One thing they won’t tell you—and whatever “they” you have in mind is fine with me—is that there are a number of ongoing costs associated with owning a trailerable boat. So, as you search for that new or used boat, remember that there’s more to it than just gas, registration, and add-on gear, whether you’re an angler or a wakeboarder.
Some of the things on the list below are one-time expenses and others are ongoing, but be sure you check them out ahead of time, so you have an idea of the true costs of ownership.
Storage – Most storage lots charge by the foot and include the trailer tongue as part of overall length. My storage lot is a dismal place where people park their boats to forget about them, but I pay just $75 a month for a spot big enough for a 20-foot boat on a trailer. I also was quoted as much as $125, and covered spaces can be even higher. Shop around for storage space before you buy a boat. The boat you’re looking at might be just a couple of feet longer, but it could cost a lot more to store.
Maintenance – Wheel bearings need annual service, at which time the brakes need to be inspected. Having bearings serviced at a shop averages from $150 to $200 for a dual-axle trailer, and figure a brake adjustment is about $50 per axle. Doing the work yourself saves money, but trailers are no fun to work on. Online stores such as eTrailer.com sell complete brake assemblies—backing plate, shoes, hardware, and magnet—for $45 to $65 per wheel.
Insurance — It varies by state and insurer, but premiums are typically are affected by your driving record. Insurance companies figure if you drive like an idiot on land, you will do the same on water. Again, find out what the costs will be before you buy.
Trailer tires — Trailer tires degrade mostly due to sitting and photo-aging. Most manufacturers cite a typical lifespan of three years. Figure about $90 apiece for 15-inch radials. To get the most life out of them, you can buy a set tire covers from Harbor Freight for about $10 per axle, which shields them from UV.
Coupler Lock — A boat on an unlocked trailer is one of the easiest things to steal. Fastway Trailer Products makes one of the most popular models on the market for about $50.
Backup Camera — My favorite is the $199 Swift Hitch camera system from Hardline Products. It’s wireless and portable, and you can use it for other purposes, such as diagnosing noises and mechanical problems you can’t see from behind the wheel.
Tongue box — Almost a necessity for a trailer boat, a locking tongue box is an ideal place to stash tie down straps, coupler lock and other gear.
Trailer Ramp —A simple ramp like the one from TrailerAid.com is an easy way to lift your dual-axle trailer to change tires or perform other services.
An earlier version of this article appeared on Boat Trader in May, 2012.
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