Buying a boat can be a constant temptation when you live around pristine lakes like the ones in Colorado and Arizona. But before you sail off into boat ownership, it’s important to look at all the costs and requirements involved so you buy a boat you can keep up with. 

It’s a lot more than just the upfront purchase price. You’ll need insurance, registration and license, equipment, maintenance, and storage. All of these costs depend on the boat you decide to buy. 

Learn More About the Business of Boating

Purchase Price

There is a wide range of boats to consider, and each comes with its range of upfront purchase prices, especially comparing used and new models. A small fishing boat, like a Jon boat, can run from $500 used to $5000 new. Large fishing boats can be anywhere from $3000 used to $250,000 new, depending on if it is aluminum or fiberglass, inshore or offshore. That’s quite a range for just one type of boat! 

Other popular boat options like catamarans and sailboats can run from $10k used to $600k new, and pontoons and bowriders are about $10k used to $100k new. 

Do your homework and find the right boat for your ideal boating experience and your finances.

Registration, Licensing, and Tax

Each state and county has its own requirements for registering your boat and getting prepared to safely operate it. Registration fees vary by type and size of boat, so finding that information on your state’s website can help you plan your boat budget.

Boater safety courses and operator licenses of some type are required by most states. Again, it’s up to you to find the correct information on your state’s requirements. is a great resource to help you find the right program to start boating safely.

In addition to sales tax, which varies by state, you may also have to pay annual property tax on your boat. When you have your boat budget in mind, it’s a great idea to find out how much annual state and local property tax you will have to pay on it so you can plan that into your yearly budget.


Another required boating expense that depends on the type of boat you have is insurance. Your insurance rate depends on the age of the boat, location, level of coverage, and your boating history. Most policies also give a discount for proof of passing a boater safety course, so do that first!

Boat Storage

If you intend to buy a larger boat, you probably won’t have space to stash it on your property. One option is to dock or moor your boat in a marina. Or you can put it in a storage facility that is dedicated to securely and conveniently storing boats, RVs, and more. Both will charge you monthly rent, but pulling your boat out of the water for dry storage at a facility is healthier for your boat’s hull and keeps it cleaner.

Don’t forget about winterizing your boat! If you dock your boat in a marina, you’ll need to haul it to dry storage for the winter. The boat will need to be drained, dried, and shrink-wrapped to protect it from the cold and harsh weather.


Unless your boat comes with road wheels, you also need a trailer to transport your boat between lakes and storage. Or perhaps you are pulling it behind your RV on your next adventure. A boat and trailer package can save you more money than buying them separately. You’ll also want to make sure your vehicle has the proper towing capabilities and hitch to tow it. Don’t forget to look into your state’s requirements for registering your trailer.


An operating expense you don’t want to remember too late is fuel! How much you spend on gasoline depends on how often you use your boat. You can accurately determine how much you’ll spend on fuel per trip by using an online boat fuel calculator. Keep in mind that marina fuel prices are always higher than the service station down the road.


As with any vehicle, your boat will need routine maintenance. It is estimated that a typical boat owner will spend about 10% of the purchase price on maintenance and repairs each year. 

In general, consider boat maintenance similar to maintaining any automobile. You’ll need to service or repair the engine, electrical systems, plumbing and HVAC, hull and topsides, canvas and upholstery, paint, and any moving parts that wear over time.


If you have a roadside kit for your vehicle or RV, then you probably already know you’ll need one for your boat too. The safety equipment you need stocked on your boat includes a fire extinguisher, life jackets, life raft, first aid kit, air horn, flares, personal locator beacons, paddles, bailing pail, flashlight, duct tape, and a basic tool kit.

It’s a good idea to stow a knife, extra lines, basic cleaning supplies, and an anchor and rode. All of these items will need to be checked and replaced as needed. You’ll also want a good electronic navigational system to help you steer clear of obstacles and shallow depths. 


Now for the fun boat costs! You’ll want to get your boat ready for fun and comfort by shopping for some accessories. Does your boat have seat cushions? You’ll also want coolers, marine radio and good speakers, lights, charging cords for mobile devices, cup holders, fishing gear, and water sports equipment. If you’re getting boards, skis, or tubes to play on, you’ll need to make sure you get the right tow ropes for each activity.

Happy Boating!

Boating is a rewarding lifestyle, especially when you’re around Colorado’s incredible lakes. A little bit of reading and planning can prepare you to be a responsible boat owner and enjoy life on the water for a long time.

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