Nichole and I owned a 20-foot ski boat for 5 years and we sold it for $200 less than we bought it for. The trick; we took our time, went through Craigslist, and did our research. We took check lists for inspecting the boat; made the owner run the motor (from a cold start), and more. The checklists will have things you probably didn’t figure you needed to know – for example, shake that I/O (inboard /outboard) motor and see if it wiggles a bunch because gimbal bearings can be expensive. Better yet, take someone that knows a thing or two about boats.
Here are some tips to keep boat ownership costs down:
- Is ownership for you? If you are only going out a few times a year, there are places in Seattle area, and others, that rent. It may be easier, but those may still require you to buy “lake” gas. All in, excluding gas, we could have rented 3-4 times compared to taking our boat out over 100 times.
- Free storage. If you don’t have somewhere free to store the boat, it can add up. We had a place beside our townhouse where we kept the boat. You’ll need about 30-35 feet depending on the boat. At a lakeside facility or dock will cost you $300+.
- Safety equipment. Chances are it already comes with everything you need. If not, shop around – boat stores tend to be expensive. You can piece together a lot of the safety equipment through online stores, craigslist, etc.
- Boat ramp etiquette and experience. For some weekend fun, the local boat ramp on a busy weekend can be humorous. I’ve seen idiots damage really expensive boats because they wouldn’t listen to those around them. If you’re nervous about the launch, ask for help, practice when it’s not busy, work as a team, and take your time. Also, remember the drain plug.
- Maintenance. You can do most of it yourself. Seriously. I replaced the propeller, battery, fuel gauge, some weird voltage regulator thing, trailer lights, and fluids (engine oil / lower unit, etc). YouTube was my friend.
- Gas. Gas you buy at the lake is going to cost you a pretty penny – plan in advance.