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Boat Ownership vs Boat Club – Pros and Cons of Both

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There is a saying about boat ownership, that your two favorite days with your boat are the day that you get it and the day that you sell it. It is symbolic of the size of the commitment that comes with boat ownership, that in many ways is greater than that of your car. Cue the boat club membership plan, a plan that offers the best of both worlds to boat lovers everywhere.

You have the expense of your boat passion but without the hassle of worrying about insurance, maintenance, storage, and more. Learn more about both sides of this coin, and choose for yourself what option is best for you.

What is Boat Ownership?

It is not unusual to consider boat ownership first. It is not just a status symbol, it is a way of life for many people. In some areas of the country, people still need to own boats.

In others, it’s a nice recreational vehicle to have that will serve as a family or couple’s entertainment budget. There are people that just love to be on the water, or need to be, and this makes boat ownership a necessity for them.

Boat ownership simply involves buying your own vessel and educating yourself on how much is involved in its maintenance and care. You also need to know how to use the vessel. If your income can support help with maintenance, you could hire people to help you take care of the hassle.

But not everybody has that opportunity, and many boat owners don’t want strangers on their boats. Whether it is a kayak or a 60-foot yacht, boat ownership comes with a significant amount of responsibility. When you are considering boat ownership, do your research, talk to other boaters or see their reviews online, and learn everything you need to know in advance before you start making offers.

Owning a boat is a flexible lifestyle and a very enjoyable one tat

What is Boat Membership?

A group of friends in the yacht smiling in the camera.

Boat membership is a monthly plan to enjoy boats without owning a boat. It is a step above boat renting, and one below boat ownership, and to many, offers the best of both worlds. In a boat membership or boat club, members join the club and pay a monthly fee to enjoy a boat, any boat in the club’s fleet, whenever they want, without the hassle of maintenance, insurance, and slip fees.

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Training to use the vessels is often provided by the club if and when needed. What kind of boat you will get will depend on the club. You may get a pontoon, a fishing boat, or just something to skim the waters within your area.

There are many benefits. If you don’t care about what kind of boat you want to sail or cruise in, you don’t have to worry here.

You will be limited by availability, and won’t have the bells or whistles on the boat that you may have in ownership. Still, it offers a convenience to boat lovers that offsets some worries of boat ownership.

Features of Boat Ownership and Boat Memberships

A man in a blue outfit riding in his yacht.

The greatest feature of boat ownership is knowing that you have your own boat. This is not just a status symbol but a life accomplishment to many. When you have your own boat, putting the maintenance and hassle of errands aside, you have the luxury of going on it whenever and wherever you want within the confines of Maritime law.

You won’t have to wait to use it, or miss a day of boating if you can’t get the reservation you would want from a boat membership.

Owning a boat also offers the peace of mind that you have an activity to do when the weather is nice. You can relax on your own vessel with your friends, family, or even by yourself. It’s an exciting lifestyle and one that is revered by the true boat lovers of the world.

On the flip side, boat ownership can get expensive, and it can become a hassle. There are laws for the waters you are in that you need to comply with. You need to learn how to cruise a boat, and also what everything on a boat means. It’s a new language.

Boat ownership, on the other hand, offers a hassle, that can be more than just a hassle. Boat problems can be disastrous in the lives of owners. It isn’t always a money problem. Boat accidents, boat problems, boat maintenance, and boat safety are all concerns that weigh on the mind of every responsible boat owner.

If you don’t want that in your life, boat membership is the next best thing.

Boat memberships offer a convenience that you can’t find with boat ownership. You aren’t worried about much more than the cost of the membership and getting the reservation that you want on your boat. Everything is maintained for you, and the matter of insurance and taxes is built into your fees, so you don’t need to worry about those issues at all.

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You also have access to staff that can help you with every issue pertaining to your membership.

You do need to book ahead in advance when you want to use the boats in your clubs. You may not always get the boat that you want on the day that you want. At the same time, the costs may not be much different than owning your own boat, so you want to do your research ahead of time.

Unless you pay for your boat in one payment, you are going to have very similar upfront costs and monthly fees. For that reason, you may feel like you have to use your boat membership, even when you don’t want to because you are paying for it.

Cost Differences of Boat Ownership vs. Boat Memberships

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business man’s hand with currency, savings and costs

It is difficult to say exactly what option is more affordable because there will be more affordable boating styles within each option. A yacht club membership fee will be very high, while the cost of owning your own kayak wouldn’t be, for example.

So the kind of boat that you want to use, and the kind of membership that you will have will bear similar costs when compared with similar boats.

That is the case if you do not own your own boat outright. If you don’t, you will have the monthly for your boat payment, insurance which can be less than $100 monthly, and then maintenance costs. You’ll also have taxes, and slip fees, as well as storage fees if you live in a seasonal climate.

It is not unreasonable to consider that boat ownership could be around $500 monthly, depending on the kind of boat you get.

Now, when you consider boat membership, the fees will be similar. Some membership fees can be as high as $400 monthly, even without a yacht like a vessel in question. You will pay for the hassle-free experience. You may also have to pay an upfront fee as an initiation, or membership fee or contract fee.

The boat membership is usually not a contract-free experience, which can be another drawback for many boaters. That is because the club needs to pay its insurance and taxes and operating costs as well. So, if you miss payment or just decide it isn’t for you, you may have no choice but to pay out the contract.

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Benefits of Boat Ownership vs. Boat Membership

A photo of pleasure boats and fishing boats.

The benefits of boat ownership are clear. You get to have your own boat and use it whenever you want. You may have additional maintenance and insurance hassles, but most boat owners are aware of that going in, and choose that as part of the lifestyle.

You also get to have your own boat and keep it up however you want. You can keep your belongings on the boat, and maintain it to meet your needs and lifestyles. If the water is calling you, it is worth the investment in every way, which is what a true boat lover would say.

Clubs, on the other hand, offer you the benefits of staff that can do everything for you. If the only goal for you is to have a boat whenever you want, plus some additional social benefits of being part of a club, then a boat membership is ideal.

Brief History

Boats have been around since the beginning of time as one of the first means of transportation. Today, many regions still need them for survival. The first boats were rudimentary vessels not far off from a kayak, and boating has now become a lifestyle today.

It was the mid-nineteenth century when boats began to move from natural material construction such as wood to steel and iron frames that were meant to last.

Boating clubs are also not new to the world. The first boating club in history is the Royal Cork Yacht Club, which was founded in 1720. This was established by William O’Brien, an employee of King Charles II who loved to sail. That interest grew in their social circle, and the yacht club was born.

It is how many boating clubs are formed today.

Select Hassle-Free Boat Clubs

I don’t have a boat and I am a water baby, so the appeal of boat membership is a fascinating one to me. I love the hassle-free element of the experience, and that there is a fleet available almost all the time. Boat ownership could be in the future.

One never knows. If you love boating, and don’t want to or can’t buy one right now, a boat membership is a lifestyle worth considering.