We boat owners tend to think of our boats as money pits—because they are—but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your depreciating asset into a profit center. Or at the very least, recoup some of your hard-earned cash. Here are 5 ways to make money with your boat:
1. Get a captain’s license and run charters.
Whether you’re an angler, a sailor, or a live-aboard snow-bird, there are plenty of other people out there who share your passion but don’t have a boat of their own. Depending upon the waters in which you operate additional licenses may be necessary (in many states you need a guide’s license to run fishing charters, for example), but if you’re willing to jump through the regulatory hoops you may well be able to turn a buck with your boat.
Just how big a buck might that be? In the grand scheme of things chartering is one of the more effective ways of profitably boating. There are oodles of full-timers out there, making the mortgage payment while afloat to the tune of several hundred dollars a day. But it’s a risky business. You’re at the mercy of many uncontrollable factors, like the weather, how willing to bite the fish are (or are not), and of course, mechanical break-down. Many charter operators have second jobs, and many others are retirees who have a reliable secondary income flow.
2. Consider peer-to-peer rentals.
Peer-to-peer (often called P2P) has become a popular way to recoup some extra cash, with assets like cars and vacation homes (think: VRBO). And there’s P2P for boaters, too. Services like Boatbound provide the platform, the insurance, and the marketing. All you have to provide is the boat.
How much money you make depends on a lot of factors—the type, age, and size of boat you own, how often you make it available for rent, and how much effort you put into becoming part of the peer-to-peer “community.” A large part of success or a lack thereof, for example, hinges on customer reviews and how the renter’s community feels about you and your boat after a first-hand experience or two. And there are other rather obvious drawbacks, such as the fact that you may be turning over the keys to a relative stranger (though it should be noted that most services give you the final say on whether or not to rent to anyone in particular). For a more detailed explanation of the ins and outs of peer-to-peer boat renting, read Peer-To-Peer Boat Rentals: A Brave New World.
3. Become a waterborne peddler.
Again, depending on where you do your boating and what sort of wares you’d like to sell, different licensing requirements apply. But plenty of ambitious boaters have added freezers (for ice cream) or large grills (for dogs and burgers) to their boat, so they can service hungry boaters in highly-trafficked waters. Bay Ice Cream, in Panama City Beach, Florida, for example, runs a 17’ center console rigged with a generator and two freezers, selling ice cream up and down the beach. Lake Dogs has a pontoon boat turned concessions stand, floating in Lobdell Lake in Michigan. And Nauti Foods sells a wide variety of snacks and beverages in the shadow of the nation’s capitol, on the Potomac River. Some other enterprising boaters have added huge livewells or net pens to their boat, to sell live bait to anglers.
Is waterborne vending a lucrative business? Not really. The expenses and practical limitations are a lot more significant than with a land-based vehicle like a truck or a cart. And the regulatory restrictions can be a real mess. But when it comes to having fun and making a little spare cash, this is a winning business model.
4. Run eco-tours.
These are becoming more and more popular, as vacationers want to experience the nautical side of nature. Whale and dolphin watching, cruises into the marsh, and “photography tours” (where you take people to get unusual views of wildlife or landmarks) can all turn a day of boating into a money-making venture.
Profitability for this type of business depends to a large degree on where you live. Locals aren’t likely to provide a steady flow of clients, so a large population of vacationers is a must. As a result, most successful eco-tour operations are located in resort towns. It also depends on what type of boat you have. Obviously you’ll need to keep running and maintenance expenses down, which can be particularly difficult when it comes to fuel costs since many eco-tours last just an hour or two, and you may spend much of that time in transit.
5. Become a boating writer.
Everyone on the editorial staff here at boats.com got his or her start by being a hard-core boater, first and foremost. Each and every one of us. You also have boating in your blood, so why not take a stab at putting your experience and nautical knowledge into written words or a video, and see if it generates some cash?
Just how much will you make? How about a cool hundred bucks, to start with. If we decide to publish something you send in, you’ll get a check to deposit in your boating fund. So send your stories or videos to firstname.lastname@example.org. You never know—the next time you scroll down to the bottom of this page, the picture in the “About the author” box might just be your own.