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Old 12-02-2019, 17:13   #1
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Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

My wife and I are deeply researching buying a catamaran, docking her in a nearby marina in the Chesapeake Bay, and learning to sail and maintain her while we keep our day jobs during the week. I initially thought that we could afford this, because the cost of the cats we're looking at are around $175k, which is less than the house we thought about purchasing before this crazy idea.

However, after crunching some numbers, I'm getting a little more nervous when I add in the estimated monthly maintenance costs (10% of the cost of the boat per year). My question is this: if we were to buy a good, well-surveyed boat, can we really expect to pay an average of $17,500 on maintenance costs every year (or $1,500 a month)? Or would it be okay to live on the boat while fixing things as we can afford them? We are complete newbies, so it might be okay to learn the ins and outs of the boat slowly...we aren't trying to leave the Bay as quickly as possible.

Thanks, as always!
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Old 12-02-2019, 17:23   #2
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

Depends how long you own it. If it has been sails, rigging,low hour engines,and you own 3-5 years. Maybe pass those major future repairs to next owner.

Is dockage and insurance in the maintenance budget. 10% probably isn't enough really.
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Old 12-02-2019, 17:23   #3
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

Personally If this is an issue I'd reduce the acquisition budget in order to have a bigger fixit reserve in the bank. The survey cannot be considered any assurance about even the near future, stuff happens.

Over decades, the purchase price can be dwarfed by maintenance costs. You may not need to spend that %age every year, but certainly should have it available for when it **is** needed.

You may well get lucky, but it sure won't be a steady even amount each month.

Putting things off just makes them pile up faster.
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Old 12-02-2019, 17:28   #4
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

How handy are you? Are you mechanically/electrically inclined? Are you willing to learn?

The more work (upgrades/maintenance) you do yourself, the less your costs will be.
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Old 12-02-2019, 18:26   #5
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

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How handy are you? Are you mechanically/electrically inclined? Are you willing to learn?

The more work (upgrades/maintenance) you do yourself, the less your costs will be.
I wouldn't consider myself to have a knack for mechanics or engineering, but I do obsess over things and eventually figure them out...it just might take me more time. I would like to learn to fix as much as possible on my own, because it would also help me to learn the boat
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Old 12-02-2019, 18:28   #6
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

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Personally If this is an issue I'd reduce the acquisition budget in order to have a bigger fixit reserve in the bank. The survey cannot be considered any assurance about even the near future, stuff happens.

Over decades, the purchase price can be dwarfed by maintenance costs. You may not need to spend that %age every year, but certainly should have it available for when it **is** needed.

You may well get lucky, but it sure won't be a steady even amount each month.

Putting things off just makes them pile up faster.
In your opinion, what is a good fixit reserve? I'm just curious what might be a sensible thing to consider when saving up...along with saving up for a down payment on the boat
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Old 12-02-2019, 18:41   #7
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

maybe 30% of the boat price

topped up regularly with the guesstimated spend rate whether it proves needed or not

only scale back at 50% assuming the boat's in great shape

Obviously don't need a dedicated account like that if other liquid assets are plentiful

I do this with wheeled vehicles at $1 a mile or minimum 20% of value per year.

Sometimes I have saved up the replacement cost by that time, sometimes that barely keeps up
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Old 12-02-2019, 20:04   #8
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

It really depends on the boat, the age of it and how well it has been looked after.


Your biggest potential cost would be an engine(s) replacement. After that sails are your biggest ticket item. With a reasonably newish boat, that has been well looked after, and these two items are in good shape, then initial to medium term costs may not be excessive.


One thing that I have learned the hard way is that the cheapest boat on the market is definitely not!


Good luck
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Old 12-02-2019, 21:35   #9
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

That 10% per year rule of thumb is very very rough in my opinion.

Compare:

1) Stay on the hook most of the time, rarely motor, solar instead of generator, do your own work, well found boat, no bad luck

2) Stay in marinas, motor when wind isn't perfect, run the generator all the time, hire pros to do all the work, and buy a boat with some existing issues, and maybe have some bad luck too.

Everyone wants to be #1, but you have to honestly ask yourself where you will fall.

But if can honestly say you are a #1, I think you can keep a well-found boat in good shape for much less than 18,000 per year.
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Old 12-02-2019, 21:46   #10
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

Brett,


I bought a then-12 year old monohull in pristine condition in 1998. Now, 20 years later, I have spent $80K with a purchase price of $54K. The 80 does not include: fuel, berthing, insurance. Those are significant, but predictable. I do all my own work except for the standing rigging and haulouts (included in the 80). That includes a new electrical system, Inverter/Charger, engine work - hoses, pumps, exhaust risers, exhaust hose - the works).

The yearly maintenance cost are almost a straight line trending down over the years, but stuff bumps & dips. Standing rigging and a new furler occurred in year 5 or 6. A new alternator and a new fridge electronic module popped in along the way.

If you have that much to spend on a boat and are worried about future costs, then the advice to reconsider your initial price and use more for the future makes a lot of sense.

Good luck, happy planning and boat hunting. It's always an adventure.
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Old 13-02-2019, 03:29   #11
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

I'd think maintenance (etc) would be somewhat/considerably less on a live-aboard week-end sailor, especially if DIY.
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Old 13-02-2019, 04:06   #12
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

Yes a large boat with many systems is going to be expensive to maintain. Smaller boats are less expensive to maintain, monohulls cheaper than cats. You must have a prudent reserve. My experience is that about half the boats that go cruising have a serious breakdown that costs several hundred to thousands while underway. A boat is a low volume production item used in a harsh environment and they break a lot. The only way to minimize this is to buy a newer, not new, smaller boat. Dale
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Old 13-02-2019, 04:19   #13
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

Another point, you have to either have the experience to be so sure of your skills and knowledge that you're relatively certain that no catastrophic mechanical failure will stop the trip, or have the skills to deal with it, or have the money to pay someone else to deal with it. Can you buy the boat and then new solar or new batteries or a new genset? What if a sail rips in half or barnacles tear open the dinghy? Imagine buying a house at the very top of your budget and finding out the inspection missed termites and the associated damage. Same sort of thing.
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Old 13-02-2019, 04:54   #14
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

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Originally Posted by brettrae View Post
However, after crunching some numbers, I'm getting a little more nervous when I add in the estimated monthly maintenance costs (10% of the cost of the boat per year). My question is this: if we were to buy a good, well-surveyed boat, can we really expect to pay an average of $17,500 on maintenance costs every year (or $1,500 a month)? Or would it be okay to live on the boat while fixing things as we can afford them? We are complete newbies, so it might be okay to learn the ins and outs of the boat slowly...we aren't trying to leave the Bay as quickly as possible.

The 10% "rule of thumb" is just a wild a$$ postulation -- I suspect invented so people would simply understand there's more to boat ownership than purchase price.

To get more accurate, more granular... it depends. We spend more in maintenance and service in some years than in others, so the overall amount for that line item fluctuates from maybe .1% to maybe 1% of our original purchase price. I try to do most of our service myself, so that influences the outcome. (No kidding; nowhere near 10%.)

That could be seriously affected if you buy a piece of crap and spend big bucks to restore it immediately, of course. Assume you mean your pre-purchase inspection and survey will hopefully prevent that.

Dockage, winter issues, and insurance are additional line items, though... so those can add up as well. "Winter issues" is one of those maybe categories, depending on whether you haul and store for the winter, have the yard winterize for you, etc. But let's say your dockage is $5K/year. Whatever percentage that ends up being depends on your initial cost of the boat; IOW, it's 5% of the cost of a $50K boat, but it's only 2% of the cost of a $175K boat. And so forth.

You can learn info about those potential costs by checking with local marinas and insurance brokers.

-Chris
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Old 13-02-2019, 05:11   #15
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Re: Worried About Affording Maintenance Costs

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In your opinion, what is a good fixit reserve? I'm just curious what might be a sensible thing to consider when saving up...along with saving up for a down payment on the boat

Every boat is different and comes with equipment at varying stages of their service life. The 10% figure is a running average that takes into account minor incremental refits over the years. For example you may haul your boat every two to three years for a bottom job. In any given year youíll be replacing this or that pump, renovating your propane system, ordering a new sail, a new auto pilot ram, etc.

So the 10% figure is a rough swag. Some years youíll spend less, maybe way less. Then youíll need a new engine and the figure will be 20% that year. But in general it is certainly a good figure to budget for.

Between a house and a boat, I assume you are aware that a boat is a depreciating asset. Next year your $175k boat (which is a $192.5k boat due to a year of maintenance costs) will be worth @ $165k.

And have you researched slip costs on the Chesapeake for catamarans? You could well be looking at upwards of $1,000 a month if youíre anywhere near the central bay on the western shore. Thatís half a mortgage payment on a $175k house.
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