What does it cost to run a boat? The answer is irritating. The answer is a question.
How much money do you have?
This article is an attempt to help you think about what it may cost. This exercise will guide you towards your potential expenses. However, you cannot forecast equipment failure, taxes, medical emergencies, breakdowns etc.
It is important to remember that an enormous quantity of money does not guarantee success in this lifestyle. A simple boat equals simple costs. The fewer things you make do without, the less you will spend.
Regular payments vs ad hoc
At first glance the land-living expenses listed below looks much shorter than the cruising list. However, the land list has regular (monthly/weekly) payments, whereas the cruising list has ad hoc costs. You may have marina costs once a year. You may have few breakdowns/repairs or no medical costs.
1) Make a list of your current (land living) expenses:
Car (all inclusive costs for our small Barina (5 years ago) was AUS$28 a day!). Click here for cost calculator.
Entertainment (eating out/movies)
2) Make a list of what you may spend cruising (after boat purchase)
Checking in charges*
Cruising Permits/taxes (changes with each year/country)
Marina fees (you may not always be able to anchor out)
Accommodation (can you stay on the boat when hauled out?)
Flying home (family emergency)
Gas/LPG/Fuel/Water (in some places you will pay for water)
Shipping in spare parts
Car hire (potentially)
Boat insurance (check out this comprehensive guide on boat insurance)
Storage costs (are you renting your house/selling your house, storing possessions)
Transit charges (Panama canal/Suez canal)
Repairs/maintenance/new equipment (25% of the value of your boat is a good budget)
Exchange rate fees/currency variations
Mail forwarding services
Bribes ($20 here and there)
Food (some places it will be incredibly cheap, other places it will be incredibly expensive!)
*Checking in charges can range from $1,000+ (Galapagos, current charges) to nothing. We estimate our checking-in costs for around the world, including cruising permits, but excluding visas, to be around US$2,500. The most expensive (for us) was Sri Lanka (US$200) and least expensive France ($0). However, this was a few years ago! (Galapagos’ charges were under $200 then.)
Obviously, you also need to account for your personal situation, for example:
Working as you go?
Skills to use while sailing?
Sold up? Still paying mortgage and/or storage?
Just how cheaply can you live?
We have friends who claim they often lived on $1 a day. They caught fish and had a very simple 28 footer. They were expert ‘fisher-people’ and had the know-how (and spare parts) to complete 99% of their necessary repairs. This is quite unusual. You must not rely on catching fish! Also, you would have to be prepared to only use five litres of diesel a year.
At the top, under SAILING STUFF/FAQ we have listed our expenditure in Ecuador for over a month (Ecuador Expenditure), including our daily jobs. There is also a description of where we started from, ie what we already had on board.
See how others do it
Read more on how to go cruising now: here.
Click here for some interesting examples on actual living costs on various sized boats, by Sail Far Live Free.
Click here for more information of the cost of cruising. (American Sailing Association)
Our book, Cruisers’ AA has over 1,800 tips, tricks, advice & ideas on improving life on board, particularly on saving $$$$s!
Next: Budgeting for a boat – what do I get for my money?