What type of person can afford a yacht?
It’s easy to think of multi-millionaires and billionaires when pondering this question, because few things in this world symbolize wealth and luxury like a yacht, which is like the Rolex watch of the sea.
But is owning a yacht really so unattainable for the average American? How much does it cost to own a yacht? Are yachts always unaffordable, or are there exceptions? They can be “cheap” — but maintenance and fuel cost are a fortune.
How Much Do Yachts Cost?
The price range of yachts varies wildly — from $50,000 to well into tens of millions.
“The cost of yachts has gone up significantly over the last few years, but there is still a very wide price range depending on factors such as the size and age of the yacht you’re after, and how good a condition it is in on purchasing,” said Emily Nancolas, the founder of the sailing website Two Get Lost. “Yachts can range from around $50,000 for an older, smaller yacht of about 38 feet, all the way up to the tens of millions for super yachts.”
What Makes a Boat a Yacht?
But the answer to this question of how much a yacht costs also depends on how you define a yacht.
“If we define a yacht by the Large Yacht Code (LY2/LY3), we are talking about vessels 24 meters in length and above,” said Doug Bird, VP of sales at GetMyBoat. “At this point, older used vessels can be found for around $500,000, but most will be above $1 million and considerably higher depending on the year, make, model, size and features of the yacht you’re looking to buy. Smaller yachts in the 55- to 85-foot range will also be similar, with the lower end being around $350,000 plus.”
Another factor to consider when figuring the cost of a yacht is its location.
“Prices vary geographically,” said Mirela Letailleur, a yacht owner and a travel blogger with The Travel Bunny. “In Sweden you find small used yachts in a great state with prices as low as $1,000, which will never be available in the South of France or the U.S., for example.”
How Much Does a 100-Foot Yacht Cost?
“If it’s a new yacht, it can cost over $30 million — $1 million per 3.3 feet in length,” said Letailleur. “And if you’re talking about boats this big, you need to add crew costs to the expenses.”
How Much Money Is a Luxury Yacht?
And of course, you’ve got the luxury yachts. These tend to be highly customized and may have a variety of unique — and pricey — features. They cost tens of millions of dollars.
“Some have snow rooms next to their saunas, others have helipads and helicopters and so on,” said Letailleur. “It all depends on how much the owner can afford and wants to spend on this hobby.”
Which Is the Cheapest Yacht?
“There is no cheapest model of yacht,” said Nancolas. “The cheapest way to buy a yacht is to buy small and old! Yachts lose value significantly as they age, and the smaller a yacht is, the cheaper it will tend to get. Make sure you always get a professional survey done before buying a used yacht, and expect there to be quite a few maintenance jobs that need to be done before you can hit the high.”
What Are the Hidden Costs of Owning a Yacht?
“In the first three years that we owned [our yacht] Polar Seal, we have spent at least $40,000 to equip her for cruising and ocean sailing,” said Sophie Darsy of Ryan and Sophie Sailing. “Those costs included:
- A new cockpit enclosure to keep the cockpit dry at sea or in the rain for about $7000
- New sails for about $8,000
- A dinghy and an electric outboard for $5,000
- A solar panel arch at the back of the boat to power our batteries for $4,000
- A water maker to make fresh water from sea water for $2,000
- Lithium batteries and electric parts to power our appliances and be self-sufficient energy-wise for $6,000
- A new autopilot for $2,000
- A life raft for $2,500
- Lifejackets equipped with tether lines and man-overboard recovery devices for $800 each
- A lot of safety and communications equipment such as a satellite phone, an EPIRB, a ditch bag, etc., for around $3,000
- The list goes on!”
Nancolas added that you’ll also need to figure in the cost of fuel — especially if it’s a motor yacht.
“Taxes you can expect to pay with a yacht purchase include sales tax, use/registration tax and personal property taxes,” Bird said. “Some states do not have a sales tax on watercraft, so you can avoid certain taxes depending on where you purchase your yacht.”
However, you can use a yacht purchase for a tax deduction. “Regarding tax breaks for U.S.-based yacht buyers, you can take a one-time expense deduction in the year of purchase equal to the purchase price of your yacht, up to a maximum deduction of $500,000 per Internal Revenue Code section 179,” Bird said.
“Insurance varies based on the age and value of your yacht, the experience you have as a skipper and the area of the world in which you are sailing,” said Darsy. “If you allow around $1,000 a year for a smaller yacht and up to $5,000-$8,000 for a boat worth around $400,000-$600,000, then you should be covered.”
Bear in mind that the pricier and more valuable the yacht, the more difficult it becomes to obtain insurance for it.
“Once you get up to a yacht’s $1,000,000 plus range in value, only a small handful of insurance companies will write the policy,” said R.J. Weiss, a Certified Financial Planner and the founder of the personal finance site The Ways to Wealth. “This can bring up complications in overall insurance planning, as one will want to ensure that their umbrella policy will sit over their yacht insurance policy to provide adequate liability coverage.”
“The cost to dock a yacht at a harbor or marina will vary depending on the size of the boat and the location of the marina,” Bird said. “On average, it will cost $50 per foot of the yacht per year to store in a wet slip at a dock in a marina, but it can cost well over $200 per foot per year in high-demand locations in California or Florida.”
If your yacht is big enough, you’ll need a crew to help sail it. Between salaries, uniforms, food and training, crewing a yacht can end up being nearly half of the yearly cost to own it.
Is It Worth Owning A Yacht?
Whether it is worth it to own a yacht really comes down to how you live your life. Can you afford a yacht? Furthermore, how much will you actually use it?
“For the average person, owning a yacht is not worth the costs and liability when the reality is no one has as much time as they’d like to be out on their boat,” Bird said. “For people looking to truly commit to the yacht life, i.e., living aboard their yacht for periods of time or even turning it into a business by chartering it when they aren’t using it for personal reasons, it can be a very worthwhile investment.”
Whether or not owning a yacht is worth it is also a question of personal values and the things in life that you just can’t put a price-tag on — like happiness.
“There’s the whole freedom that comes with sailing,” said Letailleur. “That’s worth it no matter the costs, especially if one can afford it.”
Does a Yacht Appreciate or Depreciate Over Time?
“When it comes to older boats, it depends on condition and gear. A blue water, ocean capable yacht, which has been maintained, will appreciate, as they are getting harder to find,” said Nim and Fabiola Hirschhorn, owners of Sail LUNA and Sail.Play.Dine. “People will pay for older boats that were over-engineered, built strong and not produced to the minimum tolerance [by which] some of today’s boats are built.”
However, most yachts will depreciate over time — similar to cars, the older they are, the less they’re worth and the more maintenance they’ll need. You’d be very lucky to sell a yacht for more than you paid for it.
A yacht can cost as little as a thousand bucks, but it likely won’t be in very good, or even working, condition — and it certainly won’t be new. A more reasonable range for yachts is between $50,000 to well over a million dollars. And then of course, you’ve got the thousands extra in maintenance, upgrades, taxes, harbor fees and fuel.
If you’re interested in buying a yacht, you should do the following:
- Stay aboard a yacht to see how you like it
- Determine which type of yacht meets your needs and budget
- Work with a yacht broker or dealer who can help find the right yacht for you
- Look up the taxes and yearly harbor fees in your area
- Buy a yacht only after you’ve taken it out for a spin on the great open sea!
This article was updated on Sept. 12, 2022, to correct the name of The Travel Bunny blog.