There are two types of costs associated with owning a boat: one-time costs like the actual purchase, titling and outfitting of the boat and ongoing costs like fuel, insurance, maintenance and docking.
When you purchase a boat, the first decision is to buy new or used.
Used boats obviously cost less but may have fewer features and more wear than a new boat.
Additionally, new boats often come with warranties.
Buying a boat is similar to buying a car and shopping around for the best deal and the best financing can save you a lot of money up front.
If you're buying a new boat, dealers often charge a "commissioning" fee to cover the installation of any special equipment, tuning the engine and other post-purchase items.
You will also have to pay sales tax and some states have a personal property tax that must be paid on boats over a certain size.
Most boat owners a responsible about budgeting for the initial purchase and outfitting of their boats, but underestimate the ongoing costs, which are the bulk of the costs of owning a boat.
Insurance is the most important of these costs and the most complex.
Getting quotes from several companies will ensure you get the best rate.
Also, agents that specialize in boat insurance will be able to help you understand any language specific to boats that you may not be familiar with.
Dockage is another ongoing cost, unless you are lucky enough to own waterfront property.
Slip fees vary by size and amenities offered.
For example, in San Diego a slip with water and electricity for a 32-foot boat costs around $300 per month.
Many boat owners also do not realize that if they want to tie up at a different marina or dock than their own that there may be a docking fee.
Maintenance is such a persistent ongoing cost that it has become almost a joke among boat owners.
Before you purchase your boat, you should study the owner's manual and the manufacturer's website to get an accurate idea of yearly maintenance costs.
Maintenance costs include more than just engine maintenance.
Consider the costs of replacing sun-faded fabric, hull painting and sail replacement as well.
Finally, you need to estimate gas costs.
Many a novice boat owner has been tripped up by assuming that gasoline costs the same at a marina as it does at the gas station.
However, gas costs are marinas are significantly higher than at the gas pump.
Visit a few marinas to get a sense of what boat gas actually costs.