How much should we budget for maintenance and repairs?

Just yesterday we had this question from a new boat owner who purchased a second hand Lagoon catamaran.  It is a tough question because so many people differ in opinion, but we have found many folks who think they are paying less per year suddenly hit a wall where everything goes wrong.

Some new YouTube couples advertise cruising at US$2000 per month all in but to be sure we know this is not possible in the long run.

Maintaining one’s boat and the costs associated with this really vary depending on how many technical skills you personally have, the chores you will do yourself versus those you will sub out to others. It also depends on the country you are located in, the systems your boat comes with and wether you have to use engines or not.

On Impi, we probably go overboard doing preventative maintenance, but we do this so we have trouble free cruising and spend our time seeing islands instead of being anchored off an island doing maintenance. Expenses average out at US$5000 all up including food, marinas, car rentals, maintenance, insurance and this is with us doing most of the work ourselves.

We are not big on restaurants since Ana is a great chef – so we eat well but ‘at home’ mostly. We always make sure to have around US$7000 per month budgeted so if something big goes wrong we can sort it out. Our calculations show though that we have been able to keep Impi ‘ship shape’ at US$5000 per month and this makes sure we have an easy sailing life doing just little top up maintenance chores when sailing.

On average we probably stop Impi cruising for about 3 months per year to do preventative maintenance chores whilst still having a nice life. We try to keep it easy. This way we are able to plan where and when to do the maintenance.

Many sailors take their vessels to cheap labour countries like Fiji, but our experience is that the labour in many of these countries takes 5 times longer than a similar task in Australia, and is sometimes inferior in quality.   So I would say this should always be considered when looking for cheaper solutions. It really depends how up to date you want to keep your craft.

We replace sails fairly regularly compared to many, we also upgrade instruments and now at 10 years old, we decided to replace all taps, mirrors, toilets, dinghy and much more. You probably know we upgraded to Lithium batteries and have super charging systems on the boat. We also replaced the SD 50 sail drives with SD 60 … so what I am trying to show here, is that we would never be able to do this on US$2000 per month, but over all we are buying hassle free and happy cruising time for ourselves, and during storms we have comfort in knowing we’ve given Impi the best of everything.

At the moment we are finding it difficult to stow the patio table up in the roof stowage area because it is heavy as hell and my shoulders feel the pinch, so we are having featherlight composites with a Laminex laminate which will produce a light table making it easier for when we get older. It’s expensive so perhaps with all this in mind one could shave the budget by US$1000 per month if not wanting to go as far with these things as we do.

I hope this helps somewhat; the trick is never to take your average costs over a few months or even in year 1, 2 or 3.  When things go wrong and one has not been doing preventative maintenance the chores pile up like crazy. We know couples who said they spend a fraction on maintenance to us and now they have had their boat hauled for over a year trying to get it back up to date … in fact it is costing so much money they had not planned for that they are probably going to sell the boat.

Another close friend of ours who thought he was maintaining his lifestyle at US$3000 per month, had to suddenly stop sailing. Major repairs were needed and he had just enough to sail back to his home country, where he and his wife are working hard to earn the money needed to get the boat back in shape.

Another top tip we can share is to do the work in your home country or country you understand and are set up in. We’ve seen so many people getting burned on the islands. Islanders think sailors have oodles of money and they know how to work the system. It’s easier to work with contractors who share a common understanding, where you have recourse on shoddy workmanship, have a car to drive around and get spares, have a home to sleep in versus hotels. I thought to share this aspect too as sometimes folks overlook this and spend most of their cruising time in hotels on islands with the boat being hauled.

If there is one thing we are sure of, it is that the purchase of your boat is only the start of the cost of cruising!

2 Comments

  1. After nine years our annual expenses for our boat ranged from 1% to 1,5% per month of our boat value. Pretty much on par with what you guys are experiencing. Had a long chat over the same subject with a mega yacht owner and he had the same percentage in his budget.

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  2. Agree 100% Impi.
    Over the years we have owned powerboats and sailing boats and we have found that the annual cost of maintaining them has pretty much always worked out to be equal or close to 10% of the value of the vessel.
    So if you have a $400,000 boat you can expect that it will on average cost $40,000 a year to maintain.
    Some years it is less, some years it is more but the average over 5 years pretty much works out to be 10% of the value or $3,300 per month.
    And that is just the boat, you still have to eat, by clothes, replace computers etc etc, so whilst it might be possible to get away with a much lower budget for a short period it will catch up with you in the long run.

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