The Pros and Cons of Buying vs. Renting a Boat

Deciding whether to buy or rent a boat is usually a matter of figuring out whether one scenario will cost you more than the other, and that often comes down to how much boating you plan on doing. Here’s how to determine whether renting or buying is a better option.


There’s no two ways about it: boats need lots of maintenance. The hull must be cleaned and waxed regularly, the engine requires frequent oil changes, the deck needs constant scrubbing, and special steps must be taken to protect the upholstery. Is it worth it?


With a rented boat, you won’t have to take care of any maintenance tasks yourself and therefore stand to save untold amounts of time and money. Once you’ve had your fun, just return the boat and go about your day.


When something breaks, it will be your responsibility to fix it. When there’s a stain on the deck, it will be up to you to scrub it out. You can slow down the kind of wear and tear your boat will inevitably face significantly, but it will take time, money, and effort.


All boats need somewhere to rest, whether it’s in the water at a marina or private dock or in dry storage. 


Once you’ve dropped off your rented boat, you won’t have to worry about where it ends up.


If you have a small boat, you may be able to load it onto a trailer on your own. But if you plan on storing it in the water or at a separate dry storage facility, chances are that you’ll have to pay a regular fee.

Freedom of Use

A huge part of boating is determining where, when, and how you want to go. After all, for many boat owners, being on the water is about fulfilling a sense of freedom.


With a rented boat, you’ll likely face restrictions about how long you can enjoy your vessel and how far it can go. You might also be unable to use it to perform certain activities, such as deep-sea fishing. Furthermore, the rental company may have strict policies about the condition the boat needs to be in upon returning it.


You can do whatever you want with your own boat, so long as you obey the laws of various waterways. You can use it for fishing, water skiing, racing, hosting parties, traveling around the world, or just spending a relaxing day on the water here and there.


There are many different types of boats, from pontoons, center consoles, and bay boats to speedboats, houseboats, yachts, catamarans, and more.


When renting, you can try out any kind of boat you like. Do you want to go for a low-speed cruise in a pontoon boat or take on some serious knots in a speedboat? The choice is yours.


If you have a clear idea of what you want from your boat, you can find one that suits your preferences and intended use. You might not enjoy the kind of sampling variety that someone who hops from boat to boat does, but you’ll always know what to expect.

Overall Cost

Boats aren’t cheap. For better or worse, price will be a major factor for most prospective boat owners.


While it may seem like you’re not on the hook for maintenance, cleaning, or repairs when you rent, you actually are. Rental agencies charge big bucks for customers to enjoy the privilege of not dealing with such hassles. Consequently, a few hours on the water can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.


As a boat owner, you’ll have to pay for your own fuel and cover the costs of all the routine care that boats require, but you won’t be forced to fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars for a few hours of leisure.

Assuming you keep up with your boat’s maintenance needs and handle repairs quickly, your cost per hour will likely come out to a much smaller sum than what a renter would spend.

Ownership vs. Renting

Here’s the bottom line: renting is probably your best bet if you’re only planning on getting out a few weeks of the year and want to try out different boats. There’s nothing wrong with renting, even if you consider yourself a serious boater.

With that being said, if you want to have a consistent experience, maintain control over the boat’s operation and condition, and have the freedom to go where you please, when you please, there’s nothing in the world like having your own boat.

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