Average Sailboat Maintenance Costs (with 4 Examples)

A lot of new boat owners overlook the maintenance costs of sailboats - and maintenance can get pricey quickly. To save you from surprises, here's a full overview of costs you can expect when owning a sailboat.

What is the average sailboat maintenance cost? The average annual maintenance cost of sailboats is between $2,000 - $3,000. However, larger boats of 30 feet and up will cost considerably more. The actual total annual cost is $3,000 to $7,000, due to other recurring costs like docking and insurance fees.

However, what you'll actually pay really depends on the type of boat you have and what you do with it. Not all maintenance is as important. If you're on a budget, you can maintain your boat reasonably well for just $1,000 / year. I'll explain how below.

In this article:

  1. Breakdown of Yearly Maintenance Cost
  2. Different Costs for Four Situations
  3. Seasonal Maintenance
  4. Recurring Longterm Maintenance
  5. Incidental Maintenance Costs
  6. Other Costs to Keep in Mind

Breakdown of Yearly Maintenance Cost

Let's start by getting a good overview of the different maintenance costs. Here's a full overview of all the recurring maintenance from most to least frequent. I'll explain each line item in detail later on.

The average maintenance cost will be roughly $255 dollars per month for boats under 30' or just under $3,000 per year.

Maintenance item Frequency Cost
Winterizing each fall $500
Dewinterizing each spring $100
Bottom paint 2 years $500
Batteries 4-6 years $600
Running rigging 5-10 years $5,000
Sails 5-10 years $2,000 - $5,000
Standing rigging 10 years $4,000
Safety equipment 10 years $500
Engine 20 years $5,000
Deck hardware 20-30 years $1,500
Avg. cost per year $2,700

As you can see, most of these costs are longterm recurring maintenance costs. Some of these might not apply to your situation. Also, there are a lot of costs you can save on substantially if you do simple maintenance yourself or have a simple boat. Let me explain.

Different Costs for Four Situations

The total maintenance cost varies a lot, depending on the following factors:

  • length of the boat
  • saltwater or freshwater use
  • racing, cruising, or liveaboard use
  • sail area and rig type of the boat

Still, we want a general feel of what to expect. That's why I've calculated the average maintenance costs for four different types of boat below:

Maintenance cost for four boat types:

Situation What do you do? Average cost
40 ft bluewater cruiser everything except winterizing $3,225
24 ft daytripper seasonal maintenance, hull, engine, rigging $1,600
34 ft liveaboard batteries, hull $1,550
30 ft budget only bare essentials $275

Your specific maintenance cost will vary depending on what type of boat you have and how you'll use it. Below, I'll go over four different situations and explain what type of maintenance you'll most likely will and won't do, and what the price tag is for each situation.

24 ft Daytripper

Most people starting out will get a smaller size boat and use it for day trips and weekend trips. These boats have less moving parts and less critical parts. It will be important to maintain a couple of parts, though:

  • engine
  • rigging
  • seasonal maintenance

With a first boat, you most likely won't invest in new sails or the standing rigging if you don't have to.

The total maintenance cost for a small daytripper will average around $1,600 per year or $133 per month.

Maintenance item Frequency Cost
Winterizing each fall $50
Dewinterizing each spring $50
Bottom paint 2 years $500
Batteries 4-6 years $600
Running rigging 10 years $5,000
Sails 10 years $4,000
Standing rigging 20 years $4,000
Safety equipment 10 years $500
Avg. cost per year $1,600

30 ft Budget Sailboat

What would be the maintenance cost if you were on a tight budget? Well, for starters, I'd recommend doing most small maintenance yourself and ignore all non-essential. On sailboats, however, there aren't a lot of non-essential parts. But here are some things we could do out to save some big bucks:

  • don't set aside money for long-term recurring maintenance (rigging, sails, hardware, and batteries)
  • don't outsource engine maintenance, instead do oil changes ourselves
  • antifoul less frequently (every 4 years)
  • budget DIY winterization

Winterizing your boat yourself can cost you as little as $50 for antifreeze and an oil change afterward.

The total maintenance cost on a tight budget can get as low as $275 per year, or $23 per month.

Maintenance item Frequency Cost
Winterizing each fall $50
Dewinterizing each spring $50
Bottom paint 4 years $500
Safety equipment 10 years $500
Avg. cost per year $275

34 ft Liveaboard

Liveaboards that don't really sail that much have less maintenance to do in one way, and more in another. The sails, rigging, and engine will be less critical if you won't take her out very often. Also, you'll have plenty of time doing odd jobs yourself, since you'll be living on the boat. On the other hand, it will be very important to maintain hull health, as even small leaks will lead to condensation and mold, which is horrible for your health and living standard.

Replacing electronics won't be very important - however, your batteries will need to be replaced more often.

Important maintenance:

  • seasonal maintenance
  • hull cleaning and painting
  • replacing batteries

If you live on a boat in a location where it falls below freezing temperature (good luck!).

Maintenance item Frequency Cost
Winterizing each fall $500
Dewinterizing each spring $100
Bottom paint 2 years $500
Batteries 4-6 years $600
Safety equipment 10 years $500
Engine 20 years $5,000
Avg. cost per year $1,550

The total maintenance cost for a liveaboard will average around $1,550 per year or $129 per month.

40 ft Bluewater Cruiser

If you own a bluewater cruiser, your maintenance cost will go up a lot. Saltwater is a lot more corrosive, and the stress on your rigging and sails will be higher. Sun wear and constant use will wear down the sails and rigging even more. Your engine will wear out faster, and you'll need more incidental repairs as well.

The interval of longterm maintenance will increase dramatically in these conditions.

On top of that, maintaining your boat properly is critical. In marine environments, everything can go wrong exactly one time for it to be critical.

You want a reliable boat, which means you'll fix anything that needs fixing immediately.

Your sail area will most likely also be larger, which means your sail replacement will be more expensive.

One advantage is that you might not need to winterize if you're a fulltime cruiser since you'll probably spend your winters in Bermuda.

Maintenance item Frequency Cost
Bottom paint 2 years $500
Batteries 4 years $600
Running rigging 5 years $5,000
Sails 5 years $4,000
Standing rigging 10 years $4,000
Safety equipment 10 years $500
Engine 10 years $5,000
Deck hardware 20 years $1,500
Avg. cost per year $3,225

The total maintenance cost for a bluewater cruiser will average around $3,225 per year or $269 per month.

There are three types of maintenance:

  1. seasonal maintenance - yearly recurring jobs
  2. long-term recurring maintenance
  3. incidental maintenance

Let's go over each type and break down which costs to expect exactly.
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Seasonal Maintenance

Winterizing

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. Learn all about the dangers of failing to winterize here.

It's the best way to protect your boat in wintertime, period.

It consists of two parts:

  1. Winterizing - costs $500 to $1000 - 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.
  2. Winter storage - costs $50 per ft on average

Here's the full winterizing checklist

For dry storage, part of the process can be to shrink wrap your boat. Now, this is expensive, and it is hard on the environment. Some boaters don't shrink wrap in the winter because of it.

Here's the average cost to shrink wrap a boat

Antifouling

Your boat will need bottom paint roughly every 2 years (could be longer, but to be safe, let's keep it at two). It's also called antifouling paint because it helps to protect your hull from weeds, barnacles, and so on. Barnacles can slice through your boat's bellow! So you don't want them on there.

On average, it costs about $15 to $20 per foot to get your sailboat hull painted professionally.

For a 26' sailboat, that's just 500 bucks. Money well spent.

Read more on the cost of antifouling your boat

Recurring Longterm Maintenance

Batteries

Batteries have a limited number of charge cycles. Deep cycle batteries (which are best for household functionality) need replacing every 4-6 years and will cost roughly $600. If you use your batteries extensively, they will most likely need replacing after 3-4 years, for example, for liveaboards or full-time cruisers.

Replacing the sails

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.

I won't go into detail, but I have written an in-depth article about the cost of new sails (opens in new tab). It's a really helpful post (with a formula) if you want to know what to expect.

Replacing the standing 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.

Standing rigging are the cables that support the mast. Click here for a full walkthrough with diagrams.

If you need to replace the mast and boom, prepare to spend anywhere between $15,000 - $25,000.

The cost of replacing the standing rigging is, on average, $4,000 every 10 years.

Running rigging

The running rigging consists of all the lines, sheets, and so on that is used to haul and operate the sails. It wears with time due to UV exposure, flogging, strain from the wind, and regular use. In most cases, you'll only have to replace your running rigging every 5-10 years, but it will cost you $5,000 on average.

Deck Hardware

Deck hardware consists of the bullseyes, tiller, eye straps, cleats, and so on. All this small hardware needs to be replaced every 20-30 years and will amount to about $1,500.

Engine & Engine Parts

Gas engines run for about 1,500 hours, diesel engines run for 5,000. After that, you'll need to change them out.

Most engines will last you about 20 years, depending on the amount of use and whether you use it properly. Gas engine will last a lot less long than diesels.

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.

Read more on the lifetime expectancy of marine diesels here

Replacing the engine

  • sailboats with inboard engine: $5,000 - $10,000
  • sailboats with outboard engine: $1,000 - $1,500
  • most powerboats (inboard engine): $15,000 - $35,000
  • small outboard engines (2-5 hp): $1,000 - $1,500
  • large outboard engines (100+ hp): $10,000+
  • installation cost: $200 - $2,000
Installation Prices

The installation of the engine will cost a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. With inboard engines, this is not something you can easily do yourself - it isn't just unscrewing a motor and screwing a new one in.

The deciding factor of how much will this cost exactly is whether you can simply bolt the new engine in or whether you have to adjust all other parts, including shaft logs, exhausts, electrics, and so on.

Of course, if you have an outboard engine the installation price will be nothing more than a few drops of sweat, swearing, and back pain for a day or two.

Read more on boat engine replacement costs here.

Risers and Manifolds

  • cost of 1 riser : $140 - $200
  • cost of 1 exhaust manifold: $150 - $300
  • cost of labor: $500 - $1,500

Most people need 2 risers + 2 exhaust manifolds.
Parts total: $600 on average
That's just what it is. Where you can really save some money, is on the labor.
Labor total: $1,000 on average
It's about a days worth of work. A professional needs roughly 8 hours to get the job done.

Read more about the cost of replacing risers and manifolds here.

Boat starter replacement

Inboard engine (and generator) starters cost from $40 - over $1,000 depending on the engine. Outboard starters run from about $100 - $500. Skilled marine technicians charge from $75 - $150 per hour. Your costs will range from a couple of hundred dollars for a small outboard up to over a thousand for a large or difficult to reach inboard.

That's a broad range, but if you know what you need for your boat, then you can get a better idea of the cost. The final price depends on two things - what type of engine you have, and how hard it is to get to the starter.

Read more on the average cost to replace a boat starter here.

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 dollars every 5 years. But if you want the good stuff, 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.

Incidental Maintenance Costs

  • Hull repairs
  • Electronics update
  • Recovering a sunken boat
  • Sailboat mast replacement
  • Keel repairs
  • Rudder repairs
  • Replacing or refabricing boat cushions

Other Costs to Keep in Mind

One-time costs:

  • 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.
  • Trailer: $1,000
  • Sailing club initiation fee: $1,500 - $4,000

Recurring costs:

  • Mooring: $10-15 per foot per year (can be much higher for prime locations)
  • Insurance: typically 1.5% of the total value of the boat. So a $50,000 26' cruiser will cost 750 bucks.
  • Maintenance: a good rule of thumb is 10% of the boat value. Expect to spend anywhere between $500 - $2,500 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. - Find out how much fuel a sailboat uses in my article here (opens in new tab).
  • 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: $2,000
  • Sailing club: $800 - $1,500

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