Buy Or Rent A Boat: Which Is Better For You?

In my opinion, the best thing to do is to rent a couple of different kinds of boats for your first season of boating. If you enjoy boating enough, purchase a boat similar to the rental you liked the most the next season. Also, buying a used boat will save you a lot of money and will require a lot less time for the purchase to be worth it instead of just renting.

For a very long time, it has always been quite hard to find boats for rent. For many hard-working people, a rental would be perfect as they don’t have the free time for a boat to be a smart investment, yet they still want to be out on the water a couple of weekends out of the year. Luckily, with new apps and websites such as GetMyBoat and Boatsetter, it’s becoming much easier to rent boats.

Along with these apps and websites, many harbors have local boat rentals available but they may be more expensive. You are still looking at a number over $100 an hour even for small motorboats and this is not even including the price of fuel that you use. At the same time that that’s true, purchasing a boat and storing it obviously cost a whole lot more than renting a couple of times.

How much time do you need to spend on a boat in order for the purchasing price to be worth it over renting?

If you’re like most people, this is probably the main question you are facing in your decision between renting or purchasing a boat. Lucky for you, I have done a lot of calculations to see which option is best for you. So I created a formula based on many factors I explain below and created a way for you to just put in the kind of boat you want and the purchase price of that boat and the formula will give the number of hours it takes in order for the boat to be worth purchasing it over just renting a similar boat.

Generally, people spend about 50 hours on their boat per season. If you’re in an area with a longer boating season such as Florida, this will probably be higher.

If you’re not sure what the price of the boat you are looking at purchasing is, that’s okay. Check out this list below that tells you exactly that. Or check out this article I wrote that has another calculator that will calculate exactly how much boat you can afford.

TypeHourly Rent CostDaily Rent CostPurchase New CostPurchase Used Cost
Jet ski$50 – $100$300 – $400$5,000 – $20,000$1,500 – $12,500
Ski boats$50 – $250$400 – $800$30,000 – $150,000$10,000 – $30,000
Wakeboarding boats$80-$300$640-$1,000$70,000-$400,000$25,000-$100,000
Fishing boats$50 – $250$400 – $700$20,000 – $100,000$5,000 – $20,000
Pontoon boats$50 – $250$400 – $700$20,000 – $70,000$5,000 – $20,000
Cabin Cruiser$250 – $600$1,200 – $2,500$100,000 – $500,000$15,000 – $100,000
Cuddy Cabin$150-$400$1,000-$2,000$45,000-$350,000$10,000-$75,000
Sailboat$80-$350$600 – $2000$100,000 – $500,000$10,000 – $75,000
Catamaran$175-$375$1,500 – $2,500$100,000 – $500,000$15,000 – $100,000
Houseboat$125-$225$800 – $1,800$50,000 – $1 mil$30,000 – $1 mil
Yacht$250-$800$2,000-$6,000$500,000 – $1 mil+$150,000 – $1 mil+
Note: these are all averages and prices can widely vary depending on many factors

Or just look at this list below that also tells you how much time you need to spend on a boat in order for it to be worth it over renting. This list was found using the prices shown above.

TypeNew BoatUsed Boat
Jet ski65 – 261 hours20 – 163 hours
Ski boats 196 – 977 hours65 – 196 hours
Wakeboarding boats 360 – 2058 hours129 – 515 hours
Fishing boats 130 – 652 hours33 – 130 hours
Pontoon boats 130 – 456 hours33 – 130 hours
Cabin Cruiser 230 – 1150 hours35 – 230 hours
Cuddy Cabin 160 – 1244 hours36 – 267 hours
Sailboat 602 – 3009 hours60 – 451 hours
Catamaran 356 – 1778 hours53 – 356 hours
Houseboat 355 – 7111 hours213 – 7111 hours
Yacht 931 – 1862+ hours279 – 1862+ hours

All factors considered when making this formula

Factors considered
  • Maintnence costs
  • Value of the boat as if you sold it
  • Avereage rental cost
  • Average purchase cost
  • Average selling cost
Factors not considered
  • Cost of storage
  • Cost of life jackets, flairs, etc.
  • Insurance cost

I did not use storage fees to calculate these numbers, so keep in mind if you need to pay for storage it might be a bit longer for a purchased boat to be worth it. For example, if you’re paying $2,000 per year for storage on a ski, fishing, or wakeboarding boat, that’s going to add around another 150 hours.

What I’ve concluded from this data

After looking at the numbers, it’s pretty clear that if you want to purchase a boat, get a used one. You may be sacrificing on some things that new boats have, but you will be saving loads of money and it will require way less time for it to be worth the purchase. You want to try to buy boats near the bottom of their depreciation curve, but anything 5 years or older than the newest version will save you a whole lot of money.

Many times boats even ones 7+ years older than the newest version, still look as if they are brand new as there haven’t really been many technological advances in boating technology in a while.

Pros and cons between purchasing or renting a boat

Price isn’t everything so to better help you in your decision between purchasing or renting I’ve also laid out the pros and cons of both. Let’s start with purchasing your own boat.

Purchasing a boat

Pros
  • Easier access to the boat
  • You can customize it to your liking
  • Much more options are available
  • Can save you money with enough time
  • Can store your stuff in your boat and leave it there
Cons
  • Initial cost is a lot
  • Storage is expensive
  • Maintnence costs money and is a chore

Renting a boat

Pros
  • Cheaper initial price
  • Less of a commitment
  • No maintenance
  • Great for a new boater to try out before purchasing a boat
  • Never have to worry about boat storage
Cons
  • Can be a pain to find the boat you want
  • Not always available
  • Cant leave anything on the boat

Where should you rent a boat?

the best answer to this is basically wherever you can find one. Especially if you’re in a somewhat rule area, boat rentals aren’t super easy to find. the first thing you want to do to find one is look up boat rentals in your area on google. This will probably give you a company selling small ski/tubing boats, fishing boats, and pontoon boats. You should try to do a little research on the company before renting from them, but most of them should be just fine to rent from.

If you want to find a boat that’s a little more exotic than the basic boats you get with these companies, try out apps such as GetMyBoat and Boatsetter. These are individual boat owners renting their boats to you, so make sure you don’t crash them.

How to not get screwed over when renting a boat

Many times in areas where there are very few boat rentals the few rental companies will overcharge a bit for their rental boats because there’s no competition. If you notice this, try to go on the app and website I mentioned above and find a boat on there. If not you may have to just overpay a bit for your rental. Maybe a bit of negotiation will work.

Also as I mentioned above, always do a little research and look at some reviews of any boat company you rent from. You don’t want to have to deal with any mechanical issues out on the water by a renter who doesn’t do any maintenance on their boats.

Lastly, make sure to check age requirements as many different rental companies require different ages usually 18, 21, or 25.

Where should you buy a boat?

When it comes to new boats it’s pretty straightforward as the only places that really sell them are the dealers. On the other hand, used boats are sold by dealers and owners on many different websites and apps. My main advice is if you want to buy a used boat quick and easy, go with a dealer. If you want to get a good deal, buy from an owner.

Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Boat Trader, and Boats.com are all great places to find an owner that’s selling their boat. If you’re looking for the absolute best place to get deals, I’d recommend using Facebook and Craigslist primarily in your search.

Something you may want to consider before buying a boat is to get a mechanic to check it out to make sure theirs no issues the seller or dealer is hiding. Many times dealers will already check the boats out, but sketchy dealers may lie to you. Always do your research and make sure the dealer has good reviews before buying.

Conclusion

So, if you’ve got this far and you still haven’t decided between renting or purchasing, just go with renting for now. As long as you only rent for a season or two you won’t lose much money and it gives you the time to decide if you like boating or not. You also get to test out many different boats to determine which type of boat you will want to buy.

Sam
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