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Old 03-08-2015, 01:01 PM   #1
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Annual maintenance cost

Hi....in the process of buying a 55isf ft trawler which will serve as our home for the next five years as we explore the warmer waters of the Atlantic and Pacific. I have read a number of books regarding voyaging under power as well as Calder's M&E Manual. However, I can't find an overview or list of maintenance costs not including fuel and insurance. I realize a lot depends on living style....which I consider to be "average". I want to maintain the boat in a manner to keep it running efficiently and to enjoy the locales we visit. We plan on staying on the hook mostly and will have a water maker and solar/wind generators, staying a week to as much as a month at each location. Any suggestions as to how to develop or sources to find this "budget" will be very much appreciated!
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Old 03-08-2015, 01:55 PM   #2
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Too many variables. Very general rule of thumb is annual operating cost between 10 and 30% of purchase price for everything. Some boats are more needy than others and have higher annual maintenance costs. Will you do some, all, or none of the maintenance work yourself? What condition is the boat in when you get it. Stuff on boats wears out. How old is the house battery bank, the refrigerator, electronics, and all the pumps (14 on my boat). Not to mention the genset and engine (s) and drive train (s). Think you get the idea how many variables there are.

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Old 03-08-2015, 02:44 PM   #3
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Second too many variables. A lot depends on your skills in picking a boat and skills in maintaining it. If you are really mechanically inclined and can do most of the labor yourself and the boat is uncomplicated the cost goes way down and on the other hand if the boat is complex and you need skilled yard labor for everything cost goes way way up. Then there is a middle ground where you do what you can and yard only when its over your head. When I was younger and dealt with simpler boats there was little cost now I do little myself on complex boat and cost is astronomical.
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Old 03-08-2015, 02:48 PM   #4
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A basic--- VERY basic--- rule of thumb for determining the annual ownership cost of a used boat is ten percent of the purchase price of the boat. This includes insurance, moorage, electricity, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. it does not include finance payments as these eventually go away. The ten percent figure is what was being used 17 years ago when we bought our boat. Today with the increases in labor costs it might be more like fifteen percent.

Again, this is a VERY rough estimate designed only to give a prospective boat owner a sense of awareness about the ongoing cost of ownership. Every boat will be different, the condition of every boat will be different, the amount of work an owner is willing or able to do him or herself will be different.

So the ten or fifteen percent figure is an awareness figure, not an accurate one.
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Old 03-08-2015, 03:03 PM   #5
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A big variable is who's doing the work? If you have to hire out the electrical/mechanical your budget will be much higher.

Your annual fuel can be estimated by the miles that you anticipate. Since you said the Atlantic and Pacific over a 5 year period, fuel will be a big part of your budget. That's a lot of miles.


Do you want to eat out 2-3 nights a week? Does the admiral want to go home regularly to see the grandkids or are there aging parents? Sit down with a pencil and a calculator.
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Old 03-08-2015, 03:09 PM   #6
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Boat insurance will probably cost around 1.5 to 2% annually of your hull value based on the boat and your experience. You'll have to submit an itinerary and resume at time of application and renewal. Where you want to go and when will affect your rates.
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Old 03-08-2015, 03:49 PM   #7
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First, The 10% rule makes no sense at all, how that myth is perpetuated is one of the great mysteries of boating to me. Implies that a crudded out boat is cheaper to maintain than the same boat in primo condition. That a brand new boat is much more expensive to maintain than the same boat seven years old that has systems wearing out.

The answer to the OP, which I have given in various threads here before goes something like this:

What are your standards for seaworthiness?
What are your standards for creature comforts?
What are your standards for cosmetics?

What condition is the boat in when you bought it, vis a vis the above?

How much of the work are you competent to perform to bring the boat up to and maintain, your standards? How much do you value your time?

For those things you can't or don't want to do, what does it cost in your area to have a competent tradesman do the work?

How much are you going to run the boat, and where?

Do you anchor or go on a mooring a lot or more marina-bound? The former puts more pressure on your generator and other electrical generation systems (batteries, inverters, wind, etc) and your freshwater pumps, watermaker if applicable, etc. Plus the tender. Of course, the marina cost itself offsets that to a large degree, if the affected equipment is not nearing replacement or rebuild time.

So, in my opinion, those are the big variables involved. Pretty much in order of cost variance magnitude.
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Old 03-08-2015, 03:50 PM   #8
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Logically smaller, newer and mechanically simpler would be at the lower end of the scale. At least that's what I'm hoping!
I guess even that is quite a generalisation.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:05 PM   #9
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I don't believe a percentage of value is a good estimate of ownership costs. Compare similar, equal-sized boats, one purchased new for $250K compared to a used one acquired for $80K. Ownership costs wouldn't be three times higher for the newer boat (except for property taxes.) Berthing, fuel, and bottom painting would be the same, insurance and property taxes would be higher for the new boat, but the used boat would likely, but not necessarily, have higher maintenance costs because of replacement of components.


My bought-new, four-year-old boat is costing about $14K a year (berth, taxes, insurance, repairs, maintenance, fuel), nearly 6% of the purchase cost. The boat is professionally maintained, operated 125 hours. Berthing, taxes, and insurance are readily forecasted, maintenance and repair are more difficult.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:11 PM   #10
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The budget is seldom a hassle IF you can do the R&R work.

Stuff brakes , so what , the locals have water pumps , bilge pumps , everything you need , just different.

The BIG DEAL, is the budget for the DISASTER , a blown engine next to nowhere.

Insurance for this is PM and a good system of gauges .

For long passages the Murphy Switchgauge with their auto secure system cant be beat.

Well under a boat buck , better than a union engineer standing watch 24/7

If you have the skill set industrial or big truck engines can be rebuilt in place , with just tools and the parts kit.

Taxi , auto, farm implement engines will usually need to be removed for a big job.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:14 PM   #11
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I think you can get a basic idea by looking at your boating you do now and increase that by how much you are going to travel. For instance, if you change your oil once each season, you need to do that every 100 hours. If you travel 50 -75 miles each day you are moving, That's 6 - 10 hours. Ten days of moving may be an oil change. That's what I'm trying to do now. I want to throw off the bow lines in 3 years. How long I stay out depends on how it works. I can rent my condo until I want to come back. So far, I have come up with a budget of $5K per month and that's not looking too good. That doesn't include any boat payments or insurance. I plan on 2 nights per week at a marina to do laundry and provision. That's when I would do the maintenance. To me maintenance is, oil changes, impellers, filters, cleaning, waxing, stitching repairs in the canvas, chase leaks, things like that. Major mechanical issues get farmed out. Only you can figure out what you will do. All I know, for sure, I'm going. How long I stay out is the unknown question.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:19 PM   #12
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I have always interpreted "maintenance" as just the cost of maintaining the boat in top condition as dinstiinct from "lifestyle" choices (marina vs hook etc). The lifestyle part should be able to be individually budgeted?
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:20 PM   #13
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All I can say from Year # 1 with my older trawler is you better have a pretty big reserve if you want to cruise. 10% annual isnt even close for the first year. Maybe after a couple years getting everything in line with your needs. Things break at the wrong time which means buying parts online or thru local service centers, which in-turn is time at a dock for repairs and labor costs. Expect previous owners to put off expensive maint items that arent obvious. You checkbook needs to float a big balance to cover such events unless you dont mind outragous credit card finance charges.
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Old 03-08-2015, 04:53 PM   #14
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My basic annual boat expenses are roughly 30-40% of purchase price, this year will probably spend close to 70%. To put that into perspective my acquisition cost was far FAR south of any other regular contributors to this forum. Our boat is far from falling apart it's actually in great shape with a recent full refit. Just purchased at a fire sale price from a previous owner tired of sitting on two boats.

The ongoing expense is a real issue that does not go away with time. As others have said pursuit of a hard number as a percentage of purchase price is like trying to catch smoke in your bare hand.

For real world numbers price berths in your chosen marina and double or triple it. That number will likely be much closer to reality than any purchase price percentage IMO.
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Old 03-08-2015, 05:29 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
First, The 10% rule makes no sense at all, how that myth is perpetuated is one of the great mysteries of boating to me.

.
You miss the point entirely. It's a newbie number: it's intended solely to give inexperienced people contemplating buying a cruising boat a sense of reality. Boats cost money to buy, and then they keep costing money to own.

The newbie's first question after they're told that is, "How much does it cost to own?"

So what are you going to do? Flood them with the bazillion varisables that they don't have a clue how to relate to or even what half of them are? They'll be more confused than when they started.

The ten-percent number--- which has been shown to be at least in the ballpark of average ownership costs--- is a single number the prospective buyer can be given as way of a reality check. This gives them a number right off the bat that can help them determine if they are capable of affording a boat without biting off more than they can chew.

Of course there are tons of variables. Of course a newer boat may cost less per year than an older boat. Of course ownership costs vary with how much work a an owner can or is willing to do on his or her own. Even my dog knows all that.

But the person new to this kind of boating most likely does not. We certainly didn't. And when we seriously began contemplating buying our first cruising boat, the broker we enlisted gave us that figure as a "be aware a boat will cost you a lot more than the purchase price" reality check.

It was an extremely valuable piece of information for us to have at that time. We could have afforded a boat that cost twice as much as the one we bought. But knowing that a boat--- any boat--- never stops costing its owner money injected a sense or reality into our purchase and our decision. We bought a boat we could afford, and that we could afford to continue to own year after year after year.

THAT'S what the ten-percent figure is good for. People who've been in boating for decades don't need it. People who are contemplating getting into cruising for the first time but know nothing about the ongoing costs involved do.

Bombard them with all the details people with a lot of experiece tend to bombard them with and you get a deer-in-the-headlights look. I know: I've seen it happen many times and so has the fellow who was our broker and who is the lead broker at the GB dealership in our harbor.

Give them a nice easy, representative number they can understand right off the boat and tney will go into their first boat-buying experience with their eyes open.

As they gain experience or as they start asking more detailed questions about a specific boat they will soon learn the realities of owning that particular boat. But what won't happen (hopefully) is that they won't have buy a boat that costs the amount of their boat budget and then start to get whacked with expense after expense that puts them into the negative financial aspect of boat ownership.

For our boat, while we have not kept strict track of every expense, over the last seventeen years, the ten-percent figure has not been all that far off. It's getting higher these days because labor rates have gone up considerably. We do as much of or own work as we can, but when it comes to things like engine mounts, new exhaust systems, new cutless bearings, and so on, we hire that out.

But it's a very simple concept and from what I have experienced and what I have heard from acquaintences in the boat sales business and from individuals we have known over the years who decided to get into cruising as newbies, it is a very appreciated piece of information to have at the outset.
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Old 03-08-2015, 07:15 PM   #16
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Its probably easier to define what a trawler is or is not than to find a specific or even ballpark figure for maintenance and for living costs on a boat too MANY variables. You can take the same boat and different owners and find a very wide spread.
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Old 03-08-2015, 07:21 PM   #17
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A lot would depend on the owner's idea of proper maintenance. Also, I can easily imagine used boats' berthing costs alone could exceed ten percent of the boats' value.
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Old 03-08-2015, 07:39 PM   #18
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In our 80's Taiwanese trawler, it was about 33% per year over 5 years.
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Old 03-08-2015, 08:14 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
First, The 10% rule makes no sense at all, how that myth is perpetuated is one of the great mysteries of boating to me. .
I'm not arguing in this post whether the number is reasonable or not, but like many "myths" the original statement ends up altered. The 10% number is based on original purchase price of the new boat, not a used boat price, and it is considered the average over the life of the boat. So, while year one is less, the assumption is you need to be setting money back from the start for rebuilds, etc. It also, in it's original usage, was operating costs, not maintenance.

But then as the rest of you are saying, it depends on how it's used, owner's ability, and many other factors, including what you're including in the definition of maintenance. A rule of thumb isn't going to be much help as we're all so different. There was an excellent calculator on a site I frequent but they took it off about a month ago.
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Old 03-08-2015, 08:32 PM   #20
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Thinking about it, it costs about $120 an hour to operate my boat, not counting depreciation nor time on boat while not operating. Running the boat more would reduce the cost per hour as most costs have no relation to the hours operated. Each additional hour of operation would cost only $6.
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