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Buying a boat: How much does it actually cost to own a yacht?

01/21/2015 03:25 EST | Updated 03/23/2015 05:59 EDT
As the Vancouver International Boat Show opens on Granville Island and at BC Place this Wednesday, we take a look at what it takes to buy — and maintain — your own yacht.

There's a certain fascination associated with owning your own boat. Maybe it's because nothing quite says you've made it like having your own superyacht, helipad and all.

For most people, that's completely out of the question. And while there won't be any superyachts on display at the boat show, the exhibitors could tempt you to dip your toes into the waters of more modest boat ownership.  

We asked Gerry Prefontaine, a long-time boat owner and yacht broker with Meridian Yachts, to outline the five things you'll want to consider before buying.

1. Inspection fees

Not only can a boat cost anything from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars, the associated inspection fees can also add up, said Prefontaine. 

On top of the price tag, you could turn out another $1,500 for inspection fees, and you'll have to get the boat hauled out for survey, which costs around $800, he added.

Buyers should be ready to pay for the inspection, whether or not they decide to make the final purchase, he said. And if that inspection is unsatisfying? "Then you're out $1,500 to not buy a boat."

2. Insurance

Like all insurance, boat insurance depends on the condition of your vessel and the level of coverage you want. Prefontaine said he pays about $1,100 a year to cover his 30-year old, Canoe Cove 42' series boat.

3. Moorage

"A 30-foot boat could cost you anywhere between $300 and $1,000 a month, depending on where you get moorage," Prefontaine said.

At the Heather and Burrard civic marinas in Vancouver, the cost of moorage ranges from $10.16 to $12.60 per foot, per month. That doesn't include surcharges, such as electricity usage and live-aboard license fees. 

If you have a smaller boat, you can opt for dry storage. It isn't significantly cheaper, but it can better preserve your boat's condition, Prefontaine said.

4. Maintenance

It's easy enough to change your engine oil and wash your boat yourself. But an electrical issue or a serious mechanical issue could seriously set you back, said Prefontaine, who once spent $66,000 to repair his $100,000 boat.  

"You could spend half what you paid for the boat on repairs. It can scare you," he said.

5. Fuel

Like a big pick-up truck, boats are gas guzzlers, Prefontaine said. He spends about six dollars per nautical mile on fuel, and drove about 1,200 nautical miles last year. You do the math.

"The thing is, I don't worry about the cost of fuel until I fuel up. Then it blows me away," he said.  "You don't worry about it, really. You can't. If you're going to sweat about the price of fuel, don't buy a boat." 

The grand total

"How much do I spend on the boat? With moorage, insurance, maintenance and fuel, I spend probably $1,500 a month...at least," Prefontaine said. That works out to $18,000 a year.

However, Prefontaine said he uses his boat roughly 200 days a year, which is likely more than anyone else at the False Creek Yacht Club.

Still, Prefontaine insists most boat owners aren't ridiculously wealthy. He estimates about 80 per cent of the club members at False Creek are "regular, working class."

"It can be very inexpensive, if you want to get a deal on a used boat, clean it up yourself, and sail it up and down the coast," he said.

"My dad always had a boat. He had no money, but he had a boat. He had an old, smelly boat. He just loved boats, period."

To hear the full interview with Gerry Prefontaine, click the audio labelled: How much does a boat cost?

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