How much does it cost to winterize a boat? A better question is, “How much can it cost if you don’t winterize your boat?”
Since trapped water can freeze and expand, you can be looking at costly damages that could have prevented the proper winterization of your boat.
Remember that there are lots of variables to consider when winterizing a boat.
What size is the boat? What kind of engine does it have?
Is it a sailboat or powerboat? What’s the geographic location?
Is it in the water or out of the water? Is it stored inside or outside?
The big question is: How much does it cost to winterize a boat? Read on as we cover the average costs for everything that’s involved in putting your baby to bed for the winter.
First Things First: Engine Winterization
As you read about winterizing a boat, it makes sense to start with the engine.
Winterizing your engine starts with adding a fuel stabilizer. Next, run the engine for ten minutes to circulate the stabilizer. This is important for both gas and diesel systems.
Fuel stabilizer keeps varnish from forming on carburetors and injectors. And if that happens, it’s an expensive fix.
Most owners also like to fill up the tank. The major engine manufacturers recommend specific stabilizers but any of the leading marine brands will do.
- Fuel Stabilizer Cost: $5-$10
An aerosol fogging oil should be the next step on all engines. Spraying the fogging oil through the air intake coats the cylinders, pistons, and rings. This cuts down on corrosive crud forming on those surfaces. Again, any of the major brands work fine.
- Fogging Oil Cost: $5-$10
Put your boat to bed with new oil. Changing the oil eliminates the possibility of the old oil breaking down and forming acids that attack metals. Use oil specified by your engine manufacturer.
- Engine Oil Cost: $30-$150 (dependent on engine size and type of oil)
Since you are changing the oil, you’ll want to change your oil and fuel filters, too.
- Filters Cost: $15-$45
Adding antifreeze to the engine block is the most important step in winterizing your engine. Antifreeze keeps any residual water in the block from freezing and expanding.
There are two kinds of antifreeze: ethylene glycol and propylene glycol. You want to use propylene glycol. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s non-toxic and biodegradable.
Make sure to use an antifreeze appropriate to temperatures where your boat located. Remember that antifreeze rated -50 degrees on the label doesn’t protect your boat to -50 degrees. The -50 refers to the bursting point protection. It will actually turn to slush at about 10 degrees.
Antifreeze is one of those things where cheaper is not better! Buy good quality marine antifreeze that’s right for your conditions.
- Engine Antifreeze Cost: $30-$100 (depending on engine size and storage temperature)
Water and Sanitation System Winterization
Like your engine, your boat’s water and sanitation systems need to be protected against freezing. If you’ve got air conditioning onboard, add that to the list.
The first step is to completely drain your potable water system. Don’t forget any expansion tanks and water heaters. You’ll want to run propylene glycol antifreeze through the system (yup, the same stuff you used in your engine).
For the sanitation system, completely pump out the holding tank. Next, completely circulate the same antifreeze you’ve been using through the intake hose, the head, and the holding tank.
- Water/Sanitation Antifreeze Cost: $25-$50
Boat Interior Winterization
Mold, mildew, and moisture are not your boat’s friends. The best way to keep your boat from smelling like damp gym clothes come spring is to eliminate moisture and to provide adequate ventilation.
Start by taking as much off the boat as you can. Fabrics and paper products are great homes for mold and mildew. And you definitely won’t leave any food onboard, right?
Prop open lockers and iceboxes. If your boat is going to be shrink-wrapped, crack a hatch or two to increase ventilation.
Finally, place containers of moisture-absorbing crystals around the boat. Size these to the boat’s interior volume. One container per cabin is a good start. Several manufacturers package the crystals in a variety of configurations for marine use.
- Dehumidifying Cost: $15-$45
In particularly damp climates and if you have access to power, a low-temperature heater is a great idea to combat moisture.
Boat Exterior Winterization
Though it isn’t thought of as winterizing, cleaning and waxing your boat after haul-out is a smart move.
Most professional boat detailers will tell you it’s a great way to keep your boat’s gel coat and paint looking good and lasting longer.
Winter is hard on boats plus the more you do in the fall, the less you have to do in the spring.
If your boat is stored uncovered, you’ll need to remove all canvas (sails, dodgers, and Biminis). If your boat is going to shrink-wrapped, storing your canvas in a clean, dry spot at home is better than leaving it on the boat.
Washing and waxing costs will depend on whether you do the work or pay a pro.
- Wash/Wax Cost: $45-$300
The ultimate protection for your boat, particularly in harsher climates, is to have the boat shrink-wrapped.
Shrinkwrapping your boat protects it against, rain, snow, airborne dirt, and UV rays. Done well, it even protects against insects and small, furry critters.
Be sure to add an access door if desired and definitely add enough air vents to keep air circulating under the shrink wrap.
For most folks, professional shrink wrapping is the way to go. Costs vary, depending on the complexity. Radar arches, towers, and sailboat masts will all up the price. Rates will vary by region and if the work is done in a marina or in your driveway.
- Shrink Wrap Cost: $18-$30 per foot of boat length
How Much Does it Cost to Winterize a Boat?
The costs outlined above will give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay to do a thorough job winterizing your boat. With all the variables, there’s a big range when answering the question, “How much does it cost to winterize a boat?”
While $500 might do a simple 20-foot boat with a cuddy cabin, move up to a 45-foot cabin cruiser and you’ll be in the $2,500 range.
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