How To Rent A Boat: Don’t Get Taken To The Cleaners! Know This!

Have you ever been on vacation or wanted to get out on the water on a Holiday weekend? But you weren’t sure whether renting a boat was a good idea? Renting a boat can be an easy and smooth process, but at the same time, it can turn into a catastrophe too!

How To Rent A Boat? Take a moment to read the boat rental companies’ online reviews. Then make sure you rent the right style boat that you want to use. Purchase all of the supplies you need for the day and get to the rental company about 30 minutes early. Take lots of pictures of the boat in front of the person showing it to you. Check the gas gauge and shove off!

There is a lot of in-depth information to avoid turning a boat rental adventure into a horrendous story that you tell over Christmas. Here is everything you need to know about renting a boat!

What’s It Cost To Rent A Boat?

Just like car rentals, boat rental pricing usually can get really expensive. When renting a car, you could go for either a decade-old family sedan if you’re on a budget or for a ridiculous supercar for a ton of money!

The same applies to boats. You can find small skiffs that rent for as little as $30 an hour, or you could go for luxury yachts that cost 20 to 30 times more.

As a general rule of thumb, you should remember that:

  • larger boat rentals usually cost more than smaller ones
  • any boat with a motor will rent for more than one without (e.g., a sailboat vs. powerboat)
  • boat rentals usually incur a premium at popular tourist destinations

Usually, paying by the hour is the most expensive option when renting a boat. The longer you rent a boat out, the less you have to pay per hour. Full day rental is cheaper than per hour rentals. The most cost-effective option is usually to rent the boat for a full weekend or week.

If you’re going out on the water for only a few hours, you could consider hourly rates.

But we recommend considering full-day rentals. If you’re out for long enough, full day rates may be cheaper.

It would also give you some leeway with the time. If you find you’re having too much fun on the water, you could stay for longer without worrying about the extra money you would have to pay if you were renting the boat out per hour.

Weekend rates are best suited for when you have a concrete plan of spending the weekend on the water. Or if you are on vacation and are looking to have the option of boating any day that you would like to!

Comparing the price of renting a boat and the cost of owning a boat. Sometimes it’s best to rent a boat overtaking your own boat on vacation with you! Saving yourself time, headache, and even breakdowns!

What Are The Restrictions To Renting A Boat?

If you’re going to be boating in an area you are unfamiliar with. You might be worried about the restrictions associated with renting a boat. These can vary widely depending on geography.

Alaska has no requirements, while other states and Canadian provinces have their own specific set of requirements. You should take the time to research the local requirements for driving a boat in your specific state or area you are going to.

These restrictions can be very relaxed, though. For example, in Pennsylvania, the only requirement for piloting a boat over 25 horsepower is that you must be at least 12 years of age. No operator’s license is required to drive the boat!

Of course, you must complete a quick boater’s safety course in some places. Before the company hands over the keys to the boat. This course can often be completed right there on-spot when you rent the boat. Or it can even be done online months ahead of time!

Sometimes, the course must be completed by all passengers.

Even if you’re hiring a chartered boat with a designated captain.

You should pay close attention when the rental company is sharing safety and piloting information. Make sure you know where important supplies like the first aid kit and life jackets are. Everyone on board should keep a life jacket on at all times, even when the local laws don’t require it.

The rental company will also usually inform you about the USCG Rules of the Water. As well as any other local laws and restrictions you need to be aware of.

However, if the topic has not come up, you should specifically ask them to inform you. Everyone on board must do their part to ensure the safety of everyone else. Make sure to follow these laws throughout your time on the water.

Once the boat keys are handed over to you. You are legally and financially responsible for returning the boat in essentially the same condition. Everyone who rents a boat wants to have fun out on the water. You should make sure you do so responsibly.

Remember, drinking and driving are every bit as dangerous on the water as it is on the road.

Are There Deposits & Insurance?


All boats available for rent are generally insured. Additionally, you may be given the option of paying for additional insurance. Usually against injury or damage by the rental provider.

Before setting out to sea, you should ask your insurance company about boating coverage.

In the best-case scenario, you may already be insured! The car insurance coverage you carry may extend to watercraft. If not, though, your insurance company may offer the option of adding a temporary boater’s insurance coverage. You’ll have to call and ask them about it.

This might give you a better deal than paying for insurance through the boat rental service. In some cases, if you’re paying the rent through your credit card. The credit card company might even provide secondary insurance. You should call customer services to inquire more about this process.

If you decide to be a regular seafarer, you should consider joining a boat club. Most boat clubs’ insurance policies often include boat liability. Taking away the headache of handling everything yourself.

Some companies will have locations all over the world. Where you can just call them up and reserve a boat from the club!


Usually, rental companies will require you to pay a refundable deposit to cover any damage that might be caused to the boat before they give you the keys to the boat. This deposit can often be more than the actual rent of the boat itself!

It is advisable to pay this deposit with a credit card if possible. This way, you might be eligible for the secondary insurance we just talked about. You are also more likely to recover your money should a dispute arise over the deposit return.

This should not be a problem if you have done your homework regarding the reputation of the company, which brings us to the next section.

Checking The Rental Companies Reputation

The most important thing to do before renting a boat. Is to research the reputation of the rental company. The last thing you need on a day out on the water meant for relaxing. Is for your boat to break down and ruin the mood!

A company with a good reputation performs routine maintenance and timely repairs of their rental boats, to ensure an incident-free excursion.

Boats rented out on saltwater environments, (If you are unfamiliar with saltwater, you need to read our article All About Boating In Saltwater!) Are more prone to falling victim to such issues compared to boats on the lake.

However, you should still check the quality of customer service provided by the rental company. That way it will save you the lesson of learning the hard way. When a rental company is less than truthful to their clients!

You might also go for peer-to-peer rentals. In this case, instead of dealing with a company, you rent a boat directly off of the owner using a website. You will come across a plethora of boats in different stages of use.

You should rely on user reviews to make your final decision there as well.

What Kind Of Boat Do You Need?

Different types of boats are suitable for different applications. Before you begin your search, take a minute to think about what you want to do out on the water. Then, which type of boat would best suit that activity.

If you plan to entertain a large group of friends or family out on the water. Pontoons or Deck Boats are an ideal choice. A large deck and high side rails make it a relatively safe boat for kids to bring aboard.

However, make sure to take the pontoon out onto calm waters. Their bulky size and light aluminum tubes, make them unsuitable for heavy seas or rivers with shallow areas or inconsistent changes in water levels.

If you plan to do more sporty activities out on the water, you can opt for speedboats, ski boats, or wakeboard boats. With a wide variety of sizes available with different seating capacities, you can get one capable of carrying exactly the number of passengers you wish to invite on your expedition.

Speedboats, as the name implies, are extremely fast and fun for cruising around and getting there quick!

Ski and wake boats are capable of pulling skiers, wake-boarders, tubes, or kneeboarders behind them.

However, if you have the cash and you just want to laze around on the water in luxury, you can rent a yacht. The modern comforts, such as air conditioners, heaters, TV’s, bathrooms, and power generators.

They are all available on these mobile resorts, and they will make you forget all about your worries! So you can truly enjoy the calming environment of the seas.

Everything from a simple kayak to a multiple-deck luxury yacht is available for rent. It all depends on your budget and the experience you want. If you feel confused about which type of boat to rent out, talk to the rental providers. They are usually happy to help you pick the right choice.

Other Thoughts!

Another thing to consider while renting a boat is whether you want to drive the boat yourself or hire a captain.

If you want to experience everything boating has to offer. You may rent one without the captain. It is very easy to drive a boat and most people that know how to drive a car pick up on it very quickly. We’ve even made a great video about How To Learn To Dock Your Boat The Quickest Way!

However, if you plan to just relax on the water in luxury. You can easily hire an experienced captain to navigate the vessel while you enjoy the trip.

You might be surprised how reasonable the prices are depending on where you are at!

Inspecting The Boat Before Leaving The Dock

Before accepting the keys, you should visually examine the boat for any damage and document it. Look for rust, holes, dents, scratches, and any other damage, and then write it down.

If the rental company allows you, take pictures or videos to keep a record of the state of the boat. You can even do it in front of them so that they know you have evidence of what the boat was like when you were given it!

This way, the rental agent can’t claim that you have caused any of the pre-existing damage and refuse to return your deposit. However, this would be a non-issue if you have already selected a rental company with a good reputation.

Renting Out Your Own Boat!

If you own a boat and would like to rent it out. This is definitely a lucrative way of investing! There are some concerns to it though. You can easily work out a deal with a number of your local boat rental outfits.

Then just add your boat to their fleet. You just want to remember the wear and tear that a rental boat gets. They are not usually getting babied or taken care of like you would do.

You want to make sure that you are on top of getting them maintained and serviced. As well as doing a weekly inspection of the boat to find any new damage to parts of the boat or engine.

Remember if you don’t do it, no one else will either! So if you can hire the workout or pay for someone to do the inspection. It’s a good way to cover your investment.

We would suggest having it done by a third party though. Your boat is just a contract to the rental company. They are more concerned with their boats and their bottom dollar. So when service time comes up, your boat will be the last on the list. Depending on the company you are using.

If done correctly though, there is money to be made by renting your boat out!

Check Us Out!

Now that you know all about renting a boat and how to cover yourself. Here are some other articles that you will find interesting!

How To Get More Hours Out Of Your Boat’s Engine!

What To Do When Rope Or Line Gets Wrapped Around Your Propeller!

Thank you for checking us out and we’d like to invite you over to our Youtube Channel where we cover all things boating!

Aaron Hilligoss

Aaron has been working in the Marine Industry for over a decade and holds certifications for Yamaha and Mercury Marine. It is not uncommon for him to own and be working on at least three different boats at any given point in time!

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