Owning a boat can be an expensive business

Owning a boat can be an expensive business. Annual running costs, mooring fees, servicing and repairs...they all add up.

It makes sense, therefore, to find ways to save money where possible. To this end, we’ve put together some simple guidelines for maintaining your boat on a budget.

Prevention, rather than cure

Perform a full check of your boat on a regular basis. Small leaks, tears and broken parts left untended quickly lead to major repairs. Spotting them early means you can fix them before they become larger - and more costly - problems.


Keep batteries topped up

To avoid paying for unnecessary battery replacement, always ensure they don’t discharge below 50 per cent, and never allow them to run flat.

You can easily, and cheaply, extend their lives by reducing the amount of power you use on your boat. Turn off anything that is not being used, and swap all interior lighting to LED bulbs, which consume much less power. Make sure your fridge is properly insulated. Consider using a small solar panel to keep the batteries topped up, and prolong their life.

Look after the engine

A neglected engine is an expensive component to replace. By keeping on top of oil and filter changes, plus regularly cleaning and lubricating moving parts, you will prevent bigger problems cropping up without you noticing.

After every trip you should restart the engine and let the pump flush fresh water through it. Then disconnect the fuel line so all the carburetor fuel is burnt away. Turn off the engine, and check it over, along with the fuel line and tanks, for leaks and corrosion. Spotting them now will save you money fixing bigger leaks later on.

Finally, wipe over the entire engine, and spray it with an anti-corrosive.

Following these steps every time will keep your engine in good working order for longer, without the need for pricey renovations.

Invite fresh air in

Lack of ventilation inside the cabin leads to damp, mildew and mould, along with the unpleasant smells that accompany them. Without adequate fresh air, you will have to repeatedly replace soft furnishings.

Fit solar vents to each end of the boat to keep fresh air in circulation, and remove moisture. Using a dehumidifier inside is a great way to effectively dry the cabin out.


Defend your boat from the elements

Exposure to sun, rain, wind, hail, frost and snow will eventually result in damage to items kept on deck. The more you can protect, the less you will have to pay for repairs or replacements.

If you are able to store things inside the boat when not in use, it makes sense to do so. This may seem like an extra chore, but it is amazing how quickly UV rays can ruin plastics, such as lifebuoys, if they are left in the open. 

A good, close-fitting cover will also guard your boat from extreme weather conditions.

When your boat has been out in saltwater, hose it down straight after with fresh water. This gets rid of the salts which will otherwise stick to the hull and eat away at it.

Regularly waxing the hull will mean a full re-paint will be needed less often.


There are plenty of boat maintenance tools which, although necessary, are expensive to buy and won’t be used more than a couple of times a year. In this situation, a more reasonable option is to share the cost with others. Is there somebody else you know with a boat, who might appreciate the chance to spend less on a hull scrubber, or a polisher?

The same goes for oil: large cans are more cost-effective than smaller quantities, so consider sharing the cost, and the oil, with another mariner.

Shop savvy

There are lots of things on a boat that will need to be replaced regularly, like fuses, filters, bulbs and anodes, in which case you can often get discounts for buying in bulk. Shopping online is also often cheaper than visiting physical stores.

While many boat-related products should be bought from chandleries, certain products, eg: oil, anti-freeze and cleaning provisions, can be bought from high-street shops at a lower price.

Second-hand replacement parts, such as anchors, handles and winches, will be more economical than new ones.

Skill up

There are, obviously, many areas of boat maintenance which will always require a trained professional to undertake. However, there are also plenty which you can learn to do yourself, thereby saving money on hiring somebody else.

You could choose to enrol on a short course at a local college for basic woodwork or electrics. Check whether your local sailing club offers workshops or classes in boat maintenance, too.

For more general minor repairs and maintenance, invest in a good boat repair book. YouTube is a wealth of information.

Make sure to check the conditions of your warranties before attempting any work, so you do not invalidate them. 

Quick fixes

As already mentioned earlier, prevention is better than a cure. You should always keep in mind the small things you can do whenever you use your boat, to prevent long-term wear and tear.

For example, whenever you come back from a trip, sponge out the bilge and leave it as dry as possible. This will stop damp from encroaching inside and causing corrosion.

Varnish areas that need it as you come across them. Leaving patches of wood bare until you find the time and money for a complete varnish of the boat, leaves them vulnerable to water damage and rot. It is quicker and cheaper to attend to small areas as you come across them.

It’s common for sails to need replacing more often than they should, due to poor maintenance. They take on the worst of the weather, so close-up scrutiny of the fabric will allow you to mend tiny splits before they become unrepairable.

If you have any suggestions for other ways to maintain your boat on a budget, let us know!

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