How Much Does It Cost to Own a Pontoon Boat & Maintain It

Those trips out on the lake on that rented boat might have been the highlight of your summer. But could you imagine how much more fun and limitless it would be if you owned the pontoon you use for those family holidays? If you’ve been daydreaming about setting sail a little too often, then it might be high time you consider buying your own pontoon boat.

But, as with any careful and practical soon-to-be boat owner, the first question on your mind is probably this - how much does it cost to own a pontoon boat and maintain it? Well, to help you map out your budget and see whether pontoon boat ownership is something you can afford, we’ve whipped up a detailed breakdown.

Breakdown of All the Different Costs in Owning a Pontoon Boat

Acquisition Costs

Of course, the first cost you should think about is how much it would take for you to get your boat in the first place. On average, pontoon boats can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000. Remember that you have the option to either buy brand new or used, which can significantly affect the cost you pay up-front.

Unless you’re paying the full amount, you’re going to have to take out a loan to pay for your boat. That could take anywhere from under 5 years to a max of around 20 years. It’s important to keep in mind though that a pontoon boat will depreciate fast, so paying for it for 20 years might not be in your best interest investment wise.

The largest amount you can pay for a monthly pontoon boat mortgage would be a little over $1,000 which definitely isn’t a small price to pay. Do note that that estimate applies for $60,000 boats at a loan term of 5 years with an interest rate of 8.24%.

Start-Up Costs

Now we move on to start up costs. This includes buying all of the equipment you need to make your boat functional and safe. It also includes any training courses required by law to make sure you’re fit to operate your pontoon boat.

Here are some of the basic safety equipment you’ll need:

  • Anchor
  • Lines and ropes
  • Bumpers and fenders
  • Personal flotation devices for all passengers
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Audible warning device
  • Lights
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency propulsion like oars
  • Tool box and spare parts

Depending on the brand and the quality of the items you buy, you could spend anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 on these safety essentials. Of course, some boats might already come with a few of them especially if you’re buying secondhand.

In terms of boat safety education fees, it’s mostly going to be a one time payment. Prepare to pay anywhere from $200 to $400 depending on where you decide to get your training from.

Overhead Expenses

There are some recurring costs that you will have to pay routinely to keep your boat operational. Some of these costs will depend on how often you decide to use your pontoon. Of course, the more often you take it out, the more you’ll have to pay.

Here are some of the payments you might want to take into consideration:

  • Fuel - An average of $400 to $500 a month, depending on usage and boat age
  • Marina rental - Anywhere from $12 to $30 per foot per year
  • Maintenance - $1,000 to $2,500 a year, especially if you get someone else to do the job every time
  • Cleaning - $1,000 a year, or less if you decide to do it yourself
  • State boating license - Up to $75 a year depending on your location
  • Taxes, title, and registration fees - Up to $400 depending on your state
  • Marine inspection - Up to $350 annually

All together, these overhead expenses could set you back $7,325 a year or less. Again, a lot of these costs depend on various factors. So you might be able to shave off a couple hundred or thousand dollars if you’re willing to choose more affordable alternatives.

Boat Storage

If you’re parking your pontoon at the local marina all year round, then the $2,500 estimate might be the end of your storage expenses. But if you’re not comfortable leaving your boat at the marina especially over the winter, then you might want to consider getting a pontoon boat trailer.

Trailers can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. Again, it’s going to depend on the size of your pontoon. A bigger boat will call for a bigger trailer. Sure, it might be a little expensive. But a trailer is an important piece of boat equipment especially when you consider the winter months. Which brings us to our next point.

Winterizing Expenses

When the cold months start to roll in, your boat is going to need some extra care and protection. This includes performing a deep, general cleaning and buying a bunch of items to keep it protected from the cold and pests during the long period of storage.

If you don’t have a garage that fits your boat, you might have to pay extra fees for keeping it in a storage unit. There’s also the cost of draining and changing the oil and gas, and shrink wrapping your boat to protect it from pests like termites, ants, and rats.

Some boat owners find that after a few weeks or months of storage, their boat might succumb to all sorts of pests like termites, rats, ants, cockroaches, and more. Preventing and solving this may require extra chemicals and products that of course, compound the cost of boat maintenance.

All together, winterizing your boat can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. Do note however that a lot of these fees can be reduced if you have a storage facility of your own where you can keep your pontoon.

Insurance and Taxes

Your pontoon boat is prone to all sorts of damage. And unless you’re ready (and willing) to pay for all of those unforeseen expenses out of your own pocket, you’re going to want to get insurance coverage for it. While some companies will cover your boat under your standard homeowner’s policy, experts recommend getting it its own coverage.

For boats that cost under $40,000, the average cost of insurance stands at around $20 to $40 per month. That brings you up to a total of about $480 bucks a year. On the topic of taxes, the cost changes from state to state. On average however, you should expect to pay about 0.5% of the cost of your boat in taxes.

Electrical and Mechanical Repairs

Sh*t happens, and when it does, you’re going to need your wallet at the ready. Electrical and mechanical repairs for boats can cost a pretty penny depending on the extent of damage. Fortunately, if you’ve been religiously paying for your insurance premium, then you might not have to pay the full amount out of your own pocket.

Another thing is that newer boats probably won’t have any problems with either electrical or mechanical issues unless you meet an accident. However older boats might cost you roughly $1,000 in annual repairs.

Cleaning and Maintenance

We touched lightly on the cost of cleaning and maintenance a few paragraphs back, but to give you a better idea, it would be best to present a more detailed breakdown. Cleaning and maintenance costs change from boat to boat and from owner to owner. A lot of the stuff involved will be subject to your individual taste and preference, so you might have to keep that in mind if you want to cut back on the cost.

Remember that every part of your pontoon boat will require its own unique cleaning product. From vinyl, to wood, to plastic, metal, aluminum, and more - all of these different materials call for different products.

Here are some other maintenance considerations you might want to think about:

  • Anti-fouling treatment
  • Zinc replacements
  • Motor cleaning
  • Oil and coolant replacement
  • Cowl air intakes
  • Propeller and skeg maintenance
  • Fuel lines
  • UV degradation
  • Grease point lubrication
  • Hull damage
  • Bilge pump operation

Again, these are just some of the things you might want to look into during your routine boat maintenance check-up. And because most boat owners don’t really know all the nitty gritty details and how to fix potential problems, you’re probably going to hire someone to do it for you, which of course costs extra green.

All together, cleaning and maintenance could easily cost around $3,500 a year, depending on how well you take care of your boat. Naturally, older boats tend to push that average a little higher.

A Big Price to Pay

So, how much does it cost to own a pontoon boat and maintain it? A lot, that’s for sure. Unless you’re financially prepared for the undertaking, a pontoon boat might easily become a burden on your wallet. Nonetheless, if you’re confident you can pay up and you’re not worried about missing payments, then go ahead and get yourself that boat. Otherwise, you can stick to the rentals for the time being until you finally muster the financial capacity to get yourself a boat of your own.