What is the REAL cost of a boat?

I am thinking about getting a Puget Sound boat before summer and am looking for some advice. I am hoping to get a 15' or so Whaler type boat that would allow me to stand and cast, but also run a downrigger or two to troll for Salmon.

My big question... what is the REAL cost of having a boat. I know may of you will want to say "it all depends," but I am just trying to get a ballpark idea of things. Assuming I can get something within my budget ($5000 ish) what will I be paying in taxes, insurance, etc. What are the usual annual maintenance cost for a boat like this? I am hoping to keep in in my driveway, so I will not have to worry about moorage. Are there boat launching fees?

Additionally, how big of a boat do I need to safely get from Seattle across to Whidbey or Bainbridge? How much fuel would I burn in doing so? What else do I need to be thinking about as I research?

Thank you for tolerating such newbie/stupid questions. I just want to make sure I do not get in over my head.


Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
I try to not think about it too much, but it has gotten to be way more than I originally assumed it would be, blinded, as such, by my own cognitive dissonance.:ray1:

You may get in over your head if you aren't careful!

"What a deal!" I thought, upon spying my current project boat for sale, complete with trailer and an ancient-but-still-running 5 1/2 hp Johnson Seahorse. The boat itself was what I really wanted, but I had to buy all three to get it. The trailer turned out to be crap...rusting thru under thick coats of paint. I ended up scrapping it. The motor ran a little smokey, leaked oil, and the cooling impeller (recently had been replaced) froze up. I am selling it as is.
My "great deal" turned out to be an average deal for the boat, only because it seemed cheap to begin with. So I ended up spending nearly $900 just for a 16' older used aluminum sled, and I still had to get a trailer and motor. This was getting expensive.

Then I flashed again upon the facts that: ya can't take it with ya when you go belly up; i'm single and have no one to beotch at me for stupidly pissing money down a hole in the water, and sometimes ya gotta pay to play. I want to expand the playfield here. So i says to hell with it, its only money. Now I will be able to fish more places I couldn't get to before, but this certainly was not a wise decision for a normally penny-pinching (former) minimalist!

Bottom line: with a brand new trailer and brand new 9.9 hp 4-stroke outboard, miscellaneous necessories, etc., I'm not getting off the hook until over $4,000 will have been spent. Hell, my retirement account has been going up and down by nearly that much every week lately! At least the 9.9 hp 4-stroke is a clean gas-sipper!

Registration and licensing fees will nick you a bit each year, as will launch fees, but those are expected and relatively minor costs if you like to get out on the water.

Would I take the plunge again? Probably:clown: Fools never learn!
Pieter-- Welcome to the confusing world of boating. Please don't let me or anyone discourage you from your program. It's a good one.

Having said that, boats can be expensive...not the purchase necessarily, but the other things do add up.

With patience, you can find the boat you want equipped the way you want for the price you want. However, those kind of deals don't come up every day. You need to be persistent and somewhat knowledgable. If you're buying a boat-with-motor combo, have the motor checked by a marine tech before you buy.

The question you ask, "How much?" really depends upon too many variables to be answered quickly. For instance, it's possible to run from downtown Seattle to Whidbey with a motorized boat on way less than a gallon of gas (based on a two-horse Yamaha setting the world record mpg of something like 700+ mpg), but it wouldn't be a boat you'd want to fish out of necessarily. Fuel consumption depends upon a list of variables such as boat weight and engine type, etc. Big engines get something like 1 or 2 mpg if they're two stroke and maybe 3 or 4 if they're four-strokes at full throttle. I've got a 90 hp Suzuki four on one of my boats that will cruise about 7 or 8 mpg. Running to Bainbridge from Seattle would probably take me a couple of gallons of fuel depending. But once I got there, with my four-stroke kicker, I could fish all day for maybe a gallon of fuel.

Launch fees aren't too bad if you stick to one launch and buy a year permit where they're available. My homeport permit costs $25, for example. State park permits are something like $50 for a year and are good anywhere in the state. Daily fees at other places I launch are $10 or less. There are free launches also.

I've got two working boats and two in process of being restored or built, but I don't have insurance because I'm willing to take the hit if I do something stupid. So far, the stupidity has cost something like $500 over 30 years.

One last thing, and I'll sign off. While Whalers can be very good boats, they may not be the best value. First, you're paying for the name and reputation, neither of which will put fish in the boat. Second, some of the older hulls ride hard in a chop. Third, if the liner is cracked, the foam can become waterlogged, and the boat becomes very heavy and a bear (read that very expensive) to fix. Fourth, some boaters think the Whaler reputation means they're bullet proof and do stupid things in their boat. It's not that Whalers are bad boats, but I think they're not as good a used value as a lot of other hulls out there.

Have fun and don't be afraid to ask questions.

A good rule of thumb is 10% of the cost of the boat paid per year for upkeep of the boat. Not that you will spend that every year but you should put aside that much and put into saving what you do not spend for future major expenses such as an overhaul or replacement of the engines.
Launching expenses very from free though that is pretty rare to $20. for a 15 foot boat.
Gas is a hard one to say my old 15 foot Arima was around 20 gallons per weekend of hard running and trolling. Course this was a boat with more weight and draft then a whaler and with an old 2-stroke motor. My new 18 foot boat with 4-stroke can run a week straight 8 hour days on 50 gallons. My old 13 foot whaler could run a 8 hour day on a 6-gal tank most of the time.
One thing to make sure of is to buy more power then needed for the boat. This way you never end up running the boat wide open that will wear out motors quickly and throw up your gas expense. A boat engine never run more then 3/4 throttle will last longer by far up to 4 times longer then an engine run at full throttle or close to full throttle every time out.
To find out insurance cost call you agent for a quote.


Well-Known Member

Naturally it depends. A 15' Whaler puts you somewhere between say a 15' Arima and my 16' Lund. Heavier boats need larger engines which cost more and use more fuel.

I have just over $5,000 in my 16' boat, trailer, and jet motor (motor was used). Each year I pay $26 for the boat license and $36 for the trailer license. I haven't bought separate boat insurance, but have been quoted about $100/year by my insurance company. A 6 gallon tank of fuel lasts me two outings as a rule.

Then there's doo dads that go on forever. I paid about $200 for a depth/fish finder, $1100 for a kicker motor for trolling, $150 for a couple boat seats, and not too significant amounts for anchor, anchor lines, anchor pulley and bracket, etc., and $100 for a boat cover to store it outside, and $300 for a pair of Sawyer oars. I may be forgetting something. Oh yeah, spare tire and wheel at about $85.



"Ride'n Dirty."
Some other things to consider about would be the whaler vs. a different boat in terms of function(ability) in the PNW. The side gunnel's of a boat has to be a certain width for the down-rigger to be accommodated, Casting room is a must but so is a place to duck out of the weather (it's along ass haul to Whidbey from just about anywhere).

I know this is a thread about money so here are some things about the TIB (truth in Boating :)....I just made that up! Hah!
You have to also (depending on age) take a boating safety class (as required by law) now. Approved life jackets, flare gun, whistle, first aid kit, (as you mentioned) insurance, ect..... I would check with the coast guard and find out before heading out on the water, what is required to be "Ticket free) on the water. They are in no mood after 911. They came aboard my boat while I was moving! They told me NOT to stop, two guys came aboard (with guns) and check everything out. They are serious about this area someday having a problem.
Good luck.

Remember it's all bullshit till you have everything you need and then no one can mess with you because you legit.

Jeremy Floyd

fly fishing my way through life
Yeah I almost bought an Aluminum sled when I was younger and my wise old Pops told me to plan on having as much in the bank to get it ready to fish as it cost to buy it.

Rob Allen

Active Member
i have a 20 ft fiberglass boat with a 200hp outboard prop..

with getting to the water and fishing all day i figure it's a hundred bucks a day to go fishing in my boat


"Ride'n Dirty."
i have a 20 ft fiberglass boat with a 200hp outboard prop..

with getting to the water and fishing all day i figure it's a hundred bucks a day to go fishing in my boat
that's just too much for me. I have it, but I can't see the value in it. I'm too cheap. I don't even keep the fish I catch, normally, but it's because it doesn't really cost anything for me to go fishing, so if I want fish, i'll buy it from the fish store.

Come to think of it, from West Seattle to fall city, and back, it's about 10-15 bucks in gas. That's annoying.
You don't need a $30,000 aluminum center console with a 200 hp outboard to go fly fishing on Puget Sound. When you sit back and think about the days you will actually head out, it's probably blowing less than 6 or 7 knots (most likely dead calm) and fairly mild out. In other words, a lake. An 8' aluminum boat with a 4 or 5 hp will be fine for almost all of your flyfishing as long as you're not going far (and you don't really need to). If you want to upgrade to something that can handle 2 people flyfishing and maybe some downriggers, a 13' whaler is a great choice! A very stable platform that you will likely be able to sell for about what you purchased it for. I'd say save the money all these suckers are spending on huge boats with lots of fancy canvas and buy yourself some foul weather gear. I think you'll find you're not heading out on the days you'll need it, but it's nice to have. Boating can be as expensive as you want it to be.
One thing I some times laugh about is the fact I tend to catch more fish when I fish from my $350 kayak then any power boat I have ever used.
The advantage of the boat is that we also sleep on it at times, can get out of the weather either the sun or the rain and we do not have to worry as much about tides and currents.
We also use our boat to cruise around and visit little towns beaches and parks around Puget Sound. We also do not have to find a privet beach or use hospital type equipment to drain the fluids. Plus rowing an 8-hour day of fishing can get pretty tiring on the arms and its nice to just relax on the boat sometimes even though we do not catch as many fish.
Another cost is the vehicle needed to tow larger boats.

For fishing and general running around I'd look at the 16' lund or crestliner aluminum boats on Craigslist. Easy to tow, easy to power, easy to fish from, easy to launch. These are a great starter boat and very seaworthy. The boat needs to be easy to use but also not so expensive that you don't feel guilty for not using it.

You'll need all the required safety gear. You can build a casting deck if it doesn't come with one. Aluminum is nice cause you can beach it without worrying about the gelcoat.

Avoid motors more that a few years old. Best to buy a new motor. Personally I'd avoid the 4 strokes and go with a traditional 2 stroke or the new Etec.

Whatever you do you'll be happy with a small boat. Plan on spending more than you might think but then you'll be motivated to use the dang thing.

Johnyrockfish just wondering why you stay away from 4-stoke engines. While they weight more they take far less fuel and maitaince from my experince having owned both over the years. Just would like to hear what types of problems you have had.

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