The cold weather sets in and the boating season comes to an end.
And the responsible boat owner makes plans to winterize his or her vessel.
If your boat is going to experience a prolonged period of disuse, you need to take the time to flush the engine, drain fuel, oil and other fluids, clean the hull and the interior, disconnect electronic components and so forth.
In other words, you need to winterize the boat!
The Real Cost of Winterizing a Boat and How to Save Cash While Doing It
Yes, the cost of winterizing a boat can be a drag.
And, in the end, you’ll just have to dewinterize it to use it again.
But the cost of not properly completing the process can be much, much higher.
Not winterizing can result in an engine ruined by the expansion of frozen fluids, mold and mildew fouling the interior of the vessel, corroded spark plugs and wiring and even to cracks in the hull.
Compared with the expense of replacing an engine, calling in a mold abatement team or even potentially having your boat’s seaworthiness compromised, the cost to winterize a boat doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
The Real Cost
Now for the big reveal: The average cost of winterizing a boat is about $300.
I got that number from my own experience and also surveying boating forums, reading up on what the experts say and, of course, by checking advertised rates from locations all around the country.
For a smaller boat with a single outboard motor, you might get away with paying a boat mechanic closer to $100 bucks or less. For a large cabin cruiser or a specialty vessel, like a go-fast boat, you’ll easily pay $500 – $600 or more.
Now, for winter storage, there’s an additional cost, of course.
Depending on where you live and what type of vessel you own, indoor boat storage could cost you as little as $20 a month or well over $400 to $500. This adds up, sure, but it’s all cheaper than buying a new boat.
The Cost of DIY Winterizing a Boat
For the handy, self-sufficient boat owner, taking care of winterizing yourself is a great way to save money.
Ironically, DIY can potentially even save you some time.
Winterizing a boat can be done in less than an hour in many cases, less time than you’d spend just driving the vessel to and from the marina or shop.
Just don’t rush it the first few times you complete the process. Haste makes waste… and potentially a damaged engine.
Boat Winterizing Supplies
You can find a number of great boat winterizing tools for sale online, such as the Camco 65501 DIY Boat Winterizer flushing system (check price on Amazon) that costs you about $40, but should last for years.
You’ll also need a can of fogging oil to help protect pistons, valves, cylinder walls and so forth. Star Brite Professional Grade Fogging Oil (check price on Amazon) costs about $10 bucks a can.
A bottle of fuel stabilizer, like STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer (check price on Amazon), should cost less than $15. Oil should not add more than another $15, depending on how much you need.
And then, of course, you’re going to need a good deal of antifreeze. Buy concentrated antifreeze (check price on Amazon), and it should only cost you less than $10 for enough concentrate to make an entire gallon.
Finally, you might need to replace filters. For this, you should budget about $50, though in truth you might get away spending less or you might spend double, it just depends on the boat and its condition.
Final Cost of DIY Boat Winterizing
Add it all up, and you’ll have a cost of between $125 and $150 for DIY boat winterization.
As noted, with practice and experience, the process will take around an hour. Even so, allot two or three hours for the first few times you do it.
And be sure to read your boat’s manual carefully, even if doing so adds even more time.
The Cost of Paying to Have Your Boat Winterized
As noted above, the average cost of having a professional winterize your boat for you is about $300.
That price is an aggregate of a wide range of costs, so we need to look at some more specific examples of boat winterization costs in order to give a more accurate quote.
When a Marina Winterizes Your Boat
You might be leaving your boat in the water over the winter.
This is often a better alternative than non-climate-controlled, out-of-water storage, but not as good an option as indoor heated storage. In the case you opt for storage at the marina, having the boat winterized by the same marina where it will remain makes good sense.
Many full-service marinas charge around $500 to winterize a boat, but this often includes shrink-wrapping the vessel as well as de-winterization in the spring. Few shops or independent mechanics will offer that latter service.
When a Boat Mechanic Winterizes Your Boat
If you hire an independent boat mechanic to winterize your vessel, you can often get away with paying about $150 for the process, plus a bit more for materials.
That’s almost a wash then, when compared to the DIY expenses (assuming you needed to buy all the DIY supplies, having nothing on hand). Just note that many mechanics also charge for their travel time, which can easily add another $50 or $100.
When a Boat Shop Winterizes Your Boat
If you bring your boat to a shop to have it winterized, you can expect to pay between $300 and $400.
With the added expense of using a shop as opposed to a private mechanic, you can count on the process being handled with top-quality equipment and the work being backed by a guarantee of quality, not to mention by insurance.
How to Save Money with Boat Winterizing Hacks
If you’re going to winterize your boat yourself for the fun of it—or if you want to save money on the cost of a professional winterizing job—there are a few steps that you can take to reduce costs.
First, make sure you always complete oil changes when the engine is warm, shortly after it has been running. This not only helps to flush out old oil, but ensures the new oil will fully coat the components inside the engine. You’ll be properly protecting the engine and prolonging its lifespan, saving you huge sums in the long run.
Second, don’t be suckered in by an antifreeze positioning itself as a marine specialty product. Use RV antifreeze concentrate. It’s cheaper yet fully effective.
Third, buy a custom fabric cover for your boat. It might seem expensive, and up front it is, costing much more than shrink wrap. Over the years, you’ll actually save money by using a reusable tarp or custom boat cover and not having to get the boat wrapped each and every winter.
Fourth, disconnect and fully remove batteries, storing them somewhere safe and warm. If you don’t, you’ll almost surely be replacing them in the spring.
Boat Winterization as an Investment Guarantee
If you care about your boat, you’ll spend what it takes to get the vessel properly winterized.
But there’s another reason to spend the time and money to ensure that the process is handled properly, or that you yourself winterize it well: The return on the investment.
A properly winterized boat will look as good in the spring as it did in the late autumn.
A poorly-prepared boat might have mildew stains, a crusted hull, a damaged engine and corroded electrical components. That’s all a shame for the current boat owner, to be sure, but it’s also a serious hit to the future resale value of the vessel.
Spending money on winterizing now will make sure your boat is still worth a pretty penny later, this ultimately the process helps to pay for itself.