A few years ago, my wife & I were split on the prospect of buying a boat. We had reached the point in our financial journey that we could afford to splurge on a speedboat. We wouldn’t make a huge dent in our savings, and certainly wouldn’t take on any debt. We had friends that enjoy the ‘boat lifestyle’ and wanted to join the party.
At the same time, a boat is a big spend. We were looking at $30K-$40K for the size & quality of boat that we wanted. That’s a major upfront commitment for buying into a lifestyle we didn’t know would fit us or not. Neither of us had grown up in a family with a boat, although our area of the country is blessed with beautiful lakes & rivers.
For us, the answer was a membership in a boat club. It’s basically a shared-rental approach. They sell 7 memberships for each boat in their club and each member can reserve & one ‘slot’ a week. A slot is either a 9am-2pm usage, or a 3pm-8:00pm usage. Five hours is a great amount of time to be on the water.
If you drive by any boat marina, you can see why boat clubs make sense. Only a small fraction of the boats in a marina are ever out on the water. The rest are slowly depreciating. Split each of those boats 7 ways and you have a more efficient utilization of capital. The memberships cost $3-$5K for a summer and they have very nice boats ($60K-$75K) new and replace them every few years. Outside of the membership costs, you pay the cost of gas, but they pay for all of the other costs – the marina, the maintenance, the winter storage, etc. You can see that it would take decades before owning your own boat would make economic sense.
The weekends do get busy at the boat club. It requires a little planning to set up reservations and invite friends out. We’ve switched boat clubs this year to one that is closer to our home and work. On workday weekdays, when the boats aren’t generally reserved, you can grab one at anytime. I’m looking forward to sneaking out of work early when possible this summer and enjoying some extra time on the water. Even taking out team members for afternoon “meetings” with a beer in hand.
Next year, in early retirement, the boat club should be awesome. Most of the boat club owners are busy working to pay for their fun, but I’ll be saved up & enjoying it. Here’s to SUMMER 🙂
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