The Cost of Boat Ownership

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Summer is here, and if you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for new ways to soak up the sun, getting out on the water in a boat of your own could sound like a relaxing way to enjoy the hot weather. But before you set sail make sure you calculate expenses beyond monthly payments and fuel charges to avoid your budget from going overboard.

Ignoring the actual cost of boat ownership could sink your finances. While sticker prices vary, figure these extra expenses into your budget to ensure smooth sailing all season long.

Boat Education

Before you take the helm, you must learn how to safely operate the watercraft. Virginia requires all powerboat operators to complete an approved training program. Even if your state doesn’t require a test before you get your boating license, passing one might lower the cost of boat insurance. More importantly, it could help keep you and your family and friends safe on the water.

Safety Equipment

While life jackets can prevent drowning and are required for all watercrafts, you’ll likely need a few more items to ensure safety for the entire vessel. An onboard fire extinguisher is a standard safety requirement. A first-aid kit is essential to care for minor injuries or address more serious needs until help arrives.

Pre-Purchase Boat Inspection

Purchasing a pre-owned boat can save you money on your purchase, but you don’t want to buy someone else’s problems. Hire a qualified inspector from the National Association of Marine Surveyors or another reputable organization to review the operational safety and function of the watercraft before you buy. Inspections may cost $20 (or more) per foot.

Boat Trailer

Getting your boat safely to the water requires a trailer to transport the vessel and necessary cargo. And your vehicle must be able to haul it all. If your vehicle doesn’t support the towing capacity needed, you may need to reconsider your purchase plans or explore other options to safely get your vessel to the water.

State Registration

Check with your state regarding registration requirements. Virginia requires that you register and title your watercraft with the Department of Wildlife. You must also register your boat trailer with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Some fees are recurring and vary by agency.

Insurance Premiums

Speak with your insurance company about the cost of adding a boat policy to your account. If you skip coverage, you must pay out-of-pocket for damages you cause to your own or someone else’s boat — and you’re on your own financially if your boat is stolen or damaged.

Storage Fees

Whether you use a dock slip or indoor boat storage, it’s best to determine the cost before purchasing a boat. Besides storage fees, obtain quotes for storage preparation that include winterizing the engine, sealing exhaust ports, and testing the battery. Fees can vary significantly by geographic location.

Maintenance and Repairs

Estimating regular maintenance and repair costs can be tricky since they depend on the watercraft’s age and condition when purchased and the wear and tear you put on it each season. Another factor is whether your boat is used in saltwater, which is typically harder on a boat’s mechanical systems than freshwater. Some boating experts recommend putting aside 10% of the boat’s value to cover annual maintenance costs.


Wheatear you’re setting sail on the James, or the Chesapeake Bay, relax this summer with a Call Federal Leisure Vehicle loan. You can avoid choppy financial waters with low interest rates and extended repayment terms. Secure a budget-friendly loan for your new or pre-owned watercraft by applying online, contacting us at 1-804-274-1200, or stopping by a convenient branch location today!

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