How to Afford Your First Boat

Many people dream of owning their own boat, so they can enjoy the open water whenever they want, but it can be an expensive option. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, or if you balk at the cost of expensive yachts, owning a boat may seem like an impossibility—but this isn’t necessarily the case. If you’re frugal, if you do enough research, and if you commit to protecting your investment, you should be able to afford a boat of your own.

Set Accurate Expectations

First, you’ll need to set accurate expectations. It’s possible to find an inexpensive boat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford it. Additionally, just because a boat seems expensive on the surface doesn’t mean it’s completely out of your reach.

  • Types of boats. There are many varieties of boats out there, from ridiculously expensive mega yachts to small sailboats designed for personal use. Chances are, you can find something in your price range if you’re not picky.
  • Deals and discounts. Depending on where and when you shop, you’ll likely be able to find some steep discounts and good deals. For example, if you shop for a boat online, you’ll likely be able to find used options for a much lower price than you’d pay new; of course, you’ll also have to invest more time and effort, inspecting these vessels to make sure they’re in good shape.
  • Ongoing expenses. The price of a boat isn’t the only thing you’ll have to factor into your budget. For example, you’ll need to budget for fuel, insurance, storage, and the costs of ongoing maintenance. These can be difficult to estimate, especially if you have limited experience in the boating world, so plan conservatively if you want to be successful.

Plan to Buy Used

Much like cars, boats tend to start depreciating the moment you take them out of the showroom. For boat owners who buy new, this is an unfortunate consequence of getting access to the latest model. But for boat owners willing to buy used, this is a massive opportunity. If you know where to look, you can find like-new models being sold for a fraction of what they’d sell for while still new.

The only caveat here is that you’ll have to inspect the vessel thoroughly before committing to the purchase. Most used boats will be in fine condition, but you don’t want to get stuck with a lemon.

Shop Around (and Be Patient)

Make sure you look for boats on a variety of different platforms and channels. Boat shows are good opportunities to see boats in person and talk to dealers, but buying a boat online can give you access to a much wider selection. It’s important to review all your options if you want to get the best possible deal; you never know where the next price drop will be.

Similarly, you’ll need to be patient. There’s no guarantee that the “right” deal will be available today, or even a week or a month from now. If you want the best deal, it’s best to be patient, and jump on new opportunities only when they feel right.

Learn to Do Your Own Maintenance

Too many new boat owners end up spending too much money because they pay someone else to handle all their boat maintenance. Boat maintenance is vital if you want your vessel to remain in good condition and last as long as possible, but you can learn and perform most of the basics yourself, saving a ton of money in the process.

Be Smart About Storage

Another major source of monetary loss by new boat owners is storage. In most areas, there’s a wide range of options available, some of which will be much more expensive than others. Shop smart, and choose something more affordable.

Similarly, make sure you store your boat with the proper covering, and inspect it before taking it back on the water in the spring; if you’re careless with boat storage, you could end up paying far too much for repairs and maintenance in the future.

Saving Up Your Down Payment

With these tips, you can more easily afford a boat that suits your needs. The last step, then, is saving up the down payment. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut or trick to take advantage of here; instead, the best approach is to cut your living expenses, increase your income with side gigs or secondary jobs, then save the extra money you have at the end of each month.

The path to boat ownership isn’t always straightforward, but there’s always an option for people who are motivated. If you get stuck or if you aren’t sure which boat to buy, consider talking to a more experienced boating enthusiast in your area.