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The Costs of Owning a Houseboat

Things are starting to warm up and Spring is around the corner! This is the time of year for those first time Houseboat buyers to start walking the docks debating whether or not they want to get into boating. Here's a little buying advice to consider.

There is more to a houseboat than the price you see in the window...

How much is Insurance, Slip Rental, and Utilities for a Houseboat?

The Magical Answer is... It Depends.

It depends on the boat, the lake, the marina, the owners, etc. While all of these costs associated with Houseboat Ownership are variable I will do my best to give you an idea of what is involved...

How much is Insurance? While this figure can vary depending on the houseboat and you, the new owner. With your typical Houseboat (late model, Stardust, Sumerset, Sharpe, etc with an Aluminum Hull that costs $125,000 - $250,000) is going to be roughly $3,500-5,000/year. For more accurate quotes on your boat visit www.davismarineinsurance.com
We have witnessed first time houseboat buyers have a difficult time obtaining a marine insurance policy in their first few years of ownership recently. Having some rental experience with a houseboat can sometimes help with securing a good marine policy when you take ownership. Otherwise you might have to spend your first year with a discount insurance policy that will not offer good coverage (most importantly salvage, recovery, and environmental clean up). Only use these policies for the minimum amount of time until you can obtain a quality marine insurance policy.

How much is Slip Rental? I sometimes hear buyers say that they are going to wait until the end of March to make an offer on a boat because they heard that the next year's slip rental is due April 1st. Well, every Marina does their billing a little differently. On Norris Lake for instance, most Marinas do have a yearly lease, but they allow the boat owners to pay monthly and you can transfer the lease at any time. Houseboat Slips on Norris Lake have seen an increase demand with a limited supply, so if a boat owner needs to cancel their slip lease after they sell their boat, they may not be responsible for their remaining lease if a new renter comes into their slip. Some marinas will even have a waiting list for a slip, so if a slip becomes available it may be rented again before the end of the month. Slip availability and popularity also fluctuates from Marina to Marina, Lake to Lake. The best thing to do is to decide which lake you would like to boat on first. Then you want to find a Marina that has a slip available. Houseboat slips all over East Tennessee can be difficult to find right regardless of the body of water, so unless a listing states "slip available" or "slip transferable" (which means the seller is allowing the slip's lease to be transferred to the new owner) then you had better have a new home already picked out for your investment. On Norris Lake, slip rental is anywhere from $350 - $650/month plus utilities If you prefer to be moored out within a marina's harbor rather than being in a catwalk slip you can anticipate anywhere between $250-450/month plus utilities. But again, check availability with your preferred marina. And regardless of if you're moored out or in a slip, you'll likely want another boat for watersports, cruising around the lake, fishing, etc. Runabout/Pontoon Slips typically start around $200-250/month and go up from there depending on size and marina location.

What kind of Utilities will I pay? Expect to pay for Water, Electric, and for Pump-Outs (if you are on a holding tank lake). While water is commonly included (or small monthly or annual fee) with your Slip Rental Fee, Electric is almost always billed separately. The electric is metered and you pay what you spend, however there usually is a slight inflation for the price of a Kilowatt on the water. This expense will depend on how often you are using the boat and where your family likes to have the thermostat set. I've had a client with an early 1990s model 80' Stardust pay about $250/month during the summer with the thermostat set at 78 degrees and $80 - $100/month during the winter with the thermostat set at 50 degrees.
On Norris Lake, expect to pay another $650/season for Waste Pump-Outs. For the seasonal contract they will come to your boat every other week during the summer months regardless if you need pumped out or not. Annual pumpout rates start around $1,300/year with the same schedule during the summer months and once a month pumping during the off-season.

Your Monthly Houseboat Budget should include the following:
Boat Payment $$$
Insurance $300 - $400
Slip Rental $350 - $650
Electric $100 - $250
Pumping $100
*These numbers are based on averages around Norris Lake, TN these figures can vary greatly. Please check with the Marina where you plan on mooring your new boat to get the most accurate list of expenses.

Other Costs Associated with Buying a Houseboat
If you are financing your Houseboat you may have to have a Marine Survey performed on your boat. This also depends on your lender, the boat, and your financial state. Often you may not need a Survey to finance, but then your insurance company will ask for one. This is something that the Buyer typically pays for and runs approximately $14.50/foot (overall length of boat). For a first time Houseboat Owner a survey can be a valuable investment even if your Insurance Company or Bank does not require one. If you are looking to purchase a Fiberglass or Steel Hull Boat you may even want (or even be required) to have an Out of Water Survey performed which will cost more.

Don't let any of this discourage you from getting into Houseboating, just use it as a guide to shop for a boat that is within your budget. And remember...

Life is Better with a Boat.

If you have any good Boating Tips please share them with us!





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