16. May 2022, updated 17. June 2022

Why Size Doesn’t Matter When It Comes to Your First Own Boat

small, soft inflatable boat on a buoy and a statue that seems to be pulling the boat on a rope

For many of you maritime enthusiasts sooner or later the desire for your own boat arises. We felt the same way and we are also enthusiastic boaters! But if you are a newcomer to the world of boating, you can quickly be frustrated or disappointed by unrealistic expectations regarding financial and organizational aspects, and you may even lose your enthusiasm for boating entirely. Of course, that’s exactly what we want to prevent and in this post, we’ll give you some advice on buying your first own boat and discuss why we think it’s better for most beginners to start with a small boat first. We’ll also explain why you should buy a boat today to get on the water as soon as possible and not wait until sometime in the future. Read on and we hope we can get you thinking and give you some fresh input!

Is Boating Really for You?

Boating is often portrayed as the ultimate luxury and all about having fun and enjoying life. We ourselves are passionate boaters, but the reality of boating also has its downsides. Not everything is always fun, and much of it involves quite a bit of physical labor and other thoroughly time-consuming and nerve-wracking tasks.

boats taken out of the water to be repaired in the marina. In the focus is a GRP console boat
Boats bring a lot of work and this increases exponentially with the size of the boat.

Many people without experience underestimate this and therefore we suggest every newcomer to first gain some experience on a small boat. You can switch to a bigger boat later, when you have already gained some experience with your small boat and realized that boating is really something for you. Upgrading is a lot more fun than starting out with a big boat and falling flat on your face with false expectations and eventually losing your enjoyment of boating entirely.

One thing you must remember is that buying a boat involves a lot of financial and organizational effort, which increases exponentially as the size of the boat increases. For some, these costs and efforts may not be a hurdle, but for most of you they will be, and therefore we will go into more detail regarding these aspects below.

A Big Boat Means Big Costs

It is important to know that the cost of a boat generally grows exponentially with its size. The running costs such as fuel, maintenance, marina fees, storage, insurance premiums and, if applicable, taxes are all directly related to boat size. But also, one-time costs such as the acquisition of the boat with associated transfer, purchase of a trailer and eventually the need to install a trailer hitch result in significantly higher costs for large boats. You must also remember that depreciation is higher with the corresponding higher purchase price.

boat repair sign in Sausalito, California
One way or another, you will have to visit boat repair shops, but how much money you will leave there is closely related to the size of your boat.

The costs of a larger boat are not only higher in absolute terms, but you are also often contractually bound to them longer. Examples of this are berths in the marina or storage facilities because contracts are often signed for a longer period of time.

With a smaller boat, all these costs are much lower and some of them are even completely absent. For example, most small boats can be easily trailered, so you don’t necessarily need a berth in a marina. Some small boats like Soft Inflatable Boats (SIBs) even have the advantage to be completely disassembled and you don’t even need a trailer nor a berth.

In summary, you can see that the costs for a small boat are considerably lower. Especially for the first own boat it is better to start small to avoid high and potentially long-term financial investments.

Consider the Feasibility of Buying a Boat

Even if financial aspects do not play a role for you, there are other things that make the feasibility of your endeavor difficult and that cannot be solved with financial means. In this context, we are thinking, for example, of the long waiting lists for a berth in many marinas. So, if you want to buy a bigger boat for which you need a berth, your undertaking can be significantly complicated, since you may have to wait a long time for a berth and therefore have to wait longer to get out on the water.

Aerial view of a marina with numerous sailboats and yachts
Finding a berth in the marina for a bigger boat can prove to be more difficult than you think.

In addition, the search for a suitable boat for larger boats is usually much more complex and time-consuming than for small boats. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that a large boat has many more variables that must be weighed against each other each time in order to accommodate your personal requirements as best as possible. With smaller boats, you usually have much less freedom of choice and the various options are far more clearly distinguishable from each other. Especially on the second-hand market, where it is practically impossible to meet all personal requirements when looking for a boat, but it is rather about the optimal compromise, this difference between large and small boats becomes clear. This is compounded by the fact that the supply of smaller boats in most markets is significantly greater than for larger boats.

On the other hand, a boat survey is almost indispensable for larger and correspondingly more valuable used boats, whereas a small boat with a lower value may well be purchased on an online auction platform without even having seen it live. Such a boat survey brings additional costs in terms of time and money and makes the buying process more complex.

It becomes clear, that the purchase of a larger boat can be affected in its feasibility by several factors, which do not play a major role in the purchase of a smaller boat. But with each loss in feasibility, the likelihood of buying a boat at all decreases. This brings us to the next point, the importance of actually getting on the water.

It’s All About the Time You Spend on the Water, Not Your Boat

We believe, and many others agree, that it’s not your boat that matters, but rather that you’re spending time on the water in the first place. Don’t get us wrong, of course the boat is a key part of your enjoyment on the water, and it is what allows you to be on the water, but it is a means to an end and your true enjoyment comes from the experiences you have on the water.

This ties in closely with the previously discussed aspects of cost and feasibility, because at the end of the day, these should not prevent you from buying a boat today and experiencing that precious time on the water right now.

young girl driving a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) in the Dalmatian sea. In the background you see a beautiful waterfront house
For some this may be just a tender, but what counts is the actual time you spend on the water!

We believe that it is better to buy a small boat that you can afford right now than to buy a bigger boat in the future for which you will have to save longer. You could compare this idea with the financial concept of time value of money, which describes that there is a greater benefit to receiving a sum of money now rather than an identical sum later (because of the opportunity costs for interest payments). Translated to boating, we believe that it is better to spend time on the water today than in the future, due to the fact that the future is uncertain. Nothing and no one can say for sure that you will have the opportunity to go boating in the future and therefore we think that it is better to be on the water right now with a smaller boat than in the future with a bigger one.

Furthermore, in the future, when you can afford a bigger boat, there is nothing to stop you from selling the smaller boat you bought before and upgrading to the bigger one. So, if you decide to buy a smaller boat today, you will be in more or less the same situation in the future as if you had not bought the small boat and had saved directly for the bigger one. But the crucial difference is that in the meantime you could gain valuable time and important experience on your small boat, which would benefit you in numerous ways.

Now some may argue that you would have to save longer to buy a bigger boat if you bought a smaller boat first and therefore it is better to just save money rigorously. We, on the other hand, think that the cost of a small boat can be kept so low that the money spent on it is not a deal breaker when saving for a bigger boat. You can dramatically minimize, if not eliminate, depreciation if you buy the boat used. And the ongoing costs that are actually “lost” you can definitely keep low enough that they don’t matter much while the valuable time gained on the water is undoubtedly worth these costs.

Smiling friends toasting at boat party
Experiences are what’s truly valuable in life, so we don’t think it makes sense to save up for the supposedly perfect boat and pass up the chance to have experiences like this one in the meantime.

In general, not all decisions in life should be made purely from a financial point of view, because this would mean that you would not consume anything at all, because you could always continue to save and earn interest on any money. At some point you simply have to make the decision to spend your money on something and based on the above argumentation it should be clear why we are convinced that it is preferable to buy a smaller boat today than restricting yourself to a bigger one in the future.

Of course, this consideration cannot be applied to every situation, but in general this approach is helpful. At the end of the day, we just want to encourage you to live your dreams, in this case those of boating, and not to always wait for the best time, because whether this will ever happen is completely uncertain. Of course, you should not make naive, careless, or rash decisions, but also too many thoughts and too much hesitation can prevent you from living your dreams. You must try to find the golden mean, which admittedly is not always easy.

Live Your Dream Right Now!

Now that we have explained why we think it is advisable to start with a smaller boat, we would like to note that this is more of a general recommendation to get you thinking. There may be situations where it makes sense to start with a larger boat, for example, if you have already gained experience with friends or on charter boats.

Our recommendation is primarily aimed at total newcomers to boating. However, we are the last ones who always want to plan everything, and we also find it great when even a total novice in boating comes up with the idea to start directly with something bigger. For example, we know some circumnavigators who at some point decided to buy a sailboat without any sailing experience and to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Just like the idea of learning by doing. Some would argue that such an undertaking is naive, and we certainly can’t quite disagree with that, but at the end of the day these people took the plunge and that’s what matters. If you have a dream, then live it!

Attractive brunette relaxing on a boat while sunbathing
Live your dream of boating, whether it’s on a smaller boat like this one or something bigger.

Nevertheless, we are still realistic and see that the initial euphoria sometimes quickly dries up when people enter the boating world without any experience and that is exactly what we want to help prevent. Why not take into account the experience of others in your own actions and thus prevent potential setbacks? That’s why we wrote this post and hope that we could help one or the other to get started in the world of boating. Make sure you live out your own Maritime Affection and get out on the water as soon as possible if that’s what you’re dreaming of.

Are you already a boater and if so, how did you get started? What was your first own boat? Or maybe you are still dreaming about boating and want to buy your own boat in the future? Have we been able to give you some food for thought? Feel free to post a comment, we would love to hear from you! We are also happy to help you and give you our advice on choosing your boat.

Leave the first comment

Stay on topic

Search for

Filter by Topics