If you are in the market for a new boat, or are a current boat owner that’s tired of trailering your boat to and from the lake, then this article is for you. When it comes to boat ownership you have limited options when it comes to boat storage while you aren’t using it. For me there are only two options, storing the boat at home and trailering it to the lake, or renting a slip. So in this article we’re going to look and the pros and cons of renting a boat slip.
I’m a 2 time boat owner and will be purchasing another one next season, so I’m already asking myself questions like this. My first boat was on a trailer and was a 21 ft Four Winns runabout. It was easy enough to maneuver around with my truck and put in the water, but it took 2 people and was still a hassle.
My second boat was a 26 ft pontoon boat that was in a slip. Having a slip was pretty nice I’ll admit, even with the extra cost. Being able to simply load up the car, drive to the marina, walk down to the docks, and hop in the boat and take off, was so easy.
Since I’ve done both, I feel like I can talk about the benefits and fallbacks of both options. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of renting a slip, as well as using a trailer.
Pros and cons of renting a boat slip
Let’s start with the pros..
Pros of renting a boat slip
The first thing that comes to my mind when considering the best part about renting a boat slip at a marina is the convenience. You simply park in the parking lot and walk down to your boat. Nice marinas will have little carts you can use to wheel your cooler and stuff down.
Marinas that really go out of their way to be helpful will even take it a step further. The marina I’m looking at for next season has employees riding around the parking lot on golf carts and will drive you and your guests down to your boat for free, but it’s nice to tip them a few bucks.. I always do.
Another reason why boat slips at marinas are great is the added security you get for your boat. At the nicer marinas they will have locked gates that close at dark, some even have 24 hour security guards. Having that peace of mind is almost priceless, especially with the price of some boats and our belongings that we keep on them.
3. Amenities of the marina
Marina’s have many different amenities that you can enjoy. Things that you just can’t get access to on a regular basis ,or at all, when you are trailering your boat from your own storage location. If you have a marina in mind I suggest going to their website and checking out everything they offer to slip owners. I love marinas with nice restaurants on the water and tackle shops. On this list of pros and cons of renting a boat slip, the marina’s amenities are definitely in the pros column.
Unless it’s a private yacht club or something like that, everyone has access to many parts of a marina such as the restaurant and tackle shop. But only slip owners can access the docks and private slips, giving your boat an added element of privacy. You’ll even get to know some of your neighbors and probably make some new friends.
5. Marina workers and mechanics
Let’s say your boat breaks down a mile from the slip or you’re having trouble parking your boat, the marina workers are always happy to help. On top of that there is usually a mechanic on-duty at any marina should you need something replaced or repaired.
Cons of renting a boat slip
Next up are the cons..
This is of course the worst part of renting a boat slip, the cost. They can be quite expensive in some cases. I’ve been doing some research and I’m looking at around $250-$300 per month to rent a 26′ – 30′ slip at the marina I like. Though most all marinas want you to pay a full year in advance, so get ready to put down a chunk of cash. Also, if you sell your boat before your slip renewal is up you probably won’t get any of that money back. So just lump it in to the sale of the boat.
2. Finding an available slip
Many of the most popular marinas will be sold out and even reserved for months and years in advance. There are obviously a limited number of slips at any marina and boating is very popular. If you are sure that you want to go the slip route, and know that you’re gonna buy a boat soon, you may want to start calling around now.
3. Access to your boat
Marinas have hours of operation like any other business, so they may close off access to your boat. Some may give you a keycard so that you can get through a gate to access your boat, especially if there are liveaboards on the dock. However other marinas may just close access after say 8pm or something. Either way, there is a chance that you’ll have limited access to your boat. Even though most of us only visit our boats during the day and when it’s sunny.
4. Cost of gas at the marina
If you’ve ever filled up your boat’s tank at a marina then you already know this. Gas at the marina will cost a lot more than if you went to a regular gas station, like twice as much. I’m not quite sure why but it may have to do with the fact that it’s more difficult to fill their holding tank? Or maybe it’s simply because they can.
5, May be crowded
Marina’s can be crowded in the peak season, there are boats whizzing around everywhere. Many of the boaters are inexperienced and go too fast. That being said, this has never been an issue for me and isn’t something that would dictate my decision because it’s not much of a problem. Something to keep in mind nevertheless.
Pros and cons of trailering your boat
We’ll again start with the pros..
Pros of trailering your boat
As I mentioned above, renting a slip can be rather costly. To be honest it doesn’t make sense to rent a slip in many cases. If you have a truck or SUV with a tow package, your boat is small enough, and you only paid a few thousand for it, then trailering it is probably your best bet. It will certainly save you a lot of money that you can use to save up for a bigger boat or for the inevitable maintenance costs of your current boat.
2. You can store your boat anywhere you want
Having the ability to pull your boat out of water has its advantages. You can regularly check the hull and make sure everything is tip-top. If you need to work on your boat it’s certainly A LOT easier if it’s parked in your driveway or in your garage.
3. Cheaper gas
As I mentioned above, gas is sky high at the marina. If you are trailering your boat then you can stop at the gas station on your way to the lake and pay half price for gas compared to what you would at the marina. Most boats hold a lot of gas and even a runabout can cost significantly more than a large vehicle to fill up. Granted, you won’t be using near as much gas in a boat, but if you are an every weekend type of boater then it can certainly add up to some big savings quickly.
4. More access to your boat
You’re boat won’t be confined to one marina one one lake. You can access your boat anytime you want and take your boat to any lake you want. In most cases we stick to one body of water for our boats, but it’s nice to have that option. There have been times when I’ve taken my boat to other nearby lakes just to check them out.
Cons of trailering your boat
Next up are the cons..
1. You’r vehicle’s mpg suffers
Pulling a big boat can run your truck’s engine much harder than normal and it will affect fuel mileage. You may think it’s probably not that much but I assure you from experience that I’ve noticed the difference. Now I mentioned that you’ll save money in gas by buying gas for your boat away from the marina, but you’ll lose some gas here simply by pulling your boat. I think you’ll still end up ahead in terms of gas savings though, just something to keep in mind.
2. Wear and tear on vehicle
If you have a tow package and truck or SUV that was made to pull boats and trailers, then this isn’t a big deal. Especially since boat pulling is most of the time only on the weekends, in the summer. However it does strain the engine a little more, and the brakes as well. If your trailer has breaks built in that certainly helps take some of the load off of your truck.
3. Bad weather
Most slips are covered and protected from the elements. If you’re like I was and kept your boat in the driveway then all you’ve got to protect your boat is a cover. Cover’s are great, but they don’t compare to a roof. Also, if it starts raining while you’re on the lake then you may want to make a mad dash for the boat ramp and get out of there. Someone has to run to the truck, back it to the water, you’ve got to get the boat loaded, load the kids up, and everything else… all in the rain. It’s not fun. Sliding into your covered slip is so nice in times like this.
4. Time consuming
Just being honest, trailering a boat and everything that goes along with it is an ordeal. Now you do get used to it, we did. It just adds about 5 layers of complexity to what’s supposed to be a nice peaceful day on the lake. Another one of my favorite things about keeping your boat in a private slip is you can just leave most of your lake stuff in the boat and not have to cart it back and forth. The life jackets, inner-tubes, kid toys, etc. And driving to the lake itself takes a lot longer because everything is slower when your truck is pulling a big boat.
5. Trailer maintenance
Boat trailers are expensive themselves. They have tires, breaks, lights, registration, and other things that all have to be maintained or repaired regularly. I’ve seen many times where the cost of replacing a boat trailer would be more expensive than the boat itself. Basically in owning a trailer you are owning more potential problems.
6. More risk of damage
In which case are you more likely to get in an accident? A. you drive your boat only on the lake and it never leaves the marina, or B. you drive your boat on the lake as well as all over the roads and interstates to and from the lake? The answer is obviously B, you are simply putting your boat at risk much more. I watched a Youtube video just the other day where these guys bought a wrecked boat from an auction lot. The lot was filled with wrecked boats and the majority of them had been in auto accidents on dry land while being trailered. The chances of this happening to you may be slim but worth considering, especially if you are inexperienced driving with a trailer. Which brings us to my final con of trailering your boat.
7. Additional skills needed
Look, it’s not rocket science.. but yes you do need some skills to successfully drive with a boat in tow. Going forward is pretty easy, for the most part. You just have to be more aware of your surroundings, especially when you are turning or going under bridges etc. What can really get you into trouble is backing up. Backing up a trailer is pretty weird if you’ve never done it before, everything is the opposite of what you think it should be. It can easily be learned with practice, but don’t think it’s something you’ll just figure out on the fly. That’s how accidents happen and how long lines at the boat ramp are formed.
More storage options
- Self storage – This can be in your garage, your driveway, or some place similar. The idea is that you own or have control over the storage location.
- Marina slips – The main topic of this article. Slips are found at marinas and can be rather pricey in some cases, depending on the size of the slip, the demand at and location of the marina, and other factors. Some slips even have hydraulics lifts which will even further increase your fees.
- High ad dry storage – Sometimes called dry-stacked boat storage, think of high and dry storage as a giant warehouse of boats on shelves. The boats are removed and replaced via large forklifts. Cost varies but can be on par with slip rental. Usually located at marinas.
- Boatyard – This is typically outdoors, covered or uncovered and may also be stacked. Boatyards or normally close to lakes or marinas and cheaper than renting a slip.
- Indoor self-storage – You may also see many places like this near lakes and marinas. They look like normal self storage units, only for boats. Some may even be climate controlled which is great if your area has cold winters. Probably not the best option for larger boats.
In the end the decision is yours whether or not you want to trailer your boat, of course. Maybe you were born to pull a trailer and backing one in tight spots is child’s play to you. Or maybe you have a nice F-250, and an nice garage at home to store your boat. In this case you might want to save some money in boat slip fees and trailer your boat.
On the flip-side, maybe you drive a Toyota Tacoma and it can’t pull your tandem axle trailer. On top of that you live in an apartment complex and have no where good to store a boat. In this case you’d either have to pay for dry storage, rent a slip, or find someone that would let you keep your boat at their house. Renting a boat slip might be the way to go if you fall into this category.
Whichever way you are leaning, just be sure to go over your options and don’t make any sacrifices that would be detrimental to the overall health of your boat. First and foremost we need to take care of our boats so they last us a long time.