Since this Q& A is so long, it gets its own post!
Q: What is the exact cost of cruising, and why will no one will tell me?
A: We briefly addressed this in FAQ #26 and on this post, but since the question keeps coming up, we’ll try to be more explicit. When we were trying to budget, we were also frustrated at the lack of hard numbers for costs. But, now we understand why. There are many factors that can affect/change the costs.
First, nothing will dominate more than the cost of the boat. Not just the purchase price, but the maintenance and repair costs. We think the rule of thumb estimate that it costs 10% of the boat value for maintenance and repair is a very rough number. If you buy a 60 year old, 60 foot wooden hull for $15,000, you will for sure spend more than $1,500 a year in maintenance and repairs. On the flip side, we have a three year old, solidly built boat, and we spend nowhere close to 10% of our purchase price on maintenance and repair.
The older the boat, the more likely you will need to spend on maintenance & repairs. That means you need to increase your boat cost budget for each and every year you plan to be out. We can attest that Kosmos does cost money to keep, but once again, at three years old we still haven’t hit the 10% mark.
What tends to go wrong on boats is fairly predictable, as are the maintenance needs. You should be able to realistically figure out what your boat will need over time and plan accordingly. Also remember that outside the US, boat parts are generally VERY expensive, so if you will be cruising outside the US, quadruple the estimated cost of each part.
The cost of insurance is directly tied to your boat, as well (see FAQ #26).
Likewise, the amount of fuel you will use is directly tied to your boat. The more fuel your boat burns, the more the fuel cost. We used about 11,800 gallons of fuel. On a 47, we probably would have used more like 17,000 gallons of fuel. Your route and generator use also impact fuel costs. How many miles is your route? Do you have a lot of goodies on board that use power, and will thus need to run the generator often?
While amount of fuel can be predictably gauged, fuel cost is more of a wild card. Fuel prices are volatile. We saw fuel increase in price by about 100%. And, fuel prices also vary from country to country, so today fuel prices will be X in the US today but Y in Oman today. So, once again, the route you choose will affect what you pay for fuel.
Another wild card is the exchange rates. Sometimes it can work in your favor, sometimes not. For example, we saw the Euro go from 1:1 to 1:1.6 while we were out. We were unlucky in that regard world wide.
Costs vary drastically based on where you choose to cruise, which once again goes back to route planning. Some countries are cheap. Some are very expensive. We can only tell you which countries are cheap or expensive, you have to decide how much time you want to spend at each spot.
Likewise, how you choose to travel makes all the difference. If you choose to stay in anchorages, cook food aboard, stick with inexpensive locally produced foods, and don’t partake in a lot of activities that cost money, your budget will go a lllooonnnggg way. But, if you want to stay in a marina, rent a car to go to a cool tourist spot, pay for the tourist activity, and then eat out three meals because you were away from the boat all day and couldn’t cook, you could easily rack up $300 per day.
The best advice we can offer is to do research. Research the boat you want and the realistic problems you can expect. Research where you want to go and what realistic costs are. Remember your lifestyle isn’t going to change. If you like to eat out now, you’ll still like to eat out while traveling. If you like nicer things now, you’ll like nicer things traveling. If you drink heavily now, you will drink twice as much while traveling (maybe more) and booze is usually disproportionately expensive in most countries. If you think you are going to live a much more meager life while traveling than you do at home, think again. Chances are you will be unhappy if you try to drastically cut your lifestyle down too much.
Always estimate high on costs, and then pad your budget by 25%. We used every penny we had budgeted, pad and all, and then some. But, we also had the attitude that we only had two years of a “break from life” before we would go back to work and make more money, so we made the most of the time we had, including springing for tours, eating out, and other activities many cruisers choose to skip. Had we been more frugal, we probably would have had some money left. It is all about personal choices.