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Renting a Boat Slip: 15 Things You Need to Know PLUS Why We Splurged on One

Our fishing boat docked at the marina boat slip

Renting a year-round boat slip at a marina for any type of boat adds considerably to our boat cost, but it’s worth every penny.

Here’s our detailed list of what you need to know when choosing, leasing, visiting or buying a boat slip (based on personal experience after recently leasing our own boat slip).

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1. What is a boat slip?

A boat slip is a dedicated spot at a marina where you can park/store your boat.  There are four main types (see below).

2. How much does it cost to lease a long-term boat slip?

We leased a 25′ slip which costs us $3,729 per year ($311 per month).  That comes to $149 per foot per year or $12.44 per foot per month.  Boat slips are priced by length and type.  Your marina’s location will definitely impact the rate.  Our marina is in a populous area so it’s fairly expensive.

Let me say this. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have found a boat slip.  In our neck of the woods (Vancouver, BC), while there are a good number of marinas, there is constantly a shortage of slips.  When we first bought our boat-access only cabin, I called every marina within 50km and there was nothing. Several told me it was a 2-year wait.  I had resigned to having to use the local boat launch every time.

Then in early October, I called one of the closest marinas, and lo and behold, they had a spot.  I signed the lease immediately.

Most marinas price boat slips by the length and the type of slip you get. Some slips cost more than others assuming the same length.

3. There are four main types of boat slips. They are:

  1. Dockside:  These are dedicated spots along the side of a long dock. You need to parallel park your boat.  All else equal, this is the cheapest option.
  2. Full slip: It’s like a parking spot. Usually two boats share the space and there’s dock extending along one side.  This is the type of slip we ended up with.
  3. Covered berth: Same as a full slip but it’s sheltered.  It’s like a big garage for your boat.  This is the best and most expensive. I’d like to get one of these one day just to provide more shelter for the boat since we keep it in the water year-around.
  4. Floating homes with a covered berth (boat garage):  Some marinas have floating homes which come with a boat slip or better yet, a boat garage.

4. The 3 reasons we splurged on leasing boat slip

In other words, here are the advantages of leasing a long-term boat slip.

We lease our boat slip. We did not buy it.  You can buy them but for the most part, marinas lease them.

The main purpose of our boat: The reason we lease a slip is due to our boating situation which is to get us to and from our boat access cabin.  In other words, we have no plans to drive it to different lakes and ocean entry points.  If you plan to fish different lakes and want to take your boat

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It’s a fairly large boat: Our boat does not fit in our garage.  With the trailer, it exceeds 25′.  We do not want to store it on our driveway. It won’t fit on the side of our house.  In short, we have nowhere to put it other than at a marina.  That’s why we held off buying it until we could get a slip.  Had we not been able to find a slip we probably would have bought a much smaller boat that would fit in our garage until we found a slip.

Convenience:  After we bought the bought, we launched it at a public boat launch. I hope that’s the last time I launch the boat.  Actually, it wasn’t all that difficult but it’s a bit of a hassle.  In the summer, the launch is busy so you have to wait.  When done with the boat, you have to get it back on the trailer.  All of this takes time.  Having a boat at the marina is so convenient.  There’s long-term parking. We drive up, dump our stuff in the boat and head out.

5. What to consider when choosing a boat slip

In a perfect world, we would have had our pick of several marinas, but we didn’t. We took what we could and are very pleased with what was available.  But, if you have your pick, here are marina choosing considerations.

a. Location:  Location, location, location.  It applies to marina selection almost as much as your home.  By marina location, I’m referring to how far it’s from your home but also whether it’s in your preferred boating area.  Both must be considered.  For us, the closest marina is also closest to our cabin but that’s not always the case.  It may well be that you want to drive to a farther marina to get to the body of water you prefer.

In our case, location is important because we’ll be boating to the same place (our cabin) often. The closer, the better.  We landed a slip at the second closest marina which is about as good as we could expect at this point.

b. Dock utilities:  Does your slip offer electrical hookup via amp service?  Again, this doesn’t matter for us but if staying overnight or need to charge anything, this can be an important feature.

c. Live-aboard?  Our marina, for example, permits us to sleep aboard 5 nights per month.  Some marinas permit you to live aboard.  Some don’t permit any overnight stay.  It varies.  While we don’t plan to stay overnight at the marina ever, if you do have living quarters on your boat, this is something to consider.

d. Boat repair and servicing on location: Our marina has several repair shops on the property so we can get our boat serviced at the marina.  The marina has the equipment to lift our boat out so it’s convenient… much more convenient than pulling it out of the water and driving it to a boat service shop.

e. Marina Amenities You Might Want/Need: 

  • Gas (fuel dock): A huge amenity that our marina does NOT have is a gas pump.  We have to go to another marina (fortunately it’s on the way to our cabin) in order to get gas.  It’s a bit of a hassle but like I said above, we were lucky to get the slip we did. We did not have the luxury of choice.
  • Pump out services:  If you need pump out services, this is definitely something to look for. We don’t so it wasn’t a consideration but it’s important if you do.
  • Parking:  Is there sufficient parking? This is huge. If you’re heading out for a few days, can you park your vehicle long term?  While we were desperate for a slip, parking was required for us. We plan to head to our cabin for weekends and weeks so we need to be able to park our vehicle at the marina.
  • Dry storage: If you want to store your boat off the water at any point, does your marina offer dry storage? Do they have the equipment to get your boat out of the water?
  • Restaurant / Food / Retail:  None of this is all that important to me but it could be for you. If you’re looking for a one or two night stay, a restaurant may be necessary.  Or perhaps, you need a fishing/boating retail outlet nearby for provisions.
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f. Nearby attractions:  Again, this pertains mostly to the transient boat slip seeker.  For us, it doesn’t matter.

g. Cost:  All else being equal, cost is a factor.  A more expensive marina can add up over time.

What’s the most important consideration for a long term slip?  For us, it’s location and long term parking.  The closer to our cabin, the better but it must have long-term parking.  There is a closer marina to our cabin but not all slips come with a parking spot so that’s a huge problem.

6. Boat Slip Disadvantages

While I’m very happy having a boat slip, there are disadvantages other than the cost.  They are:

  1. Not the most convenient location:  Our marina is farther away from our cabin than the public boat launch.  We need to spend an additional 25 minutes on the water to get to our boat slip.  That’s a good chunk of time.
  2. Takes a long time to chug out of the marina:  When boating in a marina area, you must go extremely slow.  It’s tight. It’s a maze.  I crawl.  Crawling through a large marina takes a long time to get the boat on the open water.  However, I’m learning that as a boat owner, one must be infinitely patient.  Nothing should be hastily done.
  3. More hassle to take the boat to other locations:  If the boat was at our house, it’s just a matter to hook it up to the truck and drive to whatever lake or body of water we want.  Being at a marina, we need to go there, drive the boat to the boat launch (yeah, our marina does not have a boat launch), pull the boat out and then head out.  On return, we need to re-launch and drive it to the marina.  Not the easiest or most convenient operation.
  4. What will you do with the trailer?  We still have to figure out what to do with the trailer. We could pay $95 per month for yard storage but that’s a lot of money.  I’m thinking long-term low-cost storage in some industrial park or farm.

7. When should you get a slip and when shouldn’t you?

Assuming you have the money for a slip, it’s a worthy investment when you plan to use the boat in the same area all the time.  We live minutes from the water being in a coastal city.  From our marina, which is an inlet near Vancouver, we can boat to many different places as well as our boat access cabin.  However, if you plan to use the boat in different bodies of water, a marina is not worth the money.

If you have a huge boat, a marina slip is necessary because at some point it’s too big/heavy to tow with a pickup truck.

8. How big of a boat can you tow on the road?

Whether you can tow your boat on the road dictates whether you get a slip or not.  If you have a 46′ boat, you’re not towing it.  Speaking of which, how big of a boat can you tow on the road?

  1. Your jurisdiction: there may be laws restricting the length of what you can tow.
  2. Your vehicle’s towing capacity:  If your truck can tow 10,000 maximum, you obviously shouldn’t tow a boat/trailer weighing 13,500.  Note, you don’t necessarily need a truck. Some SUVs can tow quite a bit.  Cars can tow a small skiff.  The vehicle you have depends on. your boat.
  3. Distance:  If you just need to drive a few miles to the boat launch, that’s different than a 5 hour road trip to a vacation spot with boat along.
  4. Beam matters… a lot:  The road is only so wide. Our boat is 8′ wide so it fits inside road lanes just fine but if you have a 11′ wide beam, that’s an oversized load.  You may need a permit or can’t do it altogether.  In other words, it may well be the beam of your boat that prohibits towing instead of length or weight.
  5. Boat height (on the trailer):  If your boat is tall, that could prohibit you from towing it.  Again, you’ll need to check any height restrictions.
  6. Your comfort level:  While I know some folks will tow a 30′ boat, I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that. I don’t think I’d tow anything longer than 22 to 24′.
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9. The bigger the boat, the harder it is to find a slip

Since there are far more boats under 26′ there are more boat slips available for 26′ or less boats.

If you have a 65′ yacht, it’s not easy finding a slip.

10. Does a slip come with the boat you buy?

If you buy a used boat and it’s at a marina in an area that works for you, inquire whether you can take over the slip lease. This saves you the hassle of having to find a slip.  I’ve even heard of accounts where people who buy a cabin whose owner has a boat at a nearby marina, will contract that the boat slip lease / deed transfers to the cabin buyer.  If you do this as a buyer, be sure to get confirmation from the marina that they will transfer the slip to you.  They might have a waiting list that they’ll honor.

11.  Boat length doesn’t equal slip length

In other words, if you have an outboard motor or inboard/outboard motor, you will need a slip that accommodates a boat longer than your boat’s reported length.  Boat length does not include the motor.  For example, our boat is 18′ but with the outboard motor, it’s 21′ to 22′.  Marinas don’t like cramming boats that outsize the slip.

12. You still have the trailer to deal with even if you get a boat slip

You can’t put the trailer in the water which means we still have the trailer to store.  I hope to not use the trailer.  In fact, I was tempted to have the boat dealer deliver the boat for us and not buy the trailer but I figured just in case I need to pull the boat out of the water at some point I better get a trailer.  For now, we have it stored in a temporary spot but I’m pretty certain storing it somewhere will cost more money.  Many marinas offer trailer storage. Ours does and I may take them up on it, but it’s not cheap. They quoted me $94 per month.

13. Marina security

If you have a lower cost boat and don’t keep valuables on it, security might not be that big of an issue for you.  However, if you have an expensive boat and/or store valuables on it, marina security matters a lot.

Our marina can only be access via key.  It’s not open to the public at all.  To access any of the docks, requires a key.  It’s not easy to access either other than having a key which is great.  While I don’t keep valuables on board, you never know.

14. 24/7 access?

Our marina is not open on weekends but we have 24/7 access.  If you rely on marina services, marina hours may matter to you.  A nearby marina is closed Tuesdays and Thursdays which means no gassing up there on those days. We can easily work around that but it’s a matter of remembering that.

15. How close can you get your vehicle to your boat?

This only matters if you have a lot of stuff to put on your boat before taking it out. Since we’re boating to a cabin, we’ll definitely have plenty to haul back and forth such as bins of food, furniture, etc.  Fortunately, we can get our vehicle fairly close to our boat.  Again, this would not be a deal-breaker feature, but it matters.