When people ask about the cost of owning a sailboat it’s tempting to answer ‘How long is a piece of string’? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this question and although we wish it was clear cut, it really isn’t. The cost of owning a sailboat depends on SO MANY different factors, and also a little on luck.
We’ve gone into depth about how much it costs us to sail the Mediterranean and looked at the ins and outs of living on a sailboat on a serious budget. In answer to the question ‘What is the cost of owning a sailboat?’ we can be completely candid about our own experiences and share the costs we’ve had to deal with during sailboat ownership, but bare in mind that everyone’s experience is slightly different.
We’ll also use this post to go into detail about some of the things that will affect the cost of owning a sailboat, so that you can make a more informed decision before you buy!
The Cost Of Owning A Sailboat Depends On Size
Before you buy a sailboat you need to consider the fact that the cost of owning a sailboat depends on it’s size. The bigger the sailboat, the more working parts on board that have the potential to break and need fixing or replacement.
You’ll also have to pay more for mooring bigger boats, so it’s worth checking the cut offs for the marinas you’re likely to be visiting if you want to make sure you stay under a certain price band. A foot can make hundreds of pounds of difference in mooring fees!
Factor Age Into The Cost Of Owning A Sailboat
The age of a sailboat may well make a difference to the cost of owning it. There’s no definitive rule for this, but obviously older boats may well need more attention to newer boats.
There are more likely to be worn out parts that need replacing or even big maintenance jobs to tackle that will take time and cost money. Although the boat will probably be cheaper to buy, it may work out more expensive over the time you own it.
Consider Where You’re Planning On Sailing
Your cruising grounds can have a big impact on the cost of owning a sailboat. For most people, you’ll need somewhere secure to keep the boat in off season or for periods of time you aren’t sailing.
If you’re planning on buying a boat and keeping it in a marina close to your home then make sure you check how much a slip will be. Marina prices vary hugely from area to area and even from marina to marina.
Again, the cost of taking the boat out of the water to let it dry out or to do work on the hull will vary hugely too. On the same topic, any work you need doing by a specialist will come at a price, and that price can differ too depending on where you’re sailing.
The Cost Of Owning A Sailboat Depends On How Skilled You Are
The cost of owning a sailboat can depend a lot on how prepared you are to work on your own boat. There are a lot of boat jobs that are perfectly possible to do yourself with a little elbow grease and determination. YouTube is a wonderful university!
If you’re not going to be working on the boat yourself then obviously you’re going to spend a lot more money. There are some things that Adam and I don’t feel comfortable tackling ourselves, like technical work on the engine. If you’re used to working around engines, for example, then you’ll save money in this area!
The Design Of Your Sailboat May Play A Part In The Cost Of Sailboat Ownership
For example, our sailboat is cutter rigged. With three sails instead of just two there is more to fix or replace. If the boat you decide on has two heads then that’s double the work there. Your new sailboat might come with lots of hatches that will need maintaining, or like ours – lots of sinks that need work every now and again.
Every sailboat will have it’s own quirks that will add to the overall cost of owning it at some point or another. Sometimes lots of extras and fancy gadgets are great and make sailing life a million times easier. But when they break, and they always do at some point, you’re going to want to replace to them or fix them and that’s going to add to the cost of boat ownership!
How Are You Using The Sailboat
Before you can start to work out the cost of sailboat ownership you need to know how you’ll be using the boat.
If you’re heading off for weekend sails every now and again then you’re probably going to want to keep the boat in a marina full time, which could end up costing quite a lot (depending on where you are – see above!)
If you’re living on the sailboat full time then you might save money on marina fees by anchoring out more often, but you’ll probably be putting more wear and tear on the boat as you’ll be using it full time. You’ll also need to potentially upgrade some systems on your boat so you have things like reliable power and storage for water.
There’s A Little Luck Involved Too!
You win some, you lose some. At the end of the day, the amount you spend on owning a sailboat will depend largely on the boats condition when you buy it and on how well you manage to maintain it while you own it.
You can try your hardest to go into boat ownership with your eyes open by doing things like getting a good survey before you buy and considering all the above factors, but at the end of the day it can all come down to luck.
We’ve met people with brand new expensive boats that have no end of problems. But the warranty will cover it, you may be thinking. Will the warranty cover all of it – the nights you have to spend in a marina waiting for the work to be done, the mistakes the engineer makes when fixing the work, the diesel it takes to get the boat to the specific mechanic that your insurance insists do the work.
There’s every possibility you’ll run into a storm and something unexpected will break, or you’ll get crashed into by someone and have to claim on insurance that’s reluctant to pay out.
If you’re unlucky, it can become a bit of a nightmare, and no matter how careful you are there is no way of ridding yourself of all risk when you enter into boat ownership.
At some point you just have to accept that a sailboat is not a house. It will always come with risks (that’s partly why you love sailing, right!?) You have to accept that there may come a time when boat ownership costs too much.
How Much Does Sailboat Ownership Cost Us?
We’ve put together a break down of how much we’ve spent in the last year of sailboat ownership. We’ve taken out living costs like paying for gas, as you don’t need a cooker on board to own a sailboat or enjoy sailing it!
These figures are based on sailing a 38ft sailboat from 1987. We’ve been sailing in Greece this year and over winter (and during lockdown!) we’ve done a lot of boat maintenance. Hopefully we won’t need to do this level of work every year, but this should give a good indication of the sort of costs you might be looking at if you buy a sailboat in worse condition than you’d like!
Our haul out, in and a jet wash for this year is costing us £500. From what we’ve seen, this is pretty standard. Maybe a little on the cheaper side.
We’re hoping to get the boat out of the water for 5 months this year and it will cost just under £1000. This is on the cheaper end of boatyard storage in Greece. If you keep the boat in the water you can save money, but as our boat is older we want to give it a fighting chance so we’ve decided to get a haul out while we’re away and spend another winter doing some more maintenance.
At the start of this season we got a professional to give our engine a once over. We’ve been doing all the ‘easy’ maintenance like oil and filter changes, but we had no idea how much work was done on it by the previous owners and we wanted someone to give it a once over.
The engineer adjusted the timing, replaced the injector valves and replaced the cutlass bearing. He also recommended we changed the saltwater lift pump impellor which we did ourselves and the parts cost £80 (with an impellor puller!)
To get this done cost £580 for the professional work and engine parts we needed.
Tools For Boat Work
We bought an orbital sander from Amazon which promptly broke (and cost more than the actual sander to send it back for a refund), so to avoid waiting for another to arrive we bought a more expensive one from a local chandlery. One of the things we didn’t account for when living on a sailboat was the fact we wouldn’t have easy access to reliable stores. There’s no Screwfix in Greece, so you have to just find what you can and pay up! This ended up costing us £80.
We bought a multitool for precision cutting which cost about £100. We probably could have done the work without this, just not as neatly!
Obviously there are already a lot of other tools on the boat – some left by the previous owner and some that we flew out with us from home. You’re going to need at least a basic set of tools on your sailboat so factor this into the cost of ownership.
In total we spent £180 on tools this year.
I won’t list every single item we bought over our three months working nearly full time on the boat, but I’ve totalled it all up in the final price. Always assume that you will need more than you factor in for when taking on a job!
Here’s a few of the bigger materials we spent the most on.
- Bottom paint
- Sanding discs
- New water tanks
- New propeller
- Marine ply
- Gel coat
- Fibreglass cloth
- Topside paint
- Added solar panel
The total came to just under £1500.
Along with the work we felt was necessary to do, we also bought a few sailboat upgrades to make our lives more comfortable. These items we could have done without, but we wanted them!
We bought a bigger anchor for the boat. We bought a BBQ so we had a way of cooking outside in the heat of the summer (it’s amazing – find out all about it here). We bought material for cushion covers for the cockpit cushions and material to make cushion covers for some extra inside cushions too.
I’ll put this as an upgrade when really it was a mishap! We lost our dinghy to the sea half way through the season and had to replace it. For anyone that had seen our dinghy, you’ll know it was well on it’s way to needing to be replaced. We just hadn’t factored it in for this year! The dinghy came to £1000.
These nice extras came to £1540.
Marina/Town Quay Fees
We haven’t actually spent anything on marinas or town quays this season. We stayed on the town quay for nearly three weeks on Symi island but it was free to moor there. Other than that we have anchored out for the whole season.
Greece is unusual in Europe because it has quite a few free town quays. I’ve included a section about it here as most people will need to use marinas at least a few times in a season to shelter from storms or for comfort.
Depending on where in the world you’re sailing and how experienced you are, you will obviously spend more or less on diesel. If we were taking the boat out for weekend sails then we’d obviously pick nice windy days when we could actually sail places, but living on board means we have to motor places to get the boat somewhere safe for incoming weather, or to find the internet for Adam’s work.
We don’t always end up ‘sailing’ on days with favourable weather and so probably motor more than a lot of sailors! We also aren’t as confident yet, so we use the motor as a bit of a backup at times (though we’re learning fast!)
In this season of sailing we’ve had a lot more wind than last season, as we were sailing in the Aegean during the Meltemi season. Although at times the high wind has stressed us out, it’s been nice to have more reliable windy days to power us!
This season we’ve spent £240 on diesel.
Our Total Cost Of Owning A Sailboat This Year
Our total cost of owning a sailboat this year came to £5540.
Obviously we didn’t pay this outright as a lump sum, so averaged over the 12 months we spent £461 a month on owning a boat this year.
This year has been more expensive than last year, as we got a lot more jobs done this and made some upgrades. You probably won’t have to do that level of maintenance every year, but you will have to some years, so it’s good to factor it in and make sure you have the savings for it when it happens!
Hopefully this has given you some good insight and interesting considerations to make before you head on into boat ownership! Let us know how you get on in the comments below!