When I first started learning to sail, I instantly wanted my own boat and wasted too much time looking at boats for sale. By the time I had finished learning to sail, I still wanted my own boat, but I knew better.
For some, boat ownership is a really good idea, but it is expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes it’s just a lot of hard work and stress. For many, a better option is to charter a boat when and where you want to sail, and once the trip is over you can hand back the keys and forget about it.
This guide is for everyone who is ready to skipper and thinking about taking the plunge to buy that lovely yacht they saw. By the end of this guide, you will be able to make an informed decision on whether buying your own yacht really is a good idea, or if you could have much more fun saving your money for charter holidays. If you haven’t yet learnt to sail and obtained your skipper licence, then you are probably jumping the gun here. If that’s the case I recommend starting out with one of our other articles on ‘How To Get Into Sailing – Finding A Boat Trip! or How To Get Qualified With Sailing Courses’. Your skippers’ training can be an excellent adventure out on the ocean anyway and is often cheaper than a yacht charter.
So What’s Wrong With Boat Ownership? There Are Some Really Cheap Boats For Sale!
How much does a yacht cost? There really isn’t a sensible answer to that question. I just helped someone get a survey on a lovely 33ft sailing boat which they were being given for free! Alternatively, 2 days prior I had been on the phone to a friend who had just bought a 36ft sailing boat for £150,000! Who got the better deal? It’s too early to say. Ultimately, the initial outlay is nothing compared to the lifetime expense.
Let’s say you have a lovely 2-week sailing holiday around the channel islands and the north coast of France, the running costs (fuel, marina fees, food) for that trip will be the same if you own the boat or charter it. However, once that trip is over, you can hand back the keys to the charter boat and forget about it. If you own the boat you need to find somewhere safe to leave it, fix anything that may have broken on the trip, prepare the yacht to be left (at least a days work if you are leaving it a while), pay the mooring fees (which can easily reach £1,000/month for a 40ft yacht), and pay the insurance (we pay £800/year for our 42ft sailing yacht). What’s more, when you do return to your yacht for another trip, there will be work to do. All the jobs you did putting the boat to bed (removing sails, shutting sea cocks etc.) will need undoing. It will also likely need cleaning, something will have stopped working whilst you were away (something always does), the charts will need updating, you might want to clean the water tanks after leaving them so long, the list goes on.
That’s just the start, you will have to service the engine regularly, take the boat out of the water once a year to clean and paint the bottom, the sails will need occasional repairs and maintenance, and ropes will need to be replaced regularly. What’s more, if you don’t use it, it will still deteriorate and your jobs list will only get longer before you can take it out again. It really is a major undertaking to own a boat.
When chartering, on the other hand, the next time you want to go sailing you pick a boat and a location, pay the charter fee, step aboard, and everything should have been prepared for you to slip the mooring the moment you arrive. Not only this, but you can holiday in a new location every time, without worrying about how you’ll get the boat there.
How Much Does a Boat Cost To Maintain? Why Does Anyone Own a Yacht if It Costs So Much?
Well, ultimately it depends on how much time you will spend on the yacht. If you are going to use it a couple of times a year, it really isn’t likely to be worth it. However, if you race every week with the local yacht club, go on epic 6+ week adventures to other parts of the country or world, or even just go and stay on it every weekend like a caravan, then it will rapidly become more convenient and cheaper than chartering. Another irreplaceable perk of owning your own yacht is pride. I feel so happy and proud every time I see our beautiful sailing yacht ‘Mipha’. I have also customised the layout and equipment onboard to suit me and I am perfectly comfortable inside, I am home.
Also, with charter boats, you never really know what you are getting. If every person who gets on a boat is just there for a week or two, they won’t care about fixing things properly. Bodges will happen, just enough to get the boat back and get the deposit back. It will probably always look shiny but there are often underlying issues with charter boats that are just waiting to ruin someone’s holiday.
Alternatives To Yacht Ownership and Chartering
There are many businesses that have tried to offer other options such as charter management businesses, boat shares, or boat subscription ‘clubs’.
Charter management companies try to make your boat earn its keep by chartering it out to other holidaymakers. You can even make money going down this route but that is only likely to be the case if you allow them to charter it out at all the peak times and you only get to enjoy it when nobody else wants to. You will also have to remove all your own equipment from the boat when you aren’t aboard, take it back to the base of the charter management company, and lay awake at night not knowing who is driving your boat or how capable they are. Finally, the older your boat gets, the less likely it is to make money as a charter boat. Charterers like to get something new and shiny for their money.
Private Boat Shares
You might have some friends who also want a boat. Have you considered all chipping in and buying one together? Split the initial outlay and the upkeep, and everyone takes turns using it. It sounds ideal and if it was that simple it would be, but in reality, I have seen many a friendship lost over who broke what and what maintenance is ‘essential’. You won’t be able to fit a new something or replace the chipped mugs without a meeting and budget review and sooner or later someone will want out. Also, you will have to ask permission to take it on a longer holiday and you are likely to always have to return it to its home marina. It’s a lovely idea but I have heard many disaster stories.
Managed Boat Shares
Instead of buying a boat with friends, you can buy boat shares with strangers and get a company to oversee the boat management, maintenance, and booking procedures. The managing company will provide you with access to the boat proportionate to your boat share and take care of the mooring fees and maintenance in exchange for regular monthly payments. Another potentially great option but it limits what you can do with the boat and you won’t ever be able to personalise it. It won’t really feel like you own it, but rather that you are getting a cheap charter in exchange for only ever being able to charter the one boat in the one location.
Businesses exist which own a variety of yachts, in a variety of locations, and which provide you with access to them in exchange for a subscription fee. You never own a boat but you get access to lots of them. It’s basically a cheap way of chartering boats with a 12 or 24-month subscription commitment. All boat upkeep is taken care of and it’s relatively stress-free, the downside is that you can only charter a boat where they have one. One example company who provide this service have 3 bases on the south coast of England and 4 in Italy. Hardly the freedom of locations you get from usual chartering.
Everyone has different needs and desires and there really is something for everyone. However,
I think we can wrap it up by concluding that for the feeling of adventure that we want from sailing, you will probably need to buy or charter. The other options provide a middle ground and save you money but at the expense of freedom.
So Should You Buy or Charter?
Buying a boat needs to be a lifestyle choice. You will need to commit huge amounts of time and money to it for as long as you own it, but the rewards are greatest. You can take your pride and joy anywhere, anytime. Now I own a boat, I couldn’t imagine not owning one, but I live on mine and it is a huge part of my life.
If you aren’t ready to sign all your free time and spare money away, just stick with chartering. Pick the location for your next adventure ( the Mediterranean, Hebrides, Caribbean) find a charter company and go have your epic adventure. Sure, that week will cost a lot, but the rest of the year is free.
Before You Go
Regardless of the route you choose, make sure you learn to sail/motor properly and act responsibly as a safe skipper to protect you, your crew, and your boat. Charter companies will actually require you to have some form of recognised qualifications such as the RYA Day Skipper ticket so whether you have decided to buy or charter, make sure you book onto a skippers course first.
The skippers training will also get you out on the water, having a great first adventure, and is cheaper than most charters, so there really isn’t a good reason to skip this step To find out more about skippers qualifications, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01688 325025 and we will be happy to help you get on the right track.