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The Real Cost of Boat Maintenance!

Updated: May 1, 2023

Recently, we got a great question from one of our patrons. Once we finished answering it we realized that a bunch more of you might be interested too, so we wanted to create a whole post around it. We often get questions about the cost of maintaining a boat, what each repair costs, if we can do it ourselves, finding new parts, etc. However, we never really talked about the average yearly cost in repairs and maintenance. This post is for you if you have been curious!

The question was: Many vloggers have stated that you should set aside about 8-10% of what you paid for the boat as a yearly maintenance budget. But of course if you have an older boat the number may be closer to 10%. Newer boats may be around 8% or less of what you paid for the vessel.

My question is, would you be able to put together a total repair and upgrade tally to see if it falls in line with the 8 to 10% budget (based on the boat value) that other vloggers state you will have to allocate to yearly maintenance. I'm only interested in this repair upgrade tally so I can budget out my monthly income including yearly maintenance. This will most certainly determine the size and price of the boat I will be able to afford. Maintenance is not something I will skimp on.

We have always found that these “rules” are made by people that are just looking for something to blog/vlog about. Maybe they heard someone say it ONE time and decided to make it into a video. Either that or they are just a negative person that is trying to discourage others. We usually stay away from the “rules” but for dreaming’s sake, we’ll have some fun with it.

*We need to preface this by saying that we keep Calypso right, she gets the best gear in her and if she breaks, it gets fixed immediately. A lot of what we’ve done wasn’t necessary to keep sailing along. The upgrades could have been done more cheaply (such as going flooded cell instead of the higher priced Lithium’s) and some upgrades didn’t need to be done at all (such as a redesigned stack pack). It’s our home, so we do more than most I believe. The maintenance costs would also be dramatically lower if we didn’t have certain systems onboard that required repair (which most boats don’t have). An example is our $5k yacht commander box.

So, we went back into our files and got all of 2020 numbers to better answer this.

**Drumroll** We are at just over 4% of the Calypso’s value for the year for our upgrades, repairs and preventative maintenance even with all the extras. If we had to guess, we would have spent about 2/3 less all year on repairs and upgrades without the extra stuff Jeremiah did. But that’s still high due to some expensive components that most boats don’t have.

If this was a boat without all of the extra add-ons and it was purchased with the gear already installed that you want onboard, we think this year would have been about 1% of the boat’s value in maintenance.

It is important to know that every year is different. For instance, we just spent $3500 on a new windlass that broke, and while we’re doing that we will replace and upgrade the aging chain from 125’ to 200’. The chain would probably be fine but we feel better not letting it get to a breaking point. It will also be better for deeper anchorages!

Basically, there is no guaranteed %. Sometimes things are good, easy and relatively inexpensive to fix, and sometimes you’re smacking yourself in the head. Sometimes a part breaks and then works again the next day and continues to work for years-- that's just the life of boating.

When it comes down to it, there are people cruising with no income or savings. Some sail with sketchy unmaintained boats and others simply stay still until they can get it repaired before heading on. The boat will break, you get to choose to fix it now or you can wait for as long as you’d like. That’s part of the freedom. You don’t have to get it fixed so you can drive to work on Monday morning. So it’s absolutely doable. If you’re interested in sailing on a budget we highly recommend watching Chasing Bubbles on YouTube, it’s amazing how he sailed around the world on so little.

Our advice to anyone looking to do this is to purchase a solid boat, make sure it already has the gear you want. Keep it simple but nice enough to keep you and your crew comfortable. ((example would be a solid genset so you can keep AC going in those hot anchorages)) Don’t add any of those awesome systems you see at the yacht shows. You can easily get into the "I need this to sail" mindset but really, just compare it to the ships of the old days. Those sailors didn't need it. Keep the boat simple, and it will keep your overall costs down.

We hope this helps some of you who were interested in sailing, or just entertains you with some interesting facts about Calypso and our mindset!

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