Buying an Airplane vs. Buying a Boat

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Updated May 21, 2020
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Trever

Trever is a commercial pilot with over 1,700 hours of flight time as well as the owner and general manager of Inflight. He has numerous hours of mountain flying experience and a serious passion for teaching. In just 2 years he earned his Gold Seal Flight Instructor at the age of 22 and became a flight school owner at 23 years old.

To enjoy life by sea or sky? As much as you wish you could probably do both, there may be some tough decisions you have to make when it comes to purchasing an airplane vs. a boat.  In many ways, there are similarities among the two when it comes to the safety, type of ownership, resale value and more. And in many ways, there aren’t. If you have some cash saved and are considering buying one of these two machines, there are a few specific things you should consider. So, is buying a plane similar to buying a boat? You may be surprised at what the answer is. Let’s go!

Safety

Boats and planes differ when it comes to safety, however, one isn’t necessarily safer than the other. Both sea and sky provide inherent dangers, particularly when compared to a car on the road. While boats don’t require the rigorous inspections that go into keeping an airplane safe, they can still become very dangerous if not properly maintained – perhaps even moreso, since the owner is not required by a regulatory body like the FAA to get regular maintenance performed. Buying a boat and an airplane is similar, in that you’ll need specialized knowledge to make a successful purchase. If you don’t know how to properly gauge the safety of an airplane or boat, you will need the help of someone knowledgeable about the craft. 

Used vs. New

Used boats and used airplanes can be a great option if you have a lot of time and are interested in old mechanical components. Several types of small aircraft, particularly old models, use simple piston engines that can be fun to learn how to fix. Similarly, old boat motors can come in a variety of types, from simple two-stroke engines to more complex inboard/outboard models and beyond. New aircraft and boats are going to cost you quite a bit of money, just on the down payment alone. That’s not considering maintenance, registration, insurance. Plus, you know what the acronym for “boat” is, don’t you? “Bust Out Another Thousand!”

Ownership

Buying

Owning an airplane is a freeing experience, however it doesn’t come without its expenses. You’re required to contribute a downpayment of 15-20% and should have some extra leftover savings for the first few rounds of installments. Also, consider that you’ll have to store, register, maintain and insure it, which also can add up. For a boat, you can generally expect to pay a 10-20% down payment. Some manufacturers do offer zero-down financing on brand-new boat models, like Yamaha, so you’ll have to do some shopping around if this is an option you want to pursue.  Like an airplane, you’ll also have many added expenses even after you buy it. You’ll have to purchase storage on land or rent a slip at a marina, trailer, truck to haul it, lifejackets, inflatables, engine repairs. So, in a lot of ways, boats and airplanes are similar in this manner. If you want to bring down some upfront costs and aren’t attached to the machine itself, you can consider leasing either an airplane or a boat. This can be a great option for those who aren’t hardcore flyers or boaters. 

Insurance

There’s no doubt that aircraft insurance is one of the most comprehensive options available – it has to be. There’s too much at risk while flying, and there’s no way around it. Plans cover airplane liability for third-party damage, passenger liability for fellow travelers and aircraft hull liability for damage to your own plane. As long as you are using your boat for pleasure, only some states require you to have boat insurance. However, if you’re financing or docking at certain marinas, you may be required to purchase coverage. And while airplane insurance is expensive, boat insurance isn’t necessarily cheap. It’s generally more affordable if you’re located in a state without a coastline, however, you can expect to pay 1.5-3.5% of the value of your boat in annual rates.

Rental Insurance

Many people opt to rent an airplane or a boat for a single use – in that case, you’ll need some form of financial protection. The company you choose to rent may offer some form of coverage (in the case of airplane rentals, most do), however it may not be enough. You may have some coverage already in place, so check with your current insurance company. Credit card companies also may provide a form of boat rental insurance.

Resale Value

Boat Resale

Boats depreciate fairly quickly, much more so than planes, or even cars. The moment a new boat leaves the showroom floor, it loses approximately 20% of its value. In the second year, it drops 15%, in the third 14%, and so on. The best way to avoid depreciation on a boat is to simply rent one or purchase a classic model. 

Aircraft Resale

Unlike boats, aircrafts tend to hold their value very well, and can even appreciate over the long term. The IATA has stated that aircraft assets are depreciated over 15 to 25 years with residual values of between 0 to 20 percent. The only boats that don’t always depreciate, however, are those classic models, such as old wooden runabouts from the 1920s.

Buying a Boat vs. Buying a Plane: In Conclusion

Now that you’re familiar with how buying a boat vs. buying a plane differs, you can make a more informed decision moving ahead with your purchase. Before you lay down the money, always ensure that you’re getting the best advice possible from a trusted source in accordance with the safety, performance, costs and value of your craft.

 

Both boats and airplanes can be life-changing purchases, so have fun with the process!


Trever

Trever is a commercial pilot with over 1,700 hours of flight time as well as the owner and general manager of Inflight. He has numerous hours of mountain flying experience and a serious passion for teaching. In just 2 years he earned his Gold Seal Flight Instructor at the age of 22 and became a flight school owner at 23 years old.