Updated on October 15th, 2023
In this article, we will look at how much it actually costs to own and maintain a sailboat, powerboat or superyacht per year using examples.
For buyers of new and used yachts, the cost of maintaining and operating is often either misrepresented or even ignored altogether. Even if the boat is not in use, this in no way excludes the cost of storage and maintenance to keep it running.
Owners who go to sea only a couple of times a season, and at the same time do not rent a yacht for charter, quickly realize that their own boat is an expensive pleasure and its sale becomes a very predictable result. This is logical, because in such cases it is much easier to rent any yacht and not have any problems.
Cost of ownership calculation
The generally accepted rule is that, on average, every year you have to allocate a budget equal to 10-12% of the cost of the yacht. It is important to understand that the calculations are based on the market value of a new boat, and not on the price for which you bought it if it is used.
In reality, the total cost of storing, maintaining and operating both a motorboat and a sailboat can fluctuate greatly in different directions. It depends on the following factors:
- Yacht age
- Yacht type
- Willingness to do some work independently
Very old yachts accumulate sores that often come out at the same time. But, on the other hand, used boats that have successfully sailed for a couple of seasons are quite profitable to buy, since the equipment has been tested, and everything that could break has already broken and been replaced. However, this does not mean that there will be no more breakdowns in the future.
The cost of mooring, lifting and lowering, maintenance of the hull and engine, as well as various types of taxes and duties depend on the place of registration and basing of your yacht. In particular, mooring fees in a European marina are much higher than in southern latitudes.
As for the type of yacht, of course, for a sailboat, fuel costs can be neglected, while even a small planing yacht at cruising speed turns into a ruthless fuel guzzler. The total cost of ownership can vary greatly due to the number of hours wound per season.
The price tag for operating a boat can be greatly reduced if you are willing to do a number of repairs and maintenance yourself. Cruise sailors and that group of people who permanently live on board are sometimes able to completely overhaul a diesel engine with their own hands, not to mention the usual oil change or sail patching.
Now there is an active trend towards the full electrification of watercraft. Thus, fiddling with internal combustion engines for many sailors is a thing of the past, along with the cost of repairing them, exhaust odors and dirt from technical fluids.
Main items of expenditure
We can highlight the most important points that make up the bulk of the budget for ownership:
- Yacht insurance
- Mooring and winter storage
- Scheduled maintenance
- Operating costs
- Crew (if any)
The amount of insurance premiums depends on the country and type of insurance. Often, owners try to save on insurance, which, of course, is not always justified.
The cost of mooring, as we noted above, is strongly tied to the place on the map. In all marinas, the price for a berth is calculated depending on the length of the yacht. But if you bought a catamaran, then be prepared for the fact that, firstly, not all marinas can find a place for you, and secondly, its cost will be higher. Sometimes almost double.
Scheduled maintenance includes all types of work provided by manufacturers of engines and other equipment. On average, engine maintenance is required every 150 hours. The cost of such work cannot be averaged. It will start somewhere from €500 for small sailboats and end with astronomical numbers for motor superyachts.
Operating costs are, first of all, gasoline or diesel fuel, sailing equipment, as well as batteries, if we talk about electric motors of eco-yachts.
On superyachts from 24 meters, you cannot do without a crew, whose salary can cost more than a million euros a year.
Taxes for small boats, especially sailing boats, can be practically ignored, but for superyachts they are already quite noticeable, so the owners are taking all measures to reduce them, including “convenient” registration flags.
The real cost of maintaining a yacht
It can be assumed that most sailing cruising yachtsmen on a tight budget annually spend no more than 7% of the original cost of the yacht on maintenance, trying to do most of the repairs themselves. But the owners of motor yachts are already closer to the generally accepted 10-12%.
For those who want to buy a very old yacht, you need to increase the figure to 20%. Annual expenses, as well as one-time investments for restoration, can be overwhelming for someone who decides to save a lot. As the saying goes, the cheapest boats are often the most expensive. It should also be noted that almost all superyachts and even ordinary cruisers are chartered in their free time. This allows you to at least somehow compensate for the expenses.
There are various calculators online that help you calculate the cost of owning a cruise boat or yacht, but most of them are based on the same ten percent. And if you find such a calculator on the website of some charter company, then its results can be greatly inflated for obvious reasons.
Let’s take as an example a 180ft (55m) superyacht built by a good shipyard like Amels. On average, such a yacht requires about €4.7 million per year for its maintenance.
Of these, €400,000 is spent on fuel, €350,000 on the marina, €240,000 on insurance, another €1 million is the cost of repairs and maintenance, and the largest amount must be paid to the crew for salaries – €1.4 million. If we consider that the cost of such a luxury yacht is about €45 million, then we just get about 10-12% of its original price, necessary for its maintenance.
To compensate for these costs, such a yacht will certainly be chartered, which can bring in about €250,000 per week.
The equipment on the yacht has its own resource, after which it will be necessary to take care of a major overhaul or replacement of entire blocks. This is an expensive pleasure for a boat of any size.
You can focus on the approximate service life of different components:
- Main engine (and diesel generators): 20 years
- Mast: 20-30 years
- Standing rigging: 2-5 years (racing), 10 years (cruising)
- Sails: 1-3 years (racing), 10-15 years (quality cruising)
- Running rigging: up to 5-10 years
- Deck equipment: 20-30 years
- Upholstery: 10-20 years
- Life raft: 12 years
- Life jackets: 5-10 years
- Batteries: 3-8 years
- Electronics: 8-10 years
- Teak deck: 10-20 years
Based on this, we can conclude that the presence of free cash in the pocket of the shipowner will never hurt.
However, all expenses fade against the background of the feeling that a yacht standing at the pier and ready for the next trip can give. The excitement you can experience sailing on a clear night under a starry sky in the middle of the Atlantic will instantly make you forget everything else. After all, we only live once. But it is not exactly.