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Buying vs Chartering a Sailboat

For over a year now, I’ve kept a detailed cost log for our yacht project. There are two questions I’ve tried to find answers to. Firstly, what does sailing a new Hanse 388 really cost? Secondly, if I compare this to chartering costs, would it have been less costly to rent a boat than to buy one— especially given our short sailing season in Finland!

Conventional wisdom says that it’s always cheaper to charter than to own, but I have my doubts.

The Costs

Our costs of sailing are basically: [money spent for buying and using the boat] minus [money received when eventually selling it].

For a detailed explanation about how I’ve modelled and estimated these costs, check the post: What Is the Cost of a New Hanse 388?

The short and simple version:

  • For the base boat and its options, the cost is calculated as a depreciation cost. The crossover sail, for example was 5,419 € as new, has an estimated (by me) technical life of 4 years, meaning its depreciation cost is 1,355 € / year (or 26 € / week).
  • For extra equipment that will last for several years (dinghy, life raft, etc), calculate costs as above.
  • Add all other direct costs: insurance, engine service, repairs, etc.
  • Don’t include guest harbour fees and other fees that you would have to pay also when chartering. Do include home harbour and winter storage fees.

Using this model, today’s snapshot shows:

  • Investment in boat, options, extras (including vinyl wrapped colour) and other long lasting equipment: 235,328 €. Estimated depreciation costs for the investment (today): 16,437 €.
  • First season direct costs: home harbour slip 700 €, winter storage 3,560 €, insurance 996 €, service 588 €, and other stuff 114 €. Total 5,958 €.

(You can check the live data over here: Cost log & Depreciation model.)

Cost of Sailing Our Own Hanse

Depreciation according to model (Dec 8th)16,437 €
Direct costs5,958 €
Total costs22,384 €
Weeks of sailing6.6
Costs / week (Dec 8th)3,391 €

A few notes:

  1. The weekly cost is very sensitive to how much we’ve sailed. More sailing, cheaper weeks. With only four weeks of summer vacation, however, 6.6 weeks is about as good as it gets.
  2. The depreciation cost is based on a theoretical value model with a lot of estimates. The proof of the pudding arrives only when the boat is sold. Until that, the main cost driver is a (linearly evolving) best guess.
  3. The costs / week will continue to rise for the next few months until we get the boat on water and start sailing again. In May 2020, they will be about 3,800 €/week.

So, the cost of sailing our own Hanse has been roughly 3,400 € / week as of now, and will increase to about 3,800 €/week if we haven’t sold the boat or sailed it (unlikely!) before May 2020.

Charlotte and children on our HanseYachts Hanse 388 s/y Charlotte,
First season costs for this: somewhere between 3,400 – 3,800 € / sailing week.

Cost of Chartering

It’s not possible to charter a Hanse 388 here in Finland, but I scraped together some (at least reasonably) comparable high season charter prices. Service fees, a dinghy and a downwind sail are included (where available).

For the rentals abroad, where you actually can find Hanse 388s, travel fees for two adults, four children and a dog are added. The weekly cost for foreign charters are calculated using this formula: (4 weeks * weekly price + travel fees) / 4.

YachtTravelPrice/wk
Dufour 405 (Midnight Sun Sails)3,950 €
Hanse 388 in Sweden(418 €)3,920 €
Hanse 388 in Croatia(1,579 €)3,855 €
s/y Charlotte (May 1st)3,800 €
Hanse 385 (4sail.fi)3,665 €
Dufour 375 (Midnight Sun Sailing)3,650 €
s/y Charlotte (Dec 8th)3,391 €
Chartering a Hanse, about 3,600 – 3,900 € / week, including travel costs.
Screenshot from YachtRent, yacht-rent.com

Conclusion

A bit surprisingly, the costs are quite similar. For our kind of sailing (doing it mostly during our short summer vacation), it’s not obviously cheaper, nor more expensive than to charter a boat.

The huge advantage of having your own yacht is that you can freely choose when you want to use it. With most charter companies, you have to reserve the boat at least weeks, usually months ahead, and then just hope for decent weather to happen, during that particular time. Another advantage is that you have much better knowledge about how everything works (or doesn’t) on the boat.

And all your own stuff is already there.

And you get the golden colour and the perfectly right shade of creamy white upholstery! 🤟

The biggest advantage of chartering, I think, is that you don’t have any responsibility for the wellbeing of the yacht outside the rental period. No engine services, no winter storage fees, no sail upgrades, equipment repairs etc. No worrying about what the resale price might be one day. No waking up in the middle of the night wondering if the mooring lines are causing chafing on the vinyl wrapping …

For me, personally, I think the boat project is exciting in itself. There is much more to sailing, than sailing, in a way.

Anyway, for our part and our kind of sailing, I’m happy to put one myth to rest: chartering isn’t obviously cheaper than buying a new boat. They are about the same.

6 replies on “Buying vs Chartering a Sailboat”

Nice calculation!

The depreciation model you used was based on estimated technical lifetime of each component, and that’s of course a good model for cost of ownership.

Another depreciation model would be to investigate the second hand market of similar boats (as similar as possible), to keep an eye on what you probably could get if you would sell. You can also look at 10 or 15 year old boats, and interpolate to get an annual depreciation.

Do you end up in the same result?

Yes, good question! I actually did this briefly a year ago for Hanse 575s, covering a few years.

The asking prices (about 5% depreciation per year), in fact, seem to be quite in line with my my model (7% depreciation for the first year).

The used sailboat market is obviously a bit more problematic than, for example, the used car market. The volume is smaller and the level of standardization lower.

Here’s the text I wrote 1,5 years ago:

[quote]I did a short check on Yachtworld.com comparing asking prices for Hanse 575s (2014-2017) to similarly equipped new ones (with 100% “early bird” and trying to roughly match the options), and here’s what I got:

– one year old (one boat 2017), asking about 6% lower than estimated new
– two years old (one boat 2016), asking about 5% year on year lower (about 8-9% lower than new)
– three years old (two boats 2015), asking about 5% year on year lower (about 14-15% lower than new)
– four years old (one boat 2014), asking about 5% year on year lower (about 18% lower than new)

Secondly, if the actual selling price is 10% less than asking then:

– one year old, 15% drop
– two years old, about 9% depreciation per year (17% less than new)
– three years old, about 8% depreciation per year (22% less than new)
– four years old, about 7% depreciation per year(25% less than new)

So, some thoughts about this:

– my estimation of comparable new prices are just rough estimates, and it affects everything, so this is not much more than guesswork
– asking price based on 5% yearly depreciation looks common 🙂
– if buying a new boat, don’t sell it as almost new!
– a slightly used boat (2-3 years) might sell for 10-20% less than the original price, which isn’t too bad, I guess, considering that they are, after all, sailingboats :)[/quote]

Hi Mikael, thank you it was an interesting article I was doing also some rough calculations to determine if buying or charter worth it. I also had the conclusion that after ~5-6 weeks of sailing buying is the better option. And of course you have the advantages with buying what you can not really monetize like freedom and to the feeling of having your OWN boat (same as for a rental or an own flat/house) which (at least in in theory) can take you nearly anywhere in the world.

I am leaning toward buying (heavily biased of course :), but if it ever will happen then most likely via charter management in Croatia and sail away after 5 years after the boat earned ~50% of it new price.

Didn’t you think of chartering your boat a bit (maybe only skippered by you only and taking paying guests) to cover the costs (partially)?

Cheers!

Yes, there is a lot of magic in having “your own”!

I have thought of chartering and we might try that in one way or another. You need a license over here to skipper with paying guests and I planned to get that last spring but then didn’t quite have the time to do it. Maybe next spring 🙂

It would be interesting to hear more experiences of people who have their boats in charter management programs.

Kind regards,
Mikael

Hi Mikael,

I am following this blog about Croatian charter management (catamaran) with DreamYacht https://noshoes-resoled.com/ I sailed once with DreamYacht in Croatia and I was very satisfied with them. I already did many comparisons between the various programs. If you want to have guaranteed income + free sailing weeks they are the best. Then you should place you boat in a less frequent location because you are interested in less charter actually due to the guaranteed income.

But if you do some calculations you will see that with the free management (when you have no guaranteed income, you own the boat, take the risk that it will be chartered by the management company) most likely get more revenue. And the biggest difference is not really advertised: with guaranteed income programs the charter company does not give you a discount from the list price of the boat while in free management the discount can be up to 20% – that is already 40.000 EUR for a 200k boat! This should already cover the sailing weeks you get with the other program. So most likely I will choose free management with the 20% discount + financing with 60% loan 40% deposit. In 5 years the boat should finance itself considering break-even every year. So for a 200k (net price of ~40′ boat with 20% discount ) boat I have to invest 80k. At the end if you keep the boat for private usage you pay VAT on the market price and sail away, or if you decide to take paying guests, you keep the boat in your company you do not need to pay VAT.

If I will have any news I will post it on our blog thalassasailing.com (I think you are already following us on Instagram). Maybe I will create a detailed post one time about my findings as I already invested quite a lot of time into this. I asked for many quotations from different charter companies and, boat prices from dealers etc…

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