Why Is Renting A Boat So Expensive? | LakeWizard

Key Takeaways

  • Factors like insurance, fuel, and taxes affect boat rental cost
  • Renting a boat a few times a year is more cost effective than buying one outright
  • The type of boat rental service, a charter for example, can make an impact on cost
  • Many boat owners want to try out different boats before they commit to a purchase

It is easy to forget the price of boat rentals when you are having a good time. But why is renting a boat so expensive?

Factors that influence boat rental prices are maintenance, insurance, fuel, docking fees, working staff, taxes, and other various costs. In addition, boat rental companies need to make a profit so their margins need to be higher.

Many rental companies will have competing prices if there are others that offer similar services. As you will see, a lot of factors will impact the price you pay for a boat rental.

Table of contents


Why do People Rent Boats?

One of the most significant advantages of simplifying the process of renting a boat is that it allows more people to experience the joys of boating without having ownership. People want to know what it is like on a pontoon boat, fishing boat, and even sailing boats. They will use these different boats for various activities on the water, such as water sports.

The accumulating costs of owning a boat can be a barrier for many individuals, making it an unattainable activity for them. By making rentals more available and in different price ranges, it allows a wider range of individuals to enjoy the pleasures of being on the water without worrying about the cost of purchasing one.

Boating enthusiasts will rent a boat, such as a yacht rental, to test it out for a day or even go fishing. You can call it a “try before you buy”, while others consider it a once a year occurrence.

Is it Cheaper to Rent or Buy a Boat?

Those that want to go boating for a single occasion will obviously be less costly than purchasing one, but frequent rentals can accumulate expenses. If you only plan to use a boat once or twice a year, then of course the best option might still be to rent to save you money in the long run.

On the other hand, if you intend to go boating regularly, owning one may be more financially efficient in the long run. If you rent one often, the fees can add up quickly and you need to consider boat ownership at that point.

Common Boat Expenses

Boat ownership is similar to owning a car, as there are taxes, fees, and various costs to keep it legal.  There are costs that these companies have to keep on top of so they can provide a service to you.

In general, these are the common areas of boating expenses:

Maintenance and Repairs

Boat maintenance and repairs is something that all boats require in order to keep them in good working condition. This maintenance expense might cost more due to the size of the boat.


Owning a boat means you will need quality coverage to the vessel, as it is required to protect both the boat rental company and the renters from potential accidents or damage to the boat. These insurance costs can be a significant expense, especially for larger boats.

Cost of Fuel

The cost of fuel for a vessel can be high, especially for boats that are gas hogs. This cost, of course, is passed on to you when you rent a boat.

Various Boat Expenses

There are many other high cost variables that rental agencies account for, such as dock fees, crew and staff, marketing, and taxes. In addition, supply and demand makes a big impact when you rent a boat.

Dock Fees

Dock fees are charges for using a specific location or slip at a marina. These can be charged daily, weekly or monthly and cover costs for maintaining and repairing the location and its facilities, and providing amenities like electricity and water. Additional fees may be charged for extra amenities, but vary based on location, slip size, and services provided.

Crew and Staff

A boat rental company has to pay their employees and crew salaries, so these labor costs have to be figured in somewhere in the price when you rent a boat. They also likely need someone to clean or inspect the boat periodically, which is another expense.


Boat rental companies need to get their business going by either word of mouth or marketing. This cost might be online advertising, local newspapers, or wherever they can pay to show their business services.


Businesses have to account taxes just like most people, even though they are slightly different. This cost is also factored into the price you pay to rent a boat.

Margins to Meet

In order for any business to be profitable, they must charge higher fees or services to make money. These boating companies will generally inflate the price to make a profit.

Supply and Demand

While this problem is likely not as common as it used to be, you might have supply and demand problems. If there are only a few boat rental agencies to choose from, they can set whatever price they want without much trouble.

Type of Boat Rental Service

You should be able to find many boats that are available for rent at reasonable prices. However, depending on the size and type of adventure you are seeking will play a role in the cost. For example, there might be only a few fishing charter opportunities to catch mahi mahi in a given location, so you will have to settle on paying that.

There are a few different types of boat rental options, such as charter, bareboat, skippered, and fully crewed. Depending on the level of service and the type of boat, rental prices can vary greatly when compared to others.

How to Find Cheap Boat Rental Services

The cheapest type of boat rental service would depend on several factors such as location, size, and duration of the rental, as well as the time of year. Generally speaking, smaller boats such as canoes, kayaks, and personal watercraft like jet skis tend to be less expensive to rent than larger boats like cabin cruisers or pontoon boats.

Narrow Down Results

If you know how many people are going to be in your party and how long you will need it, it will help you find better results than buying a larger size boat that you do not need. Renting a boat for a shorter period of time is usually the best option, unless the rental company offers you a discount for using it more than one day.


Renting a boat in the off-season can be less expensive than renting for a longer period of time or during peak season. Summer time or around holidays are generally the more expensive options, so plan accordingly based on your location and time of the year.

Seek Mom and Pop Stores

Additionally, renting from independent operators, friends that are boat owners, or from smaller boat rental agencies may be less expensive than renting from larger, more well-known companies. The companies that are family owned are also a good indicator of cheaper pricing. However, do not forget to compare prices to be on the safe side.