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Owning a boat vs hiring: Pros and Cons

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Owning a boat can arguably be one of the best and worst experiences of your life! How does the saying go? It’s great to buy one, great to sell one, but what about all the in-between? That’s why it’s important to consider all the options when either buying or just hiring a boat.

Everyone would love to own a boat, and there is nothing better than that feeling of the wind rushing past you as you stand behind the steering wheel.

But they can be expensive. You will need to consider what you can actually afford. Some luxury boats are far out of the average budget and perhaps hiring a boat can almost be as rewarding.

If you are seriously considering buying and buying used, it’s worth checking out our post about knowing if your second hand boat is safe.

Why we decided to sell our boat

Having owned a boat for years, and different ones during that time, owning a boat can give a great sense of pride, satisfaction and freedom, but does come at a cost!

It was a difficult, almost heartbreaking, decision to finally hand the keys over to someone else, and rely on hiring boats instead.

As our journey into minimalism continues and we prepare to go travelling full-time, selling was (in reflection) the best decision we have made yet in regards to saving financially. We miss the thought of just being able to take it out on the water when we wanted, but in all honesty, we didn’t do this as much as we thought we would.

We don’t miss the mini arguments though on a cold Sunday morning when Gill is grumpy for getting out of bed (and no coffee… grrrr!), often moaning about how much money we spend on it! As an older boat, she sure knew how to eat money with maintenance and fuel costs (it was a 2 stroke engine that would cost $20 just to get out of the marina and into the open sea!).

We’ve put together a list of pros and cons of owning vs. hiring from our experience to help you decide what’s best for you. This is based on a reasonably sized boat, needing a trailer and more care than just a tinny or dingy that can be stored and maintained more easily.

Pros of owning a boat

  • You can use it whenever you want and for however long you want to (weather permitting!)
  • It’s a great way to spend time with family and friends, when best convenient for everyone
  • Boating regularly can improve health and wellbeing
  • Learn lifelong skills and create an amazing lifestyle
  • You can choose a boat that suits your needs such as speed, comfort, handling, etc.
  • There is a great sense of pride, satisfaction and freedom from owning a boat
  • If it’s a luxury boat or a boat that you can sleep on, you can go on overnight trips or long weekends on the water
  • You’ll be everyone’s best friend!

Cons for owning a boat

  • Boating takes commitment – both time and financially
  • You will probably need a boat licence – check your location and boat size as some don’t require this
  • Skills and some experience are needed before jumping straight onboard on the water
  • Fuel costs generally go up, not down!
  • Most boat owners use their boats much less than they originally anticipated
  • Costs to maintain are significant – anything marine based is far more expensive
  • You need to know a good marine mechanic, especially if the boat is moored on the water
  • Storage of the boat and accessories can be costly, especially if you have no room at home
  • Boats depreciate in value, more so than cars
  • Taking accessories such as skis, kneeboards, fishing rods, nets, lifejackets, etc. can become a hassle if having to transport them each time (and don’t leave them onboard)
  • The more times you have to transport things to and from the boat, the more chance there is for something to break
  • Every boat should be cleaned after use and sometimes this can take as long as you were out on the water
  • You need to ensure the boat is constantly used – letting it sit for months or years at a time will cause significant damage
Selected Just For You:
How do you know when a second-hand boat is safe?

Pros of hiring a boat

  • It won’t break your bank account!
  • No storage, mooring or maintenance fees
  • You haven’t got the hassle of remembering to register or get the insurance sorted each year
  • Try before you buy, or just have the experience of driving different types of boats
  • Can be great for new boaties who want to work out what the best option is for them
  • More operators are setting up boat hire locations due to their increase in popularity
  • Some boats don’t even require a boat licence to operate
  • You will be given full instruction on how to use and all the safety gear and accessories available
  • No hassle of pulling the boat out of the water, cleaning, etc. Just moor and walk away!
  • You can travel around and have new adventures on the water without the hassle of trailers, etc.

Cons of hiring a boat

  • Spending time out on the water is great with family and friends, but could be harder to arrange to ensure everyone and the boat is available
  • Some deposits can be pretty significant (but still cheaper than owning)
  • Maintenance of hired boats can sometimes be questionable – check over before leaving the dock and make sure you know what to do if you break down
  • Hired boats are well used so you won’t get that shiny, new feeling you may have in your own boat
  • Not every location has boat hire available
  • Availability can be an issue, especially if a last minute decision
  • Sometimes finding the right boat can be hard, such as a fishing boat for anglers, or a bowrider for water sports
  • If you hire on a regular basis, you may end up spending more than the costs of owning a boat
  • You’ll never get that full sense of pride and satisfaction from owning a boat

Another alternative

There is also another alternative to owning a boat, and that is boat sharing – a part ownership option with other owners. The US has been doing this for years and they also have some popular boating membership clubs. And it does seem to be becoming more popular in Australia. Do a search for it in your local area and you might be pleasantly surprised at what comes up!

Whichever way you decide to go, they equally have their own pros and cons. You just have to make the right decision for yourself.

If you decide to buy, make sure you have a pretty healthy wallet, and budget for those unexpected costs. Boating is not worth financial hardship. Hire instead if you are in doubt.

For more in-depth information on the costs of owning a boat, this article from Discover Boating is great to consider upfront costs, annual fees, maintenance and costs in the real world. It is American based but useful for anyone considering buying a boat.

Let us know what you decide to do and leave us a comment below! We love to know other people’s experiences of owning a boat or just hiring one!

(P.S. If you decide to own a boat, can we have an invitation to jump on board for a ride??!)


  1. My family wants to take a trip in the summer where we go and rent a boat that we can go tubing on, and enjoy the ocean. Renting a boat from a professional would be really convenient and allow us to not pay for a boat or maintain it so we can just borrow. I liked what you said about how we will get instructions on how to use everything on the boat and we can just moor the boat rather than having to clean and take care of it.

    1. Absolutely Jenna! Boat rentals are such a great idea – it takes the hassle out of the experience, is easy, convenient and means more time spent with the family enjoying being out on the water! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. Thanks for explaining that I need to set aside extra money for boat servicing because anything marine-based is going to be more expensive. My husband and I would like to buy a boat and sail around the coast for our retirement. I wonder if we should find boat servicing options in each of the major ports.

    1. It’s so true Sarah but absolutely worth the additional cost! That sounds like the perfect retirement and what a great idea about finding boat servicing options in each of the major ports – a bit of homework before setting sail and I bet you could potentially save loads of money! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. My dad is planning to buy a Lund boat that he may use for his fishing activities, which is why he’s currenlty looking for a legit dealer. I agree with you that owning a boat is more beneficial because this will help hone his lifelong skills. You’re also right that this will give him a chance to opt for a ride that will suit his needs, such as speed, comfort and handling.

    1. Thanks for the comment Rachel. Great trusted brand and a smart-looking boat too! Absolutely a legit dealer is always necessary for safety and peace of mind. Hope your Dad enjoys his new purchase!

  4. It’s interesting that you point out that owning a boat makes it easy to spend time with your family. I’d like to be able to take my kids fishing a lot as a way to spend time with them, so I’m considering buying a boat this year. I’m going to see if there’s a good business in my area that can sell me a boat.

    1. Hi Thomson, absolutely and teaches us all life-long skills out on the water. Good luck finding your new pride and joy and wishing you many years of happiness out on the water. Just make sure you do plenty of research and due diligence into what you are buying 🙂

  5. I like how you said that you can spend more time with family if you own a boat. My husband was wondering if he should get a boat. I’ll make sure to pass this information along to him so that he can look into getting a boat.

  6. I had no idea that boating regularly can improve health and well-being. I would love to have a boat built for my family. I’ll try to reach out to some different builders.

  7. I liked it when you shared that owning a boat can offer you a great sense of pride, satisfaction, and freedom. My uncle just mentioned the other day that he is planning to buy a boat as he wants to go on boating trips with his sons and grandchildren. I will suggest to him getting one that can accommodate the number of people that he wants to bring for the trip.

  8. My brother and I are interested in owning a boat, but we’re not sure if we should rent one from time to time or buy one. It really helped when you talked about how owning a boat lets us sail it whenever we want to, so we’ll consider your tips before making a decision next month. Thanks for the information on owning a boat and how it’d be a great way to spend time with our loved ones.

  9. I find it fascinating that owning a boat makes it easier to traverse lakes and ponds! My friend is interested in helping his uncle enjoy his retirement lifestyle this year. Since he loves fishing, maybe he should consider finding a boat repair technician that can look after his future boat for issues!

  10. It got me when you said that both higher services will be best for those who are first-timers in that kind of activity. Honestly, we cannot also afford to buy a boat for our family at the moment. And I think that we would only experience this kind of activity every summer or once every summer which is why it is more practical for us to hire instead of buying one, in my opinion.

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