How Much Does a Boat Slip Cost?
For most boaters, cost plays a role in deciding where to keep your boat. While we would all love the convenience of walking down the dock and stepping aboard, boat slips can come with a hefty price tag attached. In this article we’re going to take a look at what you can expect to pay for a boat slip as well as offer some tips on how you might be able to find a more affordable slip in your area.
Why are boat slips so expensive?
Boat slips are priced based on supply and demand. Anyone who has priced waterfront real estate knows it’s expensive. There isn’t a lot of it and people are willing to pay up for it. While important for boaters, docks and marinas are just one of many potential uses for waterfront real estate. Owners of waterfront land have to weigh their options when considering developing it, with a marina being one of many potentially profitable ventures.
Cost factors aside, there are other restrictions in place that inhibit the development of additional marinas to cater to the ever growing number of boaters. Waterfront land is almost always ecologically sensitive which limits the type of development permitted by local ordinances. Specific to marinas, there are also concerns about the environmental impact of a marina compared to less impactful options which prevent them from being built. In short, a limited number of existing slips are being utilized by an ever increasing number of boat owners causing prices to rise and regulations and land value inhibit the development of more marinas to meet growing demand.
How are boat slips priced?
Boat slip pricing takes two forms, annual and transient. Since we’re looking at long term ownership costs for your vessel we’re going to focus on annual slips. Transient slips and their pricing is often higher since boats utilizing a marina’s transient slips are often cruisers only utilizing the slip for a few days or weeks. A slip that you keep your boat in year round or in the case of regions where winter haul-outs are common, seasonally, is usually priced by vessel length and billed monthly. So to throw out a quick example, a 40 foot boat may be utilizing a slip that costs $20 per foot and billed $800 a month.
Unfortunately for us boat owners, you’re often billed by the length of the slip your boat uses rather than by the length of your boat itself. So in the above example a 38 foot boat docked in a 40 foot slip is still being billed $800 a month.
When it comes to pricing some marinas also vary in how you’re using your slip. A boat owner who lives aboard their vessel can expect to pay a premium as they’re likely to use more water and electricity. And some marinas may tack on additional charges for things like pump outs, fresh water use, etc. while others include them in your slip’s monthly bill.
What does a slip cost?
Well, it depends. Location plays a major factor in what a slip for your boat will cost. Nationally prices vary significantly by region with Florida, the North East, and California having the most expensive slips while some areas along the Gulf Coast and in the South East offer more affordable slips. However, you’re not likely to relocate your boat and life just to save a few bucks a month on a slip. That however doesn’t mean slip prices are fixed locally. Even in a single city or region the price of a slip can vary significantly with slips at downtown marinas often commanding a location based premium.
For a good comparison of slip costs within a city, put together this graph that Chula Vista Marina in San Diego shows slip prices in the San Diego area and even if you don’t live there, it makes seeing how slips are priced easy.
So, how much does a boat slip cost? A general rule of thumb is to budget $20 to $30 per foot per month for your boat’s slip. Remember that slip sizes are fixed and may not exactly match up to the length of your boat and that most marinas will charge by the slip length you’re using rather than the length of your boat.
Are there less expensive marinas? Absolutely. As mentioned earlier, location plays a big role. Some areas are simply cheaper overall while other marinas in generally expensive areas might offer more affordable slips because they’re in less desirable areas.
Boat Slip Shopping 101
Availability – Slips are in short supply and many desirable marinas have multi-year long waitlists of boaters waiting for an availability.
Security – What security exists at the marina to prevent unauthorized access to your vessel while it's docked?
Work policy – Does the marina allow outside service professionals? Many marinas have a select list of approved service providers, which can limit your options for maintenance.
Marina conditions – Ask marina staff what kind of conditions are prevalent. Things like large tidal swings and strong currents can affect docking.