Budget boating in 2021: Top tips from Deckee

18th March 2021 Jack O'Rourke

Do you dream of sailing towards new watery adventures, wind in your hair and sea spray on your skin? We have some great news: you can do it, without breaking the bank. There’s no need to be rich to enjoy boating. It’s a myth. 

Budget boating is a thing. In fact, the majority of people out on the water using Deckee either don't own a boat, or they have a modest vessel. Think of the boats currently moored in your local marina. Sure, there’s some big, fancy beasts among them. If you look closely, though, you’ll notice that most watercraft at the pontoon are motorboats under 5 meters, open boats, small fishing boats, or sailing boats up to 40ft.

Why? Because most people engage in affordable boating. There’s no doubt that owning a boat comes at an expense and that if you don’t plan ahead, it can become a burden. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Follow our tips to enjoy spending time on your favourite sea, lake, or waterway on a budget.

Boating without owning a boat

It may sound counterintuitive, but you can get into boating, and even do it long-term, without owning a boat. There’s a number of advantages to this. 

You won’t have the responsibility of boat maintenance. You won’t worry about your boat during a storm. You won’t have a new monthly expense to cover.

Sounds good? Read on to find out how to do it.

Rent a boat

Based on your budget and preferences, you can rent almost any boat. From kayaks, speed boats and pontoon boats, to big sailing catamarans and fishing boats.

To charter some of these vessels, you may need a qualification, but you can always opt for a skippered trip. Many people who don’t have the time or money to own a big boat, store it, and maintain it, plan a boating charter holiday every year. This allows them to try out several watercraft and visit different areas. It requires a bit of planning, especially if you’re bringing a group of friends to split the costs, but it’s a really fun way to get out on the water.

Renting a boat can also be spontaneous - just show up at a rental shop and see what you can rent for the day. You won’t get bored, as you’ll be able to try out a lot of different watercraft.

Boat charters can be expensive. However, if you take into account the amount of money it would take you to buy, maintain, store, and insure your own boat, it’s a good deal.

Crew on someone’s boat

Crewing on someone else’s boat is the cheapest way to go boating. There are various ways to do this. 

Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Sign up at the nearest yacht club and make friends with active sailors

  • Join Facebook sailing groups for areas that interest you and ask if anyone needs crew

  • Walk the docks of your local marina and offer people help with their boat maintenance

  • Sign up to crew finding websites, such as Crewseekers

It’s always best to ask what’s expected of you before you accept to crew for someone. Some boat owners will prefer crew with qualifications, others will be happy to teach you everything they know.

There is a safety component to crewing for someone. If you’re considering jumping on a particular boat, follow these steps:

  • Make sure the vessel looks well-maintained and seaworthy

  • Kindly ask your captain what experience they have

  • Request a safety briefing before you set off

  • Check if you need to supply your own PFD or life vest

  • Ask around about the captain’s reputation, if you can

If these checks leave you feeling uneasy, follow your gut instinct and leave it. A great day of boating is never worth the risk of a potential accident. 

How to buy a boat on a budget

If you’ve already made up your mind and want to go all-in, it’s time to shop around for an affordable boat. Boats do really come in all shapes, sizes and budgets. There are multiple avenues to buying a boat.

Attend a boat show

If you want to buy new, it’s best to go have a look around at a boat show. This is where you’ll be able to negotiate “boat show deals.” And you’ll get to compare all the vessels you’re interested in, side by side, all in one place. 

Buy a new boat through a broker

Have you already decided on the exact model you want to buy? If it’s a medium to big size vessel, you’ll probably want to purchase the vessel through a broker. The easiest place to find this type of setup is on Yachtworld. Find a brand new sailboat for sale, check when it will be built and contact the broker.

If you’re buying a smaller boat, like a skiff, open boat or jet ski, you can usually talk directly to the company via their website.

Buy a used boat

If you want to save a serious amount of money, you should consider buying a second-hand boat. There are used boats to suit all budgets. They also come in different conditions and ages. 

It’s always best to get a survey done. You won’t regret spending time or money on this step. It will prevent you from buying a boat that needs thousands of dollars in repairs and it will probably give you the opportunity to negotiate on the purchase price.

Whichever model you go for, make sure to account for some sort of refit budget - whether it’s a simple outboard motor service or a big overhaul. 

Buy small

While it may be tempting to buy as big a boat as you can afford, we recommend you do the opposite. Go as small as you can. Buy a boat that will fit your needs, but keep the size compact. 

More boat length means more expensive slip fees, maintenance costs, and storage rates. If you buy a boat that’s 10ft longer than you need her to be, you’ll have to pay extra for her upkeep, while never making use of that extra space. The expenses will pile up.

The best boats for beginners

Ready to buy your first boat? As a beginner, you should consider these types of vessels. 

These are the best budget boats that are easy enough to handle for beginners.

Sailing boats

  • Sailing dinghies

  • Keel boats

  • Day sailers

  • Sailboats up to 30ft

Speed boats and PWC

  • PWC

  • Jet skis

  • Small speed boats with small to medium engines

  • Skiffs

  • Small fishing boats

  • Open boats

  • Inflatables

  • Pontoon boats

  • Walkarounds

Engineless craft

  • Kayaks

  • SUPs

  • Canoes

How to get started budget boating

Once you have decided how to get into boating, it’s time to get out there. If you have zero experience, it’s worth investing in some sailing lessons or asking a rental place for some tips. 

For some watercraft, such as sailing boats or speed boats with big engines, you will likely need a license and take a few tests, depending on where you are from and where you’re boating. Research this thoroughly before you set your eyes on the boat of your dreams or the perfect charter holiday.

How to maintain a boat on a budget

As you probably know, the purchase price is just the first of many ongoing costs owning a boat involves. You can keep costs down, though, especially if your vessel is small. Here’s how to do it.

Do your own boatwork

Boat maintenance can be very expensive, if you hire a pro. Leave only the maintenance that needs to be documented by law to the pros. Learn how to do everything else. You will save thousands and feel confident when something breaks at sea.

Keep the boat simple

If you’re buying a boat with a cabin, it can be tempting to add more and more gear to make your boating adventures extra comfortable. But more gear means more time and money spent on maintenance and less time spent on the water. It always pays off to keep things as simple as possible, so you get to enjoy the boat more. Think of the maintenance required by a kayak versus the one needed by a 27ft sailboat.

Shop around for storage solutions

Boatyard fees vary wildly. Shopping around, asking for quotes to various yards, will ensure you won’t get a big surprise when the manager presents you with the final bill. Of course, you’ll need to check that the yard you choose offers the services and amenities you require. 

Store it at home

If you can, and your watercraft is trailerable, why not store it at home? If you have space in your garage or yard, you’ll be able to keep it out of the water for free. And you’ll always have an eye on it.

Compare insurance costs and options

Insurance can be costly, depending on the coverage you need. Make sure to take the time to ask for quotes from different companies - it will definitely be worth it. 

If the rates are steep, you may want to consider checking what’s the cost of the coverage legally required in your area. Sometimes it makes more sense to get third party insurance, if your boat is low value and you sail in an area where boat insurance is very expensive. Don’t be afraid to make calculations and assess risks, based on your needs and budget. 

That’s it. Go have a fab time! Don’t forget to stay safe on the water. Check out this blog post to find out how to make sure your outing is safe. 

Please make sure you research the local regulations for mandatory equipment and maintenance of the watercraft you intend to use or buy. These vary in each state and country.