top tips for cruising costs

Top Tips to Calculate your Cruising Costs

What does it cost to run a boat? The answer is irritating. The answer is a question. Read on for the Top Tips to Calculate Your Cruising Costs.

The Question: How much money do you have?

This article will provoke you to think about potential costs. We will guide you to think about your potential expenses. But keep in mind unexpected equipment failures (e.g. something new), taxes, medical emergencies, breakdowns etc.


It is important to remember that vast amounts of money do not guarantee cruising success. A simple boat can mean simple costs. The fewer things you make do without, the less you will spend. That’s less money and time, which leaves you time to do what you planned – cruise.

Can you 'do without' a mariner and carry your own water?

Can you ‘do without’ a marina and carry your own water?

Ad hoc payments and Regular payments

The land-living expenses listed below appear shorter than the cruising list. But, the land list has regular weekly and monthly outgoing. Cruising has more ad hoc costs. You may not use marinas regularly. You may have fewer breakdowns and repairs, you may be healthy and avoid injuries have no medical costs. With these statements, you can already see that the cost very much depends on how you ‘manage’ your life.

1) Make a list of your land-life expenses:


Utility Bills




Phones/Satellite TV/Internet

Car (including day-to-day running costs. Click here for cost calculator.

Entertainment (eating out/movies)

Food…. everything you can think of. Monitor your spending over a month and write everything down.

Checking in costs can be reduced if you DIY the process and not hire an agent

Checking in costs can be reduced if you DIY the process and avoid hiring an agent, where possible. This now becomes your ‘job’

2) Make a list of cruising costs: post boat purchase

Checking in charges*
Cruising Permits/taxes (changes with each year/country)
Marina fees (you may not always be able to anchor out)
Accommodation (can you stay on the boat when hauled out?)
Hauling out costs
Flying home (family emergency or just a visit)
Gas/LPG/Fuel/Water (in some places you will pay for water)
Shipping in spare parts
Car hire (potentially)
Boat insurance (check out this comprehensive guide on boat insurance)
Storage costs (are you renting your house/selling your house, storing possessions)
Transit charges (Panama canal/Suez canal)
Repairs/maintenance/new equipment (25% of the value of your boat is a good budget)
Medical costs
Exchange rate fees/currency variations
Mail forwarding services
Food (some places it will be ridiculously cheap, in the Galapagos Islands, (where the locals eat, not the tourist spots) meals were $US2.50 each, shopping was expensive, we saved our supplies and ate out all the time, this was a while back!)

*Checking in charges can range from thousands to nothing. We estimate our checking-in costs for around the world, including cruising permits, but excluding visas, to be around US$2,500. The most expensive (for us) was Sri Lanka (US$200) and the least expensive France ($0). However, this was a few years ago! (Galapagos’ charges were under $200 then, we believe it is nearer a thousand now.)

Can you make your own repairs, or do you need to hire an expert?

Can you make your own repairs, or do you need to hire an expert at an expense?

Personal situation

You will also need to account for your personal situation:

Retired/retirement fund/savings?
Working as you go?
Skills to use while sailing?
Sold up? Still paying mortgage and/or storage?

Just how cheaply can you live?

We have friends who claim they often lived on $1 a day. They caught fish and had a very simple 28 footer. They were exceptional in every aspect, fishing, maintenance, fixing, adapting. This, of course, is quite unusual. You cannot rely on catching fish!

Bicycles and dinghies instead of cars and marinas.

Bicycles and dinghies instead of cars and marinas.

Our expenditure

Later on we’ll post an article on our expenditure over a month (in Ecuador), including our daily tasks. We describe what we had on board to begin with.

More help

Our book, Cruisers’ AA has over 1,800 tips, tricks, advice & ideas on improving life on board, particularly on saving $$$$s!

See what else we get up to here.


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