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Should you buy or rent a boat?

Close up of the driving area of a motor boat
Capchure/Getty Images
Close up of the driving area of a motor boat
Capchure/Getty Images
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If you are looking to join the 100 million Americans who go boating each year, you may be considering whether you should rent or buy a boat. With many different sizes and types of boats to try, price points for both renting and buying vary greatly.

Both renting and buying boats have pros and cons, so you must decide what works best for you. As you think about what you want to do, account for your long-term boating goals.

Renting a boat

Looking to have some maritime fun without all the responsibility? Renting a boat is the way to go. You can enjoy a boat for a day or two without worrying about its day-to-day maintenance. Remember, many rental companies require you to take a brief training before you rent. You can easily find boat rentals of all different kinds using sites like GetMyBoat or Boatsetter.

There are many types of boats from small fishing boats to yachts and catamarans, so rental prices vary greatly. You can expect to pay at least $200 a day for a boat rental, but some rentals cost multiple thousands of dollars per day. If you only want to use the boat for a few hours, you may be able to find partial day boat rentals for a bit less.

Advantages

Renting a boat has some key advantages. You can expect to reap these benefits if you decide to rent:

  • Try out different boat types. When you rent, you aren’t committed to one boat or even a specific boat type. You can rent a speedboat one day and test out a pontoon on a different day.
  • Use the boat as much or as little as you want. You don’t have to take out the boat a certain amount to make it feel worth it. Go out for a few hours to try out boating. If you like it, you can always rent the boat again.
  • Don’t worry about upkeep and maintenance. Arguably the best part about renting is that you don’t have to fix anything or figure out where to store the boat.

Disadvantages

You may miss certain things if you rent a boat instead of purchasing one. Think about these disadvantages of renting:

  • It’s more expensive over time. Renting a boat once is definitely cheaper than buying one, but if you plan to rent a boat many times, the fees can quickly add up. Buying a boat may be the most cost-effective option if you plan to boat avidly.
  • The boat may not be in tiptop condition. Whether you rent through a boat rental company or a peer-to-peer rental service, you don’t have control over the condition of the boat. Make sure you read reviews of any company you plan to rent a boat from.
  • You have less freedom. Every rental company restricts where you can go or what you can do in the boat. You won’t be able to do whatever you want while renting a boat.
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Who renting is best for
Planning to use a boat minimally or you just want to try boating out? Renting a boat offers the best option. It’s a large expense to buy a boat, so if you don’t plan to use it often, it is cheaper to rent. If you are thinking about buying a boat, but you are not sure, renting can be a great way to get familiar with different kinds of boats and decide if you like the boating lifestyle.

Buying a boat

Buying a boat comes with perks — you always have a fun place to hang out on the water and you can take it out whenever you want. But when you become a boat owner, you are also responsible for taking care of the boat, which takes time and more money.

Boats are also expensive to buy in the first place. The price tag depends largely on what type of boat you buy and whether you buy it new or used. You can expect to pay at least $10,000 when you buy a boat — which is just for a small used motorboat. If you want to buy a new boat, the average price is between $40,000 and $60,000.

Advantages

The responsibility of being a boat owner comes with some advantages. If you decide to purchase a boat, you can enjoy these things:

  • You can use it whenever you want: When you own a boat, you don;t have to plan around the schedule of a rental company to take it out. You can use it whenever you would like.
  • Customize your boat to your liking. The name, the paint job, and the decor of the boat are all in your hands.
  • Maintain the boat to your standards. You manage the upkeep of the boat and can easily keep track of maintenance, so you don’t have to wonder about its condition.

Disadvantages

Owning a boat isn’t all fun and games. It might not be a good idea if these disadvantages outweigh the advantages for you:

  • Boats are a money pit. Some boat owners joke that “boat” stands for bust out another thousand. All laughing aside, boats are expensive. Owners continuously must also pay for gas, maintenance, and storage of their boat.
  • You may feel guilty when you don’t use it enough. The average boater only uses their boat about 8% of the time. So, 92% of the time a boat sits idle. When you spend so much money on it, you can start to feel bad when you don’t feel like you use it enough.
  • They lose value over time. When you buy a house, your investment often gains value over time. However, boats typically lose their value over time.
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Who buying is best for
It’s important that boat owners really enjoy their boat. Otherwise, they may regret becoming a boat owner at all. If you understand all the costs of owning a boat and you still feel like it sounds fun, owning a boat might be right for you.

Financing a boat

You’ve decided to buy a boat, but where will you find the money? If you want to buy a boat, but you don’t have all the cash you need to buy one, you may be able to get a personal loan. Talk to a local bank or online lender to find out their loan options for purchasing a boat. Consider whether you want a secured or unsecured loan for your boat. You can use a boat loan calculator to figure out how long it will take to pay off different boat loans.

Bottom line

Spending a day in a boat on the water sounds like a lot of fun. But don’t get so wrapped up in the pretty picture of it all that you make an irresponsible decision. Weigh the pros and cons of owning a boat versus buying a boat before you decide how you will get out on the water.

Once you decide on how you enjoy a boat, make a plan. Determine how much money you need to budget. Then you can decide if you need to look into financing options.

Written by
Emma Woodward
Contributing writer
Emma Woodward is a former contributor for Bankrate and a freelance writer who loves writing to demystify personal finance topics. She has written for companies and publications like Finch, Toast, JBD Clothiers and The Financial Diet.
Edited by
Loans Editor, Former Insurance Editor