Is Sailing Really That Expensive? Here’s a Cost Breakdown

They say if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it a priority in your life. That’s true with many things, and sailing is one of them. There are costs associated with the sailboat itself, your personal equipment, and other “hidden fees” that most people don’t talk about when it comes to sailing expenses.

They say if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it a priority in your life. That’s true with many things, and sailing is one of them.

There are costs associated with the sailboat itself, your personal equipment, and other “hidden fees” that most people don’t talk about when it comes to sailing expenses.

How Much is a Sailing Boat?

For Sale Sign

How big of a boat do you want?

There’s so much focus on yachts and ridiculously expensive sailing boats that people forget about the joy of sailing and think of it more as a display of financial prominence.

You’re here and reading this because you want to sail, and that’s that. You’re not looking to show off a mega yacht and host ritzy parties: that’s out of the way.

The real cost of purchasing a brand new sailboat average in the range of about $33,000 to $39,000, which is less expensive than a lot of new trucks on the market today.

That puts you in the 16 ft to 32 ft range, depending on the brand, but who said you had to buy a new sailboat?

New things are nice, but with a little DIY know-how you can find someone selling a boat for much cheaper.

You can find 32 ft boats for under $25,000 most of the time, in sailable conditions, but that requires a bit of TLC for the top deck and to bring it into the 21st century.

If you look on sites that sell by owner, you’ll be shocked at how cheap it can get.

Prices are all over the place, but buying a boat can potentially be cheaper than getting a new car if you inspect the market and pore over all the deals.

Ask yourself what size sailboat you would be comfortable with, how many people you’re bringing out with you, etc., and make a determination based on those findings.

Brand Influences Price

Sailing Yacht Catalina

The brand name is definitely a big factor.

A 1995 Catalina is going to cost more than a 1995 Pearson. Both are a good brands with a long history and good reputations, but one is more sought-after.

Does the brand matter to you?

If you really want to get out there and sail, then the brand isn’t going to be a big contributing factor for you.

Once you know the anatomy of a sailboat and what to look for, everything becomes a lot clearer, and you’re shopping for a specific boat rather than a specific brand.

But There Are Other Things to Consider

There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

The act of sailing in and of itself is even going to cost you money because you have to register it with your local municipality or state boat registry before you can drop it in the water. That’s one cost.

It takes a ton of time to drop it in and remove it from the water, which leaves less time for sailing and means less time will be spent out on the water.

That, or you could pay a dock fee to keep it in the water if you’ll be using it frequently. That’s another cost.

One unavoidable necessity is boat insurance. On average, you’ll pay about 1-2% of your boat’s value, so if it has been appraised at $10,000, you could pay 2% or $200 per year to insure it.

That’s not a crazy cost, but roll it up in the rest of the fees and it starts to add up.

The main cost of owning a sailboat is in preventative maintenance and repairs.

Sail tearing, V2 motor trouble, installing new grip strips, there’s a lot that could go wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will.

On one note, a sailboat is far less expensive to repair than a powerboat that relies on a larger, more complex engine to carry out just about everything on the ship.

Maintenance costs should be calculated as about 10% of your boat’s value per year, so if you bought a $20,000 boat, expect about $2,000 per year worth of upkeep.

Even if you have a good year where you don’t spend the whole $2,000, you should put the rest into an account or subaccount that’s specifically for boat maintenance costs.

It’s better to be prepared and stow away the money you already budgeted for the boat in the first place instead of then spending it elsewhere.

The Cost of a Sailing Voyage

Couple Enjoying Sailing And Counting Money

You’ve got to eat, haven’t you?

If you’re going out for a full day (or a couple of days), you need to do a grocery shopping just for the boat.

On top of that, you need to have your personal checklist of items all taken care of: dry bags, boat shoes, clothing, entertainment, and anything else that you’d like to do out on the boat.

If you don’t have some of the equipment, that’s a one-time upfront cost for bags and shoes, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re working from the ground up.

This is a basic cost breakdown of the average price on items that we believe to be necessary when sailing:

  • Life Jackets (Up to 4): $90.00
  • Marine Cooler: $100.00
  • Dry Bag: $25.00
  • Boat Shoes: $60.00
  • Waterproof Jacket: $120.00
  • UV Protection Sunglasses: $30.00
  • Head Lamp: $25.00
  • Assorted Toiletries: $40.00
  • Groceries for Four (1 Day): $80.00
  • First-Aid Kit: $60.00

That’s about $630 worth of goods to get started, assuming that you already have warm weather clothing at-the-ready.

What we can surmise from the cost of sailing is that it can be expensive to get started, and afterward, you’ll be able to enjoy your boat at a much more leisurely pace without having to spend a lot of money. If you want it bad enough, you’ll go for it.

International Sailing Costs

Passport And Sailing To City

So we’ve assumed a one-day trip on the boat, but what if your dreams are bigger than some recreational activity with your friends and family?

What if you want to sail the world?

It’s going to be a bit more costly than what we’ve discussed so far.

Surprisingly enough, there aren’t a ton of fees associated with international sailing. You’ll need a passport to get into a port and spend some time with the local shops and festivities, but that’s about it for fees.

The cost comes down to equipping your boat with additional gear (which we’ll talk more about later) that’s designed for longer voyages.

You’ll also have to budget a monthly amount of money for refueling your engine (if you’re using it in between winds), food, toiletries to stay nice and fresh on the boat, and currency exchange fees for visiting different coastal towns and cities.

Budget accordingly (and have an emergency fund) and you’ll be okay.

How Much Are Sailing Classes/Courses?

If you’re just getting your feet wet, you need to understand and identify the areas of your boat before you ever cast off from the shore.

There’s no better way to do this than by taking a sailing course, but you need to know about the upfront costs.

If you go with an online class, you’ll basically get a great crash course on the anatomy of a sailboat, as well as a look into the way that your sailboat responds and reacts to external forces.

It can be a fascinating, insightful look into a lot of areas, but it is a crash course, meaning you’ll need other courses to get a deep dive into specifics (which is actually why we’ve created so many lengthy guides on specific matters).

You can expect an average online course to cost you about $40.00. These are beginner’s courses for a light amount of information, and although it is helpful, this is just to prepare you and reduce possible anxiety for when you step onto a sailboat for the first time.

Hands-on courses are where it’s at, but the pricing can get tricky. If you go with an ASA certificate program (offered globally by 300 sailing schools), it can be about $300.00 for a two-day course, and a total of about sixteen hours.

ASA certificates are nice, but there’s another course type that you can get, which is a lot more expensive.

For a three-day course with a certificate of completion, you can take an offshore emergency medicine class to teach you first-aid and survival techniques, but it’s going to run around $900.00 for the course.

If you’re looking to be the go-to guy during every joint sailing voyage, this is something to consider taking.

How Much is Equipment?

SSB Radio, Hydro Generator And Solar Panels

Calculating everything you would need for equipment would mean figuring out every possible combination of equipment for every type of sailboat.

While that’s a tall order, we can tell you that you won’t need as much equipment for local day sailing where you can still see the shore.

When it comes to taking out to the ocean or international sailing between countries, it can get pricey.

You can expect to pay up to $15,000 for a combination of:

  • SSB radio
  • Hydro generator
  • Solar panels
  • AIS
  • Satellite phone
  • Fishing rods (and equipment)
  • Repair kits
  • Spare parts

Your voyaging journey is up to your discretion, of course. If you’re okay with just having the sails, the wind, and enough food/toiletries to sustain you during your journey, there is nothing wrong with minimalist sailing.

Having all the necessary safety gear is an absolute must, but beyond that it is fully up to you.

Sailing Costs Compared to Other Boating Activities

Sailing is rewarding in and of itself, but there are other boating activities out there that come with different costs and involvements.

You could argue that some are considered water sports and are worlds apart from sailing, but the truth is you’re going to come into contact with one or more of these activities at some point, even if it’s just while you’re sailing out to sea.

Some of those are:


Woman Snorkeling With Fish

Got a wetsuit and a snorkel?

This is something you can do off the side of your own sailboat without having to hemorrhage a ton of cash.

Gear for one person to get started is typically less than $200.00, and it can be a great addition to your sailing voyage.

Jet Skiing

Jet skis are like miniature powerboats that you sit on.

These are still boating activities, and when you’re in a sailboat and a few jet skis just power past you, it feels like when a motorcycle cuts in between two lanes at a red light.

They can be aggravating to deal with since riders are usually reckless compared to boaters, but they are a viable boating-related activity. A jet ski rental gets expensive.

Most charge by the hour, so if you take one out for three to four hours, that’s about $200.00 (depending on the rental office and where you live in the United States).

Buying a jet ski is extremely expensive, even when you go with an off-brand. You can expect to pay anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000, plus registration and stowing away maintenance money each year.


Family In Boat

Powerboats are different from sailboats, and you usually opt for one or the other.

While everyone wants to experience a speedboat/powerboat at some point, they are ridiculously expensive to upkeep.

You can’t rely on wind power plus a small V2 engine like you can with most sailboats. A paddle is out of the option if you get stranded.

You’re at the mercy of the motor, which is as complex as a car engine. Maintenance costs can run high and are required more often than motor maintenance in a sailboat.

When it comes to full-out repairs, you can expect to pay in the low thousands to fix as powerboat motor, but you could replace an entire sailboat motor for less.


Parasailing requires a boat to be able to do it, and while powerboats are preferred, you can do it on windy days with a sailboat.

A good parasail is going to cost you about $1,100 with all the necessary lines included, but you should also purchase some replacement lines just to be safe.

SUP Usage

A SUP is a stand-up paddleboard, and you might have seen them near the shores a lot in the last decade if you’re a regular sailor.

They’ve grown in popularity, and cost around $500.00 to get started with very low upkeep costs. This is something you can do off the side of your boat if you wish, but it’s best to do it near the coast with incoming waves to play with.


Senior Couple Canoeing

A canoe can cost about $500.00 up to a couple of thousand dollars but generally doesn’t require much upkeep.

You can canoe out on the ocean, and this gives you the option to bring it on a smaller body of water if it’s just not a sailing day.

Depending on the length of your canoe, you might need to register it (most states require over 12’ in length to be registered).


Kayaking is usually done in rivers, but most people don’t know the difference between a kayak and a canoe, and we see them out on the ocean all the time by less experienced people.

Kayaking can be fun, but it’s designed to be done with waves, so you’ll see them mostly in rivers or near the shore during swells. The cost of a quality kayak is around $1,200 and can exceed up to $2,200.

Cost of Getting Started With Sailing

To recap on points that we’ve touched on, domestic sailing is cheaper than international sailing, and the cost of your boat will depend on your list of necessities and how strong your desire to sail really is.

If you’re just traveling out to see because it’s calling to you and enjoying the waves and serenity of the open ocean is enough for you (as it is for most of us), then it doesn’t have to be an expensive venture in the least.

Sailing requires more dedication, but that’s a good thing: you can divert expenses from other activities to put your focus on sailing, effectively cutting down costs in other areas of your life.

Sailing is an investment, whereas many other leisurely activities have been coined to require a fee or toll just to enjoy them.

Yes, there is an upkeep cost to your boat and equipment, which is why it comes down to this: if you want to sail, you’ll find a way to prioritize your income, no matter what amount it is, to make room for sailing.

Even if you have to start with boat rentals for a little while, it’s still good to get out there.

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