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Australians seem to be rather fond of boats. In 2016, the total number of Australians who lived in a household that owned a boat was about 2.5 million. They mostly kept rowboats, canoes, or dinghies. Around 1.25 million Australians dwelt in a household that kept a motorboat or speedboat. Approximately 166,000 had a yacht or another type of sailing boat.

Often, people rented recreational boats when they engaged in water activities or yacht parties. But clearly, many Australians would rather have their own boats. It’s a splurge, but if you regularly go on epic fishing trips or any other fun water activity, it’s money well spent.

But owning a boat requires more responsibility than owning a car. Not to mention costlier. First off, it’s going to need adequate storage space, as you can’t just park it outside your house. And before you can take it out, you may need to fulfill some legal obligations.

So before splurging on your first recreational boat, consider these factors first:

1. Costs

Similar factors that determine the cost of a house also determine the cost of a boat. The size and style, brand, condition (new or used), demand, location, features, and extras are all factored in. Bigger boats with cabins and enclosed cockpits cost more than open-top boats. Similarly, branded ones are pricier than generic boats, which don’t possess the same quality, reliability, and support as branded boats.

At face value, used boats are cheaper than new ones, but in some cases, you may end up paying more for a used boat because of the costly repairs it needs. They’re also harder to customize.

Boat prices also move depending on the demand and geographical market. Prices typically go up during peak seasons, especially in high-demand markets. All factors considered, a generic cabin cruiser could cost US$100,000 in the off-season. A branded alternative sold in the peak season, on the other hand, could cost up to US$500,000.

Refer below for a clearer idea of how much popular boat types cost on average (Prices in USD):

  • Jon boat: between $500 to $3,000
  • Catamaran: starts at $10,000
  • Sail boat: starts at $12,000
  • Fishing boat: between $25,000 and $100,000
  • Cuddy cabin: starts at $50,000
  • Speedboat: starts at $75,000
  • Canal boat: starts at $100,000
  • Cabin cruiser: between $100,000 and $500,000
  • Deck boat: between $20,000 and $50,000
  • Yacht: starts at $300,000

Majority of boats can break the bank, so carefully think your decision over.

2. Maintenance

The Australian Department of Transport has recommended standards for routine boat maintenance. They’ve developed the B.E.S.T. boat check, which stands for Boat, Equipment, Safety, and Trailer. An annual 45-point boat check is available in PDF form on their website.

For the maintenance guidelines recommended by manufacturers, here’s what you need to know:

  • Check for electrical system corrosion
  • Check for battery issues; only use a genuine marine battery, and charge it regularly
  • Maintain spark plugs; always carry a spare set of new plugs and a spark plug spanner
  • Maintain recommended fuel levels
  • Beware of fire risks
  • Check and change filters regularly
  • Use clean and fresh fuel
  • Check the gearbox oil to ensure oil cleanliness
  • Maintain propellers
  • Maintain water pumps

Maintaining a boat is definitely harder than maintaining a car. If you can dedicate yourself to this laborious routine maintenance, then you’re a good fit for boat ownership.

3. Licences and Registrations

If you’d use your boat to fish in NSW waters, you need to apply for a recreational fishing license. A recreational fishing fee will be charged unless you are:

  • Under 18 years old
  • An adult assisting a person under 18 years old in fishing
  • A person fishing in a private dam only 2 hectares large or less
  • A First Nation’s person, or
  • Holder of a Pensioner Concession Card or DVA Gold Card

If you’re from Western Australia, you also need to register your recreational boat. Fees are charged as well, ranging from AU$13.25 to AU$833. The larger your boat is, the higher the fee goes.

4. Storage

A boat requires ample parking space in your home, or elsewhere if you have multiple properties. If you’d keep your boat in your primary residence, ensure that the vessel stays secure and well-maintained. You still need to perform routine maintenance during off-seasons. Like a car, it’s more critical to maintain a boat during long periods of disuse.

Furthermore, ensure that you’d make your purchase worth it. Many people only rent boats because if they own one, they know that they can’t promise to use it frequently. If your boat is going to stay in a garage for the better part of a year, perhaps you should just rent too, or lease out your boat.

5. Safety

The waters can be treacherous. Sometimes, the sea is calm for long hours, then suddenly creates big waves. Before sailing a boat or hosting a yacht party, ensure that you know your safety protocols. Everyone aboard should also adhere to the protocols. Staying safe is the most important factor to consider before owning a boat.


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