Last week, a friend told me that he had been thinking of upgrading his family’s boat. They’d really like something larger than their current 34-foot cat (almost a twin to ours).
He’d started looking at ads for boats and found a 38-foot catamaran that looked ideal. The price — $300K — would be a stretch, but do-able.
Then they started looking at the other costs . . .
Those Hidden Costs
Perhaps not all of these will apply to you. But most will.
This varies by state and even county and municipality, but here is 7.5% and it’s due in full when you register the boat. That would be $22,500 – but Florida caps sales tax on boats at $18,000 so it’s $18,000.
Last year, hull coverage in hurricane-prone areas was costing about 5% of a boat’s value. It’s probably going up after the massive losses in Hurricane Ian. But even at 5%, that’s $15K per year with a substantial deductible. Not just once, but every year. And they’d expect it to go up. (They were paying just over $3,000 a year for their current boat, so this would be a difference of $12K per year or a thousand a month.)
A typical pre-purchase survey in this area (Florida Keys) costs about $35 per foot for a catamaran, plus a survey haul out at $20 per foot. That would be $2090. Engine and rigging surveys and engine oil analysis would be extra.
While the boat was well-equipped, it was clear that it was a dock queen and would need upgrades to be the cruising boat they envisioned. A much larger solar array, increased battery capacity, a watermaker, better ground tackle, and more spare parts. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation said they could easily put $20K into her.
The new boat would have a beam of 20′ versus 14′ for their existing boat. That would drastically cut the number of yards where their boat could be hauled, and many of these larger yards do not allow anyone to live on the boat while in the yard and restrict what work may be done by owners. In short, future haul-outs were likely to be quite a bit more expensive–a hidden cost easy to forget when upgrading.
You can expect to spend 5 – 10% of a boat’s value to maintain it in the same condition. So for a boat worth $320,000 (the $300K purchase plus $20K in upgrades), this would be $16,000 to $32,000. Any further upgrades would be on top of this.
My friend and his wife quickly decided that while they might be able to swing the actual purchase, all these other hidden costs quickly put this boat out of reach for them.
And they hadn’t even factored in higher costs for marinas, a Bahamas cruising permit, and so on.
They also began to realize they’d probably lose a cruising season between moving boats, doing upgrades on the new boat, selling the old boat, and doing shakedowns on the new boat and new systems.
Finally, while the new boat was located close to them, many people could incur thousands in travel costs to look at boats and move the new boat to their desired location.
Whether you’re buying your first boat or considering an upgrade, you have to look beyond just the purchase price. It takes a little thought to find all the hidden costs of buying a boat. A checklist to analyze several boats can help.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from buying a boat — far from it — but I do want to discourage you from buying a boat you can’t afford.