surprise when buying a new or used sailboat that setting a budget for yourself is the way to go! In fact, buying a new or used sailboat can often include expenses beyond the initial price at the sale. Factoring in both one-time and up-front fees and ongoing costs is key to smooth sailing through boat ownership.
- Boat registration
- Boat insurance
- Interest (if financing)
- Upgrades & repairs
- Rigging & sails servicing
Registration or documentation
Sailboats may be registered via the DMV or documented via the U.S. Coast Guard. The DMV is a recurring fee, while documentation is generally higher but is charged only once. The boat’s size, complexity, and price will have a bearing on which of these is applicable.
Good news: Sailboats are built to use wind power; therefore, they use very little fuel. However, the bigger the sailboat, the more you’ll need to rely on the engine to move it in light air and to dock it in tight spaces. Sailboat fuel bills are fairly meager since they use small, single engines. Still, depending on use, you’ll need to budget a few hundred dollars per year.
You must keep your sailboat in a wet slip or on a trailer. Both options can be pricey, although if you keep the trailer on your property, you’ll save money. Slips are hard to find. In some parts of the country, you can expect to pay well in excess of $30 per foot of overall length per month for a marina slip. You may need to add metered electricity and water to the monthly slip fee.
Sailboats aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. They require near-constant cleaning and care, including washing, varnishing, polishing, waxing, bottom cleaning, painting, etc. You can DIY some of these efforts, but that time comes at the expense of actually boating.
Motorized boats– even if they’re sailboats– must carry insurance coverage. The annual charge is usually 1% or more of the purchase price. The insurance cost is influenced by factors such as the boat’s value, size, intended usage, and the boater’s experience.
Interest when financing a sailboat
If you finance a sailboat purchase, keep in mind the interest rate! Financing fees may run hundreds of dollars each month depending on the initial price. Financial experts say paying more than the minimum on a loan is the best way to combat climbing interest rates.
Commissioning typically (but not always) applies to new sailboats; however, if you truck, tow, or deliver a used sailboat on a ship, it will need to be assembled with its rig and other equipment, called commissioning. A broker or dealer will usually perform and charge for this work, which can cost thousands of dollars.
Upgrades & repairs
Maintenance includes only the routine tasks to keep a boat in good condition. To repair equipment breaks or upgrade features like electronics, refrigeration, batteries, etc., create a separate budget. And, don’t forget to consider labor costs and installation.
Rigging & sails servicing
Your sailboat’s sails and rigging will need servicing. Masts and booms need to be inspected and painted periodically, the standing rigging will need to be tuned or replaced, sails and control lines need to be cleaned or replaced, winches need servicing, and sail covers wear out with use and the elements. The bigger the boat, the more these items will cost.
Be careful not to get too carried away with this fun-spend. You’ll want handheld electronics, apparel for foul weather, extra lines, chart upgrades, safety gear like harnesses, and many toys. You’ll need an extra budget to truly enjoy sailing just like you would with any other passion sport. Check out our list of the 7 Best Sailboat Accessories!
Owning versus renting
The cost of sailboat ownership can sometimes be 20% or more of the initial purchase price. So, for a $100,000 sailboat, expect to spend another $20,000 annually for its management. Another way to go boating is to charter or rent. You enjoy sailing for a week or day at a time at much-reduced costs. Don’t give up on sailing if buying isn’t right for you right now.
Instead, consider renting from a peer-to-peer boat rental service like Boatsetter! Raise the sails on a bareboat sailboat where you’re the skipper or hire a large yacht with a captain and chef and relax on the foredeck sunbed while sailing on a lovely beam reach. No matter the fee, you’ll spend less overall than taking the plunge into sailboat ownership.
More content on sailing:
- How Sails Work: Understanding the Basics
- Sailgating 101: 7 Ways to Throw a Great Tailgate Party on a Boat
- Top 10 Sailing Destinations to Explore in 2023
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.
Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin.
A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide.
Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico.