The True Cost Of Owning A New Bass Boat

the real cost of owning a bass boat, how much does a bass boat actually cost

Anytime you buy on emotion rather than logically you’re going to make mistakes.

When Buying A New Bass Boat It’s Best To Step Back And Take A Breath.


Every bass angler has been there…We’ve gone to the shows, been inside the dealerships, and browsed the classifieds looking for that perfect rig that can carry us off to fishing fame or outrun our stresses in life.  I really do hate to break it to most of you though, something the industry has yet to reveal…99% of us are not going to make it in the professional fishing industry!  Tournament payouts are reaching all time lows while costs to fishing will always continue to rise.  At the forefront of our costs are those beautiful bass boats.

A bass boat is kind of a funny thing.  Take a look at the boat and it will reveal a lot about an angler.  Is it an early 90’s style Ranger that looks immaculate?  You know it’s a man who takes great pride in taking care of his toys and worked hard for his money.  How about a boat with tons of scratches, faded carpet, and a prop that looks like aluminum foil…you’ve got an angler that spends every waking moment outside of work fishing and his boat has become a reliable tool!  


Why Bass Boats Have Become So Expensive.


I went in detail on this subject in a previous post and will only brush upon it here.  Boat dealers have become increasingly desperate to get their products out to customers and with the cooperation of low interest loans that have extended terms out to twenty years (and now we hear rumors that you may be able go beyond that!) consequently you can see it trickle down to price increases in the used boat market!

This creates moral hazard and only short term thinking.  The “I’ve got to have it now” takes over and that affordable price tag that seems like only a few hours of overtime every week will become more of an anchor as maintenance costs rise while the underlying asset’s value will come crashing down year after year.


How To Determine The True Cost Of Owning A Bass Boat


Up until now it sounds like I want to talk you out of buying a boat but that’s definitely not the case.  I have owned 3 and loved all of them!  Nothing beats idling out to that no wake buoy and then hammering the throttle to get up on pad, blasting away to your secret fishing spot.

The true cost of a new bass boat purchase can simply be calculated through a formula of combining your payment, maintenance costs, insurance, and fueling costs which can be historically measured and offer us a guide to future costs.  While there can always be outliers these numbers represent averages and over the course of your ownership will likely apply to you.

For each scenario below we will assume that you’re new purchase will last you ten years.  

Remember!  Purchasing a boat is a huge responsibility and you need to look at it as budgeting instead of being able to afford a payment.  This can help prevent down time due to not having the cash on hand to pay for that censor that went out on your trolling motor, or that short discovered in your trailer lights!


How to Determine The Payment.


This is by far the easiest variable to nail down.  It’s the only one that is fixed and you can guarantee it right up there with death and taxes.  Boats similar to vehicles, are so common that banks and credit unions have their numbers hashed out.

A lender’s terms typically is set to the boat’s new price along with the eventual sell value to help prevent taking on major losses in the event of an economic downturn where many owners have to surrender the asset back to them. 

With the current low interest rates (backed by the government) lenders have taken on more risk then I believe they should but that’s another story for another time. 

One thing to keep in mind…Don’t forget you will likely have to pay SALES TAX!  In Illinois where I live it’s over 6% at the time of this writing!

I found this handy calculator which I will link here


Maintenance Costs Is Up Next


The common formula used is you can factor in 4-8% per year for your maintenance costs but that is quite high and doesn’t tell the full tale. 

Maintenance costs on a brand new boat will likely be under 2% when you figure in warranties and the mere fact that new parts don’t typically break down for a few years.

If the boat you purchase is 5 to 10 years old then you’re looking at an average yearly cost of 3-7% of the boat’s value.  

Boat’s older than ten years will average closer to 8-10% maintenance costs per year as you’ll likely be looking to repower at some point.  Around now trolling motors are starting to wear down, and electronics will have advanced to the point that you’ll want to add on the new features.  Pumps will have to be replaced as well.

Sticker renewals both plate and watercraft fall into this category and remind us yearly of that cost we forgot to factor.  After reading this article you will likely have enough in the bank set aside to cover this foreseen expense.


Boat Insurance Average Costs


Insurance is another relatively easy cost to determine.  On average you’re going to pay 1.5% of the boat’s value in insurance each year.  Rates can vary state by state adding or subtracting from your true monthly cost of owning a bass boat.



Fueling Costs Will Likely Be Your Widest Variable When Purchasing A New Bass Boat.


In my opinion this is largest hidden cost that doesn’t reflect that beautiful “Only $499.99 per month” large white sign hanging off of a new boat with few options.

Since owning a boat I’ve seen gas prices range from $1.50/gallon to $4.25.  This puts incredible variance (and strain on a bank account) in the average monthly costs of a new bass boat. The state you live in will also provide a wide variance in price as each one determines it’s own fuel tax.

Also boats are one of the least efficient gas powered motors you will find.  You’re lucky to get a few miles per gallon and that’s if you’re soft on them.  Plan on refilling your boat every 5 trips unless you compete on the tournament trails which you’d be better off owning a gas station!


Now That We Have An Idea Of Our Variables It’s Time To Calculate!


We are going to run over 3 scenarios to try to peg your particular situation.

In each scenario the fisherman averages 90 trips per year to their local lakes whether it be for a tournament, practice, or just fun fishing.

  1. Tom wishes to Purchase a new $100k Bass Boat
  2. George wishes to Purchase a 5 year old boat at $60k
  3. Josh wishes to Purchase an 11 year old boat for $30k


First Let’s Calculate Your Payment


Tom is newly retired and has always dreamed of owning a brand new bass boat.  George is in the middle of his career and has reached close to the top of his pay scale.  Josh has landed a new secure job and has always wanted a bass boat. 

These scenarios while seeming dubious, mirror a large portion of purchases. If you find yourself in one of these situations look at the others to understand and compare.


Overall Cost Of A Brand New Bass Boat


Tom signs his loan agreement and is now the proud new owner of a brand new boat!  He takes the 20 year deal at 5%.  He plans on keeping the boat for ten years and is well known for taking care of his purchases.


    1. Boat Price– 100k Including Tax Monthly Cost $716.00

    2. Insurance– 1500.00 a year Monthly Cost $125.00
    3. Licensing Fees $80.00 a year Monthly Cost $7.00
    4. Maintenance 1% per year over ten years Monthly Cost $83.00
    5. Fuel $3.25/gallon with 40 gallon tank Monthly Cost $195.00


Total Monthly Budget to set aside for a new bass boat $1,126.00


Overall Cost Of A Newer Bass Boat


George purchases a 5 year old boat off of a one owner.  The boat has been maintained well and has only minimal expected wear and tear.  At this price he likely has upgraded electronics along with power poles and all the newer gadgets that will need maintained for the life of his purchase.


    1. Boat Price– 60k Including Tax Monthly Cost $430.00

    2. Insurance– $900.00 a year Monthly Cost $75.00
    3. Licensing Fees $80.00 a year Monthly Cost $7.00
    4. Maintenance 4.5% a year over ten years Monthly Cost $225.00
    5. Fuel $3.25/gallon with 40 gallon tank Monthly Cost $195.00


Total Monthly Budget to set aside $932.00


Overall Cost Of A Used Bass Boat


Josh found a good used boat through the classifieds.  He knows his job is secure and wants to know how much to set aside per month for his boat when it comes to the hidden costs as well as the likelihood of major repairs and upgrades coming his way.  Also financing companies will likely only be willing to go out to ten years and at closer to 9% interest because their risk has become so much higher.  So the one shining light is that the boat will be free and clear in ten years instead of the 20 in the above scenarios


    1. Boat Price– 30k Including Tax Monthly Cost $380.00

    2. Insurance– 450.00/year Monthly Cost $38.00
    3. Licensing Fees $80.00 a year Monthly Cost $7.00
    4. Maintenance 8.5% a year over ten years Monthly Cost $212.00
    5. Fuel $3.25/gallon with 40 gallon tank Monthly Cost $195.00

Total Monthly Budget to set aside $832.00


Concluding the True Cost Of Owning A Bass Boat


As you can see from above your boat budget can increase or decrease by several hundred dollars depending on the route you go with.  One thing that has to be taken in consideration also is as long as you have the asset you will at some point be able to alleviate yourself from these costs.  The better you take care of your boat, the better your odds of recouping some of your costs.  But please remember boats rarely appreciate in value from when you first purchase them.  You will eventually have to take a loss!

I didn’t set out writing this article in an attempt from discouraging you from purchasing your dream boat.  I love bass boats and plan to own another in the future.  The next time I do fork over my hard earned money I plan to start a separate bank account which will budget for the eventual major costs that will incur.  If buying used it’s a good rule of thumb to take the monthly purchase price and add 150%.  If your boat payment is 100.00/month then make sure you allocate $250.00 to the account.  This will help take the sting out of that outboard that suddenly starts clanking in a few years, or the trolling motor that has suddenly spun its last spin.  

This could save you stress especially if you have a family and or significant other and perhaps allow you to hold off on the “have to have it now” mentality.  Just remember there are thousands of boats listed every day.  Please don’t get caught up in the moment and you’ll have the real reason we fish…Peace of Mind



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