Turns out that owning a catamaran is pretty affordable. Not cheap, but it can absolutely be done on a budget. In this article, I'll show you what to expect.
Sure, there are plenty of unimaginably expensive catamarans available, but a modest, used open catamaran can be as cheap as $6,000 and an additional $1,000 per year.
A new catamaran costs $144,000 on average at 30 foot, while a used one will cost between $29,000-$134,000 on average. New catamarans cost $751,000 at 50 foot, while a used one ranges from $203,000-$690,000. The average annual cost ranges from $2,805-$10,950.
Of course the price of a catamarans depends on many factors, like the size for example, and your choices determine whether owning one is a rich man's game, or actually a very good holiday investment.
It may come as a surprise that you can get a decent 34-foot catamaran for as little as $25,500 on Craigslist.
This will be a long article because there are so any aspects to cover. I'd like to spend some time exploring the costs of actually buying the boat. Then I want to go into recurring costs, like mooring, maintenance, and insurance.
If you're also eager to find out what regular sailboats cost on average, I have published a very similar article on that topic. Sailboats are a lot more affordable than catamarans, so if these numbers startle you, you could check out the cost of regular monohulls.
But first, to get a good sense of the ballpark amounts, I'll give some real-life price examples, like:
- what does it cost if you want to keep your cat in good shape and have a good sailing experience? - aka: most people
- what does it cost if you ONLY spend the absolute minimum amount to keep her floating?
- if I want to sail the world on a budget, what's the absolute minimum?
- if sailing is more of a status thing to you, how much money COULD you spend?
In this article:
Examples of Popular Catamarans and How Much They Cost
|boat||price class||one-time cost||monthly cost|
|Sea Cat 226DC 22'||medium||$53,615||$793|
|Kantola Mach II 34'||low budget||$26,440||$234|
|Ocean cruiser 35'||low budget||$85,850||$913|
|Cruising catamaran 52'||expensive||$2,326,020||$4,450|
There are a lot of great boats out there for a good price and there are also some boats that are so expensive (or so cheap), it's not even fun to look at them.
But one thing's for sure: there are plenty of boats available, and even if you're on a very tight budget, you could absolutely still make it work. Sailing is in and of itself actually not that expensive: wind is free, water is free, boats can be cheap - if you're willing to look around a bit. It's all the little extras that add up quickly.
Listed below are four boats that make great beginner boats. Since more than 80% of all boats that are bought are second-hand, I'll use the prices of used boats I found on Craigslist and Yachtworld.
If you want to know exactly where the numbers come from, don't worry, I'll explain them after the four examples.
1. Sea Cat 226DC 22' for stressless weekends on the lake
- Boat: Sea Cat 226DC 2007 22 foot
- The one-time costs are $53,615
- Your total recurring costs are $9,510 per year, or $793 per month
Let's say you're like me and most other people and just want a nice cat without too much hassle. So you pay people for any important maintenance that's not easy to do yourself. You do the required maintenance and save up for future repairs. You do a little yourself, which saves you a couple of hundred of bucks a year. You also join a (cheap) sailing club to learn how to not trash the boat.You don't want to buy a bad boat, so you pay a fair purchase price.
|Price of boat||$49,900|
|Registration at $10/ft||$220|
|Taxes at 5%||$2,495|
|Total one-time cost||$53,615|
|Mooring at $30/ft||$660|
|Total cost per year||$9,510|
2. Extreme Low Budget Kantola Mach II 35'
- Boat: Kantola Mach II 1968 35 foot
- The one-time costs are $26,440
- Your total recurring costs are $2,805 per year, or $234 per month
Let's say, for argument's sake, you want to buy the cheapest cat you can, saving as much money as possible on repairs and annual costs. How cheap could you theoretically go without ending up with a trasher?
I think something like this old but sturdy Kantola Mach II will be right for you. It will save you massively on the purchase price. However, beware, you'll have to antifoul the boat next fall, which will cost you (roughly $2,000). It's common with very cheap boats: upcoming maintenance. But if the current owner is fair and discloses it, you may get a good deal.
In this case, you won't join any clubs. You'll simply do the most important maintenance to keep the boat from falling apart, find a nice mooring place in a far-away (cheap) location, and sail along quietly and affordably.
|Price of boat||$25,500|
|Registration at $5/ft||$175|
|Taxes at 3%||$765|
|Total one-time cost||$26,440|
|Mooring at $10/ft||$350|
|Total cost per year||$2,805|
3. Low Budget 35' Cruising Catamaran for traveling the world
- Boat: Gemini 105 1996 Cruising Catamaran 35 foot
- The one-time costs are $85,850
- Your total recurring costs are $10,950 per year, or $913 per month
Let's see what it would take to get a good bluewater cat with all the features you'll need to sail across the world on a budget. In this scenario, you buy a fairly priced, not too old cat that is ready to cruise. Something like this Gemini 105 1996 will do.
Not too long, but comfortable enough for extended onboard time, reducing length will greatly reduce cost as well. With boats, you pay per foot, both in maintenance, fuel, and docking costs.
You don't join a sailing club, reserve quite a bit of change for your maintenance fund (since you'll be bluewater sailing), but you don't need to winterize the boat, as you'll simply sail to the Bahamas and stay in the warm waters there. Or at least, that's what I'd do.
Your mooring costs will be somewhat higher, sailing to and from more popular destination, but your overall monthly cost won't exceed your monthly mortgage or rent payments, and you could permanently live onboard without problems.
You'd need an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) to be able to cross all international waters. You can learn how to get your certificate here.
|Price of boat||$80,000|
|Registration at $10/ft||$350|
|Taxes at 5%||$4,000|
|GPS & compass||$1,500|
|Total one-time cost||$85,850|
|Mooring at $30/ft||$1,050|
|Insurance at 1%||$800|
|Total cost per year||$10,950|
4. Luxury 52' Cruising Catamaran
- Boat: Shuttleworth AeroRig 2022 52 foot
- The one-time costs are $2,326,020
- Your total recurring costs are $53,400 per year, or $4,450 per month
So what if you're in it for the fame? Well, don't worry, there are many status symbols to be had and there is plenty of cash to be burned.
In this case, we buy a new cat of 52 foot, which is not overly decadent, but it's a real piece of gear nonetheless. This Shuttleworth AeroRig comes equipped with all the comfort and luxury you'll need for extended cruising in style.
Of course, you'll pay for joining a decent club, since that's where you can show off your rig. We'll also invest something extra into equipment, regardless of the full electronic rig that comes with the boat.
The annual costs will be high due to mooring fees, the club, and pretty hefty winter storage fees that come with a boat this large.
|Price of boat||$2,200,000|
|Price of small boat||$1,500|
|Registration at $10/ft||$520|
|Taxes at 5%||$110,000|
|Total one-time cost||$2,326,020|
|Mooring at $100/ft||$5,200|
|Insurance at 1.5%||$33,000|
|Total cost per year||$53,400|
What Does it Cost to Buy a Catamaran?
Unlike monohull sailboats, the price difference between new and second-hand catamarans isn't as great. Regular used sailboats go at a 65-75% discount, while the discount for an average used catamaran is just 10%.
The price difference becomes more noticeable the larger you go, with second-hand catamarans of over 75 foot going at a 35% discount, but that's as high as it gets.
Size and condition affect price the most
There are a couple of important factors that determine how much money you end up spending.
- Size - length determines mooring costs, insurance, amount of paint on your hull: literally everything gets more expensive with every foot of length
- New vs. used - of course, it makes all the difference whether you buy new or used. Typically, the price of a 35-foot used catamaran vs. a comparable new one is 10% lower (ie. $237,714 vs. $261,286).
Price of new catamarans
The price of new catamarans ranges from roughly $1,765 - $54,491 per foot. An average length catamaran costs between $144,000 and $505,000 (30 - 45 foot). Some go for as low as $42,000 to as high as $924,000.
I've looked at the prices of thousands of catamarans (really) on one of the largest yacht marketplaces in the world (- not manually, don't worry: with the help of their search function). This is what I came up with:
Average price new catamaran per foot in USD:
Catamarans get a lot more expensive from 50 foot and up:
- under 30 ft: $2,835 per ft
- 30 - 50 ft: $9,767 per ft
- 50 - 75 ft: $18,055 per ft
- 75 - 120 ft: $41,737 per ft
Purchasing price new catamarans
|Length Range||Low||Average||High||Per Foot|
Source: Yachtworld.com, Q2 2022
Price jumps at these boat lengths
As we can see from the data above, the average price per foot drastically increases for new boats at the following lengths: 25 foot, 35 foot, 40 foot, 60 foot, 75 foot, and 100 foot. Buy just under these lengths to get the most boat for you buck.
Price of used catamarans
The price of second-hand catamarans ranges from roughly $756 - $39,909 per foot. An average length catamaran costs between $134,000 to $467,000 (30-45 foot) on the second-hand market. Some go for as low as $29,000 to as high as $848,000.
We did the same for used catamarans, comparing thousands of listings. Here are the complete data:
Average price used catamaran per foot in USD:
On average, second-hand catamarans go at 35% less of the cost of a new boat:
- under 30 ft: $2,236 per ft
- 30 - 50 ft: $9,021 per ft
- 50 - 75 ft: $16,204 per ft
- 75 - 120 ft: $30,945 per ft
Purchasing price used catamarans
|Length Range||Low||Average||High||Per Foot|
Source: Yachtworld.com, Q2 2022
If this is too much for you, you could always rent a boat instead. I recommend chartering. You can get great catamarans at great prices. Check out my charter recommendation here.
Price jumps at these boat lengths
As we can see from the data above, the average price per foot drastically increases for second-hand boats at the following lengths: 25 foot, 40 foot, 55 foot, 75 foot, and 100 foot. Buy just under these lengths to get the most boat for you buck.
To get an average of the price of a used sailboat, I went over to Craigslist. I took the first 10 relevant search results for sailboats under, and over 30 feet.
Of course, the averages here are very speculative, as prices vary from day to day. But it gives a broad range of what to expect.
Over 50 feet, listings become meagre. I believe people tend to not place their 80-ft catamaran on Craigslist, but sell it through a broker instead. So I've kept used yachts over 50 feet out of the picture for now.
This is what I found on Craigslist:
|Boat||Year||Length (ft)||Price (USD)|
|Hobie Wild Cat F-18||2013||18||$9,500|
|Pro Sports 2860 Pro Cat||2001||30||$104,900|
|Prokat 2860 Sportfisher||2003||32||$69,999|
|Kantola Mach II||1968||34||$25,500|
|Bennington 2550 RCLC||2014||26||$59,999|
|Glacier Bay 2240 SX||2004||22||$39,995|
|Fountaine Pajot Tobago||1994||35||$159,000|
|Sea Cat 226DC||2007||22||$49,900|
|Glacier Bay 2240 Renegade||2006||24||$49,900|
Source: Craigslist, Q2 2022
I've calculated the median price, not the average. The median is the price that's most common within the price range. This way the highest and lowest prices don't have as much impact.
The average Craigslist price-per-foot of a used catamaran:
|Length||Median||Price per foot|
|< 30 ft||$24,747||$825|
|> 30 < 50 ft||$80,000||$1,600|
|> 50 ft||$2,900,000||$42,029|
What Does it Cost to Own a Catamaran?
So let's take a quick look at the costs for owning a sailboat.
- Registration: costs of registration differ per state, but usually run anywhere from $3 - $10 per foot.
- Taxes: differs per state and country. Most governments want you to pay property tax and sales tax. Sales tax is usually about 5%. Property tax varies and is more complex, so I'll leave that up to you to figure out.
- Sailing club initiation fee: $1,500 - $4,000
- Mooring: $20-30 per foot per year (can be much higher for prime locations)
- Insurance: typically 1.5% of the total value of the boat. So a $100,000 30' cruiser will cost $1,500.
- Maintenance: a good rule of thumb is 10% of the boat value. Expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 - $5,000 per year for small to mid-sized boats.
- Fuel: depends on how much you use the boat and the engine, but on average something between $100 - $150.
- International License: if you want to sail on international waters, you have to get your ICC (International Certificate of Competence. Plan on spending anywhere between 400 to 500 dollars.
- Safety equipment: plan on spending anywhere between 150 to 600 bucks for lifejackets, first aid kit, and distress signals.
- Winterize boat: $4,000
- Sailing club: $800 - $1,500
|10 years||Standing rigging||$4,000|
|5-10 years||Running rigging||$5,000|
|5-10 years||Sails||$2,000 - $5,000|
|10 years||Safety equipment||$500|
|20-30 years||Deck hardware||$3,000|
|2 years||Bottom paint||$1,000|
|Avg. cost per year||$1,730|
Your average maintenance cost will be roughly $144 dollars per month for boats under 30', or just under $2,000 per year.
Maintainance involves a lot of hidden costs
We took an in-depth look at everything. The result is a comprehensive article that lays it all out for new boat owners.
Read all about maintenance costs
Gas engines run for about 1,500 hours, diesel engines run for 5,000. After that, you'll need to change them out.
A standard 15HP or 20HP outboard gas engine will cost you about $5,000 - $6,000 and needs replacing every 20 years or so. If you do the work yourself, it's more something like $1,000 - $1,500.
A smaller engine uses less fuel, reducing your total cost
You can actually use a pretty small engine for most sailboats. To learn how small (and efficient) you can go, I've written a guide on how to calculate it yourself.
Read all about outboard engine size
Replacing the sails and rigging
Most people that own a sailboat will have to replace the sails and rigging at least once in their lifetime. Replacing the mast is uncommon, but if you're unlucky and get demasted, it will need to be fixed. So I've added it to the "be aware this might happen" list - but won't add it to the monthly recurring costs.
If you need to replace the mast and boom, prepare to spend anywhere between $15,000 - $25,000.
I won't go into detail, but I have written a detailed article about the exact cost of new sails. It's a really helpful post if you want to know what to expect.
Good quality cruising sails will need to be replaced every 10 years or so.
The cost of new sails is on average:
- 26' Bermuda Sloop rig will cost you about $1,000 - $2,500.
- 34' Bermuda Sloop rig will cost you about $3,000 - $5,000.
The cost of the new rigging is on average:
- Standing rigging - every 10 years at $4,000
- Running rigging - every 5-10 years at $5,000
Another important cost will be antifouling, or bottom paint. The cost of antifouling is between $20 and $45 per foot. Since a catamaran has two hulls, it will cost roughly twice as much.
- Cost of antifouling a 40-foot yacht is $1,300
- Cost of antifouling a 40-foot catamaran is $2,600
Depending on the usage, you may want to antifoul yearly of bi-yearly, making this a pretty substantial expense: $1,300 to $2,600 of additional annual maintenance costs.
Replacing safety equipment
USCG safety regulations require you to replace safety gear regularly.
- Lifejackets have to be replaced every 10 years.
- Flares have to be replaced every 42 months. You could consider buying a LED electric distress light instead, which will last you a lifetime.
- If you carry a life-raft you'll need to replace that every 12 years as well.
Adhering to the minimum safety requirements shouldn't cost you more than $150-$250 every 5 years. However, if you want the good stuff, or need more fire extinguishers, plan on spending more like $600. If you want a life raft, that's another $1,500.
To avoid you have to go cheap on your safety gear, I've put it in the budget for $500.
If you want to know exactly what the USCG safety requirements are, including checklists, definitely check out my article here.
Winterizing your boat
Winterization is an often overlooked cost, but it can be one of the largest expenses each year. If you're like me, and not so lucky to live in Florida, you need to winterize your boat.
Failing to winterize it will increase your maintenance cost over time, as the engine wears out more quickly, and your plumbing and equipment will fall apart. Winter storms and ice can damage the hull and mast as well. It's the best way to protect your boat in wintertime, period.
It consists of two parts:
- Winterizing - costs $1,000 to $2,000 - This is the preparation for winter storage. You flush the cooling system with anti-freeze, and the boat gets wrapped in a shrink wrap cover.
- Winter storage - costs $100 per ft on average for catamarans (double the regular fee).
Other maintenance costs
- Batteries: deep cycle batteries need replacing every 4-6 years at $600
- Deck hardware: every 20-30 years (bullseyes, tiller, eye straps) at $3,000
Joining a Sailing Club
If you're new to sailing, you might want to consider joining a sailboat club. This might help you to get tips, make friends, and learn in a safe environment. Most clubs also organize races, which are a great way to quickly improve your sailing skills.
But it comes at a cost. Sailing clubs are very expensive.
- Initiation fees range anywhere between $1,000 - $4,000. But that's not all.
- Then there's an annual fee of $500 - $1,000 per year. And lot's of additional fees: for dining, lockers, etc.
If you're willing to skip Christmas, go for it.
Catamarans Are 60% More Expensive than Monohulls
I've already referred to my guide on the average sailboat cost, which covers the same costs of purchasing and ownership as this article, but for monohulls.
Comparing the two, we can safely conclude that catamarans are way more expensive than monohulls. On every point, you'll pay more per foot for cats, both in the purchase and the upkeep.
On average, catamarans are roughly 60% more expensive than comparable monohulls. But there are exceptions.
To get the exact difference in price between monohulls and catamarans, I've done a in-depth comparison of the data. This gives us a detailed overview of the price difference for different boat lengths, both for new and second-hand boats.
If you want to learn about the price differences, and explore if there's a sweet spot of owning a catamaran for you, I really recommend reading my cost comparison of monohulls vs. catamarans next.
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