Average Cost Of Buying And Owning A Sailboat (With 15 Examples)

Average Cost of Buying and Owning a Sailboat | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 11, 2020


You've probably spent an afternoon at a busy marina, right? And whether you've sailed with a crew or are simply attracted to the leisurely lifestyle of sailing along the coast, being the proud owner of a sailboat is a dream of many. But what is the average cost of buying and owning a sailboat? This comprehensive guide will help you understand the realities of buying and owning a sailboat.

If you've spent time on a friend's sailboat or enjoyed a few weekends with a sailboat rental, you certainly know that having your sailboat can be an incredible experience. Having your own sailboat can give you the freedom to enjoy sailing, exploring, fishing, and watersport while creating fun memories with friends and loved ones. If anything, sailing is an activity that you can indulge in and enjoy anytime you like.

Most of us have been told that you need "Mt. Everest" sort of money to own a sailboat. This is just a widespread misconception that can take the wind out of your sails, so to speak, before you even hit the waters. Although owning a sailboat does cost money, it's quite affordable than most people think.in addition to the cost of buying your sailboat, there are other costs and expenses to consider. It only makes sense that you know all the costs involved in boat ownership so that you come up with a better plan and budget.

So what's the average cost of buying and owning a sailboat? The price of owning a sailboat may vary depending on several factors such as the size of the sailboat, its model, whether it's new or used, and how often you use the sailboat. For example, a new Islander 36' can cost nearly $150,000 while a used one can cost you around $40,000. Again, the price of a new 26' Catalina can cost you around $80,000 while a used one can cost you about $20,000. The annual maintenance cost can range between $2,000 and $3,000 for most boats while the total annual costs can be somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll show you all the costs you've ever wanted to know when it comes to buying and owning a sailboat. This will at least ensure that you spend less time worrying about the costs of owning a sailboat. Instead, you'll spend more time having fun, exploring the world, and having fun with friends and family.

Table of contents for this article

The Initial Purchase Cost

The most obvious cost involved in buying a sailboat is the initial purchase cost. The price of the boat will vary depending on a few factors such as the type of the boat, the size, whether it's new or used, its condition, and many more.

In most cases, buying a used boat is a lot cheaper than buying a brand new boat. Keep in mind that buying a brand new boat is almost comparable to buying a brand new car. You'll not only pay a huge premium but its value will depreciate immediately after you buy it. More importantly, you should first consider the types of activities you want to use the boat for and how often you'll be hitting the waters.

When buying a used boat, the rule of thumb is to prudently look for a 2 to 10-year-old boat. This is a great way of saving on the initial purchase cost. You should, however, check if it's in perfect condition. For example, you should get an expert to check the viability of the hull, drivetrain, and even the engine if it has any.

If you don't have enough cash to buy a sailboat outright, you can consider various financing options that are available out there. You can either choose to use your bank of a specialized marine lender. Keep in mind that factors such as your income, credit rating, and the value of the boat may be considered. These options can make boat ownership quite affordable, though you may have to pay some down payment.

Normally, brand new boats will come with warranties but this may not be the case when buying used boats, especially from an individual. You should, however, make sure that you get a warranty of some kind to cover you in case of anything negative. You should ask for maintenance logs and receipts for parts or repairs.

Buying a Brand New or a Used Sailboat

In addition to the typical costs of owning a boat such as maintenance and mooring, which we will discuss later, buying a brand new or a used sailboat come with potential hidden charges. They include:

Surveying or Inspection Cost - It's generally advisable that you have the boat inspected before purchasing it. This, of course, is crucial whether you're buying a brand new boat or a used boat. So in addition to the cost of buying the boat, you should also have inspection fees that could be around $1,500 for inspection fees and around $800 for the survey.

Buying a boat without proper inspection can be detrimental especially if it turns out that the boat is in bad condition. It would be really short-sighted on your part to buy a boat without proper inspection especially if you take into account the fact that marine mechanics are very complicated and costly. Normally, inspection should be carried out by a profession but here are some of the things to look at.

  • ‍Check the sails, batteries, and the engine
  • Pull out the dipstick and check the engine
  • Check the boat's hull
  • Make sure that the safety gears of the boat are in tip-top condition

Even though pre-purchase boat inspection can be grueling especially if you're looking at many different boats, it's of great importance if you do not want to waste your hard-earned money by purchasing a lemon. You should, therefore, always consider paying for a thorough and professional inspection even if it means you'll lose $1,500 and end up not buying the boat.

With that in mind, you should be prepared to pay for inspection whether or not you'll make the final decision to purchase the boat. For instance, you can carry out an inspection, get unsatisfied, and choose not to buy the boat. In such a scenario, you'll be short of $1,500 and still walk home without a boat.

Add-ons - Generally speaking, a boat should come with essential add-ons such as sails, anchors, life jackets, and rigs. But what if the particular boat that has captured your attention doesn't have this essential add-on? Well, you may have to go into your pocket and buy these add-ons. However, make sure that you use such add-ons to negotiate for a lowered price.

Depreciation - Needless to say, the cost of a brand new boat will depreciate immediately after you buy it. In other words, it's not possible to sell the boat at the same price at which you bought it.

Although it's generally said that the value of a boat depreciates quickly after purchase, it's quite difficult to predict the rate of such depreciation. Figures will, of course, vary depending on various factors such as the style and age of the boat. To give you a rough idea, new boats may lose around 40-50% of the initial purchasing cost in the first 8 or 10 years.

This depreciation rate will reduce about 5% annually after 10 years, though the condition of the boat may have a significant bearing on the value of the boat. You may have to replace things such as the sails, electronics, batteries, and canvas after every 5 years. But with proper care and maintenance, these parts can last longer and save you from unexpected expenditures.

Moorings and Storage of the Boat

The cost of mooring your boat may vary based on the nature of the marina, the facility, and the region. However, it's easy to quantify these costs, even though you'll have to do some considerable legwork if you want a budget-friendly option. You can easily find a mooring costing about $500 for a 30ft boat but the same space can cost well over $6,000 in prime locations.

In addition to working within a budget, the most important thing is to ensure that your boat is securely moored or stored, especially against pilings, banging, spillage, or breaking free. Without this, you could end up having to deal with avoidable repair costs.

Insurance, Registration, and Taxes

Insurance is not a major expense, particularly when compared to other costs. In fact, it's relatively cheaper and should be a problem. The cost of insuring a boat will depend directly on the value of the boat. Generally, the insurance cost maybe about 1.5% of the boat's value. For example, if the value of your boat is $30,000, the insurance cost may be about $450. Believe it or not, the insurance cost of your boat is a lot cheaper than the insurance cost of the car despite the significantly lower value of the car.

In terms of taxes, this may vary depending on your state. For example, South Carolina charges about 10.5% of the boat's yearly value while Rhode Island has no boat tax. The registration cost may also vary from state to state but may cost about $250.

Maintenance Costs and Repairs

Just like any automobile, owning a boat comes with monthly and yearly maintenance costs. The costs may, however, vary depending on the type of the boat, its size, the rate of use, and your geographical region (such as saltwater and freshwater).

Needless to say, a new boat will cost a lot less in terms of maintenance than a used boat. There are engine maintenance costs, hull maintenance, winterizing, rigging inspection, sail assessing, and many more. Generally, the yearly maintenance cost can be 10% of the boat's value. For example, maintaining a boat worth $30,000 would be $3,000 per year. You may also have to consider some unexpected repair costs in case there's unplanned damage on your boat.

Operating Expenses

There will, of course, be operating expenses every time you run your boat. For example, you'll have to fuel the boat if you aren't planning on using the free winds to sail. On top of the fuel costs, there are other costs but this may depend on the type of your boat. For example, you may have to buy fuel additives to eradicate ethanol problems if your boat has a carbureted engine. If your boat uses some sort of electricity, you may want to consider expenses such as electricity bills.

So how much should you budget for operating expenses? This may be difficult to say as it can vary greatly. It may depend on the amount of time you spend on the water and how often you go sailing. It's, however, advisable to budget beforehand to at least have an idea of what to expect.

15 Popular Sailboats and How Much They Cost

While there are a lot of great sailboats out there that can be quite affordable, others can be very expensive. But even with that, there are a lot of great boats that are affordable and can serve you well. Let's look at these 15 popular sailboats and how much they cost.

1) Catalina 30 ($18,000)

Depending on the year of production, a Catalina 30 can cost around $18,000. Having been around since 1972, the Catalina 30 is known for its great performance both when racing and cruising. This is a boat that will never let you down when sailing or racing. Well, that's because it brings forth a perfect blend of comfort, durability, and speed. If anything, buying a Catalina 30 would mean that you're the proud owner of one of the most popular sailboats of all time.

The Catalina 30 is very affordable and comes fairly equipped as a very basic but reliable boat, though you can significantly improve its functionality if you customize it. There are so many Catalina 30s in the globe that it shouldn't be a problem finding one that suits your budget in terms of the initial purchase cost and maintenance cost.

But like with any boat, you should be willing to compromise when it comes to certain features. However, you can significantly improve it if you spend some amount on improving it. All in all, a Catalina 30 is one of the most affordable and easy to maintain boats in the world.

2) Islander 36 ($22,000 and above)

Built from 1971 to 1985, the Islander 36 was and remains one of the longest-lived 36-footers in the U.S. market. With over 1,000 units built during that period, this was a sailboat that was designed by the widely revered Australian boat designer, Alan Gurney. It's possible to find a worthy Islander 36 for $22,000 or slightly above that. This is perhaps because it goes against the normal norm of using a balsa deck. Instead, the Islander 36 is designed with plywood, which increases weight and elegance but can be prone to rot.

In the past, the Islander 36 looked conservatively modern given that it had a flattish appearance. But by today's standards, the Islander 36's hull is very ideal for both racing and cruising. It has a moderate beam and perfectly carried aft so that it doesn't squat excessively even when the boat is fully loaded.

This is a boat that is easy to sail single-handedly, especially with an autopilot. It has superb speed and points well into the wind. It also offers plenty of space and the utmost fun when sailing in windy conditions. In terms of maintenance, the Islander 36 is made with very durable parts that make it a lot easier to maintain. It also has one of the best values, especially if you want it for coastal sailing.

3) Contessa 32 ($30,000-$50,000)

Designed in 1970 by David Sadler and Jeremy Rogers, the Contessa is a very capable and larger alternative of the Contessa 26. With over 750 units built, the Contessa 32 remains one of the most popular cruiser-racer sailboats of all time so it's not a surprise that its cost can be quite hefty.

This is a seaworthy vessel that's superb for offshore voyages even when the weather seems to be extreme. In other words, the Contessa 32 has become widely revered thanks to its ability to endure rough seas and harsh weather. That's not all; a Contessa 32 will never disappoint you in a race.

In essence, the Contessa 32 is a great boat that will give you the confidence of sailing far and wide even single-handed. This is an incredible upwind boat that's impeccably behaved and easy to maneuver, though it can be a bit difficult to handle when sailing downwind. If you own a Contessa 32, you'll never crave anything else as it's durable, easy to maintain, and will serve you across generations.

This is not just another fiberglass boat. It's a great boat that may seem expensive given its initial cost but has unmatched curricula vitae. This is a worthy sailboat that means that you'll be joining a cult of the few.

4) Pearson 34 ($14,000-$30,000)

Pearson is one of the well-known producers of sailboats in the world. Since the 1980s, the Pearson 34 has been magnificently sailing the blue waters thanks to its superb sails, electronics, and equipment.

This is, without a doubt, a real eye-catcher that's highly comfortable for day sailing, weekends, and extended voyages. In terms of pricing, the Pearson 34 is fairly priced though it may seem quite expensive when compared to most sailboats on this list. However, that may not be true especially if you consider the many features that come with the Pearson 34.

This is a sailboat that can be easily handled by two people, which is one of the main reasons that it remains competitive in the market today. This boat has plenty of room but has some shortcomings such as small tankage of 22 gallons. Its 6 foot daft can also be an issue but this isn't an issue in a keel version.

In short, the Pearson sails are great and are easy to handle though you'll have to make sure that it's perfectly maintained, which can be quite costly.

5) Nordic 40 ($130,000 and above)

Designed by Robert H. Perry, the Nordic 40 is thus far the biggest and the most expensive boat on our list. This is an excellent offshore sailboat that's willing to take on many challenges with a special aura.

In addition to being quite roomy, the Nordic 40 has a deep-draft fin keel that gives it a superior windward ability. It has large fuel tanks and fresh water tanks that will ensure that you're sufficiently fueled for your voyages.

This is a thoughtfully designed sailboat that should offer the utmost comfort for your bluewater escapades. It will allow you to confidently cruise through your chosen grounds with ease while turning heads. Given that it's a pretty large boat, you should be prepared for some hefty maintenance costs. All you have to do is make sure that you take good care of it if you're lucky enough to find one to purchase.

In short, the Nordic 40 should be in excellent condition at all times. Make sure that the sails are in top condition and upgraded at all times. If you want to enhance your sailing experience, make sure that the interior is also upgraded to modern standards. All in all, this is a gem that you'd be very lucky to call yours.

6) Peterson 44 ($73,500-$230,000)

Designed by Doug Peterson for Jack Kelly Yachts in 1976, the 44 is a dedicated cruiser that can sail perfectly in any type of wind. With only 200 units built, finding this unbeatable sailboat is quite difficult but not impossible. For those who have owned it, they have nothing but lots of praise for this moderate-displacement blue-water design.

With a low-profile center cockpit, the 44 remains an eye-catcher not just physically but also aesthetically. The long-fin keel with a cutaway forefoot and after-body is essential in reducing wetted surface. The 44 is easy on the helm with a servo-pendulum wind vane that makes handling quite controllable. It's even much better if you use autopilot with many owners reporting that heaving-to with a reefed main and staysail set is the best option, especially in heavy weather.

30 years since it debuted, the 44s still play the seas. Ask any owner of this beauty and he/she will tell that the boat's performance is impressive and among the best. Both Jack Kelly and Doug Peterson were from San Diego and many of these units were sold on the West Coast.

Today, this is a classic that many owners are very proud of. This is a fine sailboat that was designed for long voyages given its ample accommodation and comfort. It is also more solid and very dependable.

7) Nor'Sea 27 (Less than $30,000)

This 27-footer sailboat designed by Lyle Hess is one of the most ocean-capable and quite affordable sailboats that are still in production today. This is a very compact sailboat that can be moved safely and easily by trailer from one area to another or across any ocean.

Do not get duped by its small and compact size; this is a very solid sailboat that can withstand even the worst of weather conditions. In addition to a lapstrake fiberglass hull, this boat has sturdy bulwarks, a full keel, and a round stern that gives it the utmost seaworthiness.

The Nor'Sea should just be evaluated in terms of features. It should also be evaluated in terms of its sailing performance and comfort too. This is a versatile boat that is of high quality. It is a tight little boat that is spacious and can be easily transported. The cost of the used models may vary considerably but this may depend on the age of the boat, condition, and quality of finish. Given that this is one of the most transportable boats, it will be sold together with a trailer. As such, you shouldn't overlook the cost of replacing a trailer as it can cost as much as $9,000. So if you need an affordable and compact boat to circumnavigate the globe, the Nor'Sea 27 may be a good option.

8) Cal 34 ($19,000-$30,000)

Designed by Bill Lapworth, the Cal 34 is a beautifully balanced boat that will make sailing quite delightful. This is a very dependable boat that has a solid reputation not just for its rugged design but also for its incredible sailing characteristics.

Although Lapworth was not the inventor of light-displacement cruiser-racers, he puts his stamp on this design. This is one of the most successful sailboats that have had various configurations from 1966 to 1979. This model has an enviable reputation as one of the best-designed sailboats in the industry. Its performance is superb and can mix with the best racers even though it's typically a cruiser.

It has various extras that make it safe and comfortable. For example, this boat comes with a cockpit cushion, sound system, outboard, and superb ground tackle. This is, without a doubt, a worthy sailboat that will serve you well for many years to come as long as you maintain and service it properly.

According to owners, the Cal 34 requires a good breeze to get it moving. This is because it has a trapezoidal fin keel that brings a more wetted surface than most modern fin keelboats. It has a lot of efficient features such as better sail handling layout, efficient rig. Wheel steering, diesel engine, anchor locker, a more useful interior layout, and bigger water capacity.

When buying an older model, keep in mind that most parts are now obsolete and can be difficult to find. So if the boat is not properly maintained, you may find yourself a boat with hard-to-find parts.

9) Catalina 38 ($25,000-$75,000)

With its reputation, it is not surprising that the owners of the Catalina 38 agree that sailing windward is like sailing on rails while it does magnificently well in light air. Debuted in 1978, this racer-cruiser was designed by Sparkman & Stephens. Although it's currently out of production, there are about 365 units built from 1978 to 1990.

Down below, the Catalina 38 is designed molded hull liner and teak trims and veneers like the ones used in drawer facings, doors, and bulkheads. Like most boats designed as IOR warhorses, they tend to be unstable downwind and this is a major drawback that you should consider when buying the 38. To deal with this, you shouldn't overpower or sail it extremely hard given that it's unstable and can topple over.

As a recreational keelboat built mainly of fiberglass, the Catalina 38 has nurtured loyal following with many owners praising its design, quality, and performance. This is a classic boat that's rare and considered some sort of vintage, so you'll be very lucky to get your hand on it. All in all, the Catalina 38 will perform consistently and magnificently for many years to come provided that you're lucky to get your hands on one of them.

10) Hunter 33 ($55,000-$95,000)

Although the Hunter 33 originally debuted in 1977, there's a new model that was introduced in 2011. This new model doesn't have the old-fashion features of the original Hunter 33 but is selling quite well given that it's devoted to pursuing innovations. In addition to being quite modern, this is an affordable (by its standards) boat that combines ease of handling, comfort, and incredible performance. This is a model that seems determined to make sailing less complex and more fun.

Despite such an overall impressive quality and performance, you can purchase the Hunter 33 for less than $100,000. More importantly, the boat is solid on the water. The hull is solid and is strengthened to ensure that it doesn't suffer from any impact. Thanks to its upgraded quality construction, excellent design features, and comprehensive standard gear package, it's very likely that the Hunter 33 is on its way to becoming another bestseller from one of America's well-known boat brands.

11) Tayana 37 ($34,000)

The Tayana 37 has a real love story that may be so captivating to any boat lover. This boat was done in the 1970s by Robert Perry who is still considered as arguably one of the most prolific boat designers to ever grace the world. When designing the Tayana 37, Perry wanted it to be a cruising sailboat with a more traditional touch in terms of appearance and features.

The Tayana 37 was, therefore, designed with a moderately heavy displacement, a very efficient cutter rig with a modern touch, and a long waterline. Perry's main intention was to market the Tayana 37 as a boat with a double-ended hull that could keep the displacement moderate while performing efficiently.

In essence, Perry was inspired to design the Tayana 37 as a typical Taiwanese boat, so it's important to read much about the Tayana 37 before buying it. When compared to other boats of her size and type, and displacement, a well-equipped Tayana 37 stands well above the rest. You'll, of course, have to handle it properly and well-maintained. This will be a great retirement sailboat, especially if you're experienced and planning to sail as a couple.

12) Contessa 26 ($18,000)

Like her bigger sister that we discussed earlier, the Contessa 26 was designed by David Sadler and Jeremy Rodgers in the 1960s. This is a sailboat that goes against the norm by showing that a boat doesn't have to necessarily be fast or have a groundbreaking design to be considered legendary.

With a posse of young adventurers, Contessa 26 captured the hearts and minds of many sailors across the world. This not only made it legendary but ensured that it had a place in the memories of many sailors. That's not all; the Contessa 26 held its place as a strong and seaworthy boat. In addition to performing excellently well in transatlantic races of yesteryears, the Contessa 26 was good-looking. It has a narrow beam and a low freeboard but with a large cockpit for such a small boat.

Although its upwind performance is wanting, you won't require much wind to get it moving but will be guaranteed of surviving nearly any storm. As one of the most popular British sailboats, Contessa 26 remains one of the most affordable sailboats in the world. You can get a perfectly maintained Contessa 26 with as little as $18,000.

13) Bristol 40 ($29,000-$49,000)

Designed by Ted Hood in 1970, the Bristol 40 remains one of the best cruising sailboats of all time. This is a reliable and attractive passagemaker that can be summed as being an eloquently excellent offshore design that looks perfect but very slow.

But whatever it misses in terms of speed, the Bristol 40 compensates in its construction. With an excellent hull that is also bulletproof, it is perfect and very stable with a long keel that always receives high grades from owners.

The Bristol 40 may not be a modern design but you'll find it quite appealing if you like traditional sailboats. It has long overhangs, low freeboard, a lovely sheerline, an undistorted hull shape, a narrow cabin trunk, and a narrow beam that's typically associated with the gorgeous sailboat of the past.

This is an exceptionally gorgeous sailboat that's carefully refined and very popular with fantastic owners who are always willing to pay high prices just to be proud owners of a sailboat design that has been around for over 3 decades. This can be a great option if you like the traditional looks of past sailboats. It's perfect for coastal cruising but may let you down for offshore voyages.

14) Island Packet 31 ($35,000-$50,000)

If you've been looking for a gorgeous sailboat that's perfect for shallow water sailing, the Island Packet 31 is one of the best options. This is a boat that's designed with the kind of shoal-draft required to safely navigate shallow coastal waters.

Let's be very honest. The Island Packet 31 is not the fastest boat and surely not one of the fastest boats out there. Fortunately, this small-sized boat isn't designed to win races. Instead, it's designed for leisurely cruises around the coastal areas. That's why it delivers ultimate comfort and interior volume, as well as a smooth and soft motion when sailing.

It has a solid fiberglass hull that's finished with a high-end end-grain balsa core deck to prevent rot and delamination. We have to note that her seaworthy credentials aren't among the best but it can be a solid investment if you're looking for a good-looking boat that may serve you perfectly in shallow waters.

But before investing your hard-cash in buying this beauty, make sure that every gear is working perfectly. For instance, look at the wind indicators, the halyards, and every other part. You certainly do not want a gear that isn't working as this may cost you an additional $1,200.

15) Tartan 37 ($23,000 Upwards)

If you look at the gorgeously pleasing and modern lines of the Tartan 37, you'd find it quite hard to believe that this model was designed way back in 1976. Designed by Charlie Britton in collaboration with Sparkman & Stephens design team, Tartan 37 remains a beauty that is functional and reliable, especially for offshore cruising and racing.

The Tartan 37 remains a popular choice for several reasons. With a carefully hand-laid hull, this boat is molded as a single unit. Various high-stress areas such as the mast step, engine bed, thru-hulls, shroud terminals, and keel sections are cored with solid glass and end-grain balsa to make them extremely strong.

In terms of performance, this boat is a great performer in the off wind and will hold its own among the best. It has plenty of rudder contributions as well as incredible control especially when in full motion.

The Tartan has great value but this may depend on several factors such as condition, year of manufacture, and equipment such as electronics. So when buying a used Tartan 37, make sure that it's in a good and capable condition. All in all, the Tartan 37 is a reliable and proven sailboat that should fit the billBottom Line.

Bottom Line

Owning a sailboat is not an easy adventure but nobody said it's impossible. You certainly do not have to be a millionaire to own one! The most important thing when it comes to owning a boat is knowing the type of boat that you desire, how much it costs, and the many but affordable costs that revolve around owning a boat. If you plan appropriately and have a reasonable budget, then buying and owning a boat should be an enjoyable adventure.

As such, you shouldn't have the idea that owning a boat is a costly endeavor. They come at various prices, so you should go for something that you can afford. And whatever type of boat you own, it's important to have an idea of the costs of owning one. More importantly, make sure that these costs are kept in check.

Go out there and enjoy the winds!

Average Cost Of Buying And Owning A Sailboat (With 15 Examples)

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Average Cost Of Buying And Owning A Sailboat (With 15 Examples)

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