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From Dock to Dock: The Ultimate Guide to Boat Shipping

From Dock to Dock: The Ultimate Guide to Boat Shipping

You just found the boat of your dreams. You wrote a check, signed the papers, and the boat is officially yours! Now what? If your purchase was local, all you have to do is arrange transport to the marina of your choosing. However, if your purchase was out-of-state, you might end up having to ship your boat. If you have no idea where to start, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will break down each step of the shipping process.

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Planning and Preparing for Your Boat Shipment

When you want to ship a boat from one dock to another, the ease and success of your boat shipment will begin with and depend heavily on your planning and preparation. Typically, when you ship something like a car, booking your shipment four or more weeks in advance is recommended. However, booking your shipment with six weeks’ notice will likely be better when shipping a boat

Boat shipments are much less frequent than regular vehicle shipments. Thus, there are typically fewer carriers capable of transporting a boat available at any given time. With a shorter supply of carriers, it should be no surprise that available spaces and pick-up dates book out much faster than regular vehicle shipping. There’s also the fact that, when shipping a boat, yours will likely be the only boat in the shipment because there probably won’t be room for any additional vessels on the carrier.

There will also be some prep work to complete in the days before your boat is picked up for its

shipment. You’ll need to ensure that your boat has no fuel or fluids in it since these things can spill while the boat is shipped. You must also clean the boat to the very best of your ability. This is necessary because your driver will perform a visual assessment of the boat’s condition before the shipment begins to document any damage that already exists. Boat shipping insurance requires this to minimize damage claims.

Additionally, the boat shipping insurance coverage you’ll receive will vary based on what you choose when booking your shipment as well as what company you choose to ship with. Regardless, boat shipping insurance will never cover the damage or loss of any boat accessories or personal belongings. So, you must remove all of those things before your shipment begins. This includes sunglasses, hats, gloves, electronics, antennas, life vests, and more.

The Cost of Boat Shipping

The cost to ship a boat varies tremendously based on several factors. The most important factors are what kind of boat you’re shipping, the size of the boat you’re shipping, and how far you’re shipping the boat. Other factors that play a role in the overall cost to ship a boat include how much notice you give your shipping company and the time of year during which you’re shipping. On average, boat shipping will cost between $2.00 and $3.50 per mile, depending on the abovementioned factors. 

Prices will vary for shipping different types of boats because certain boats are considered more fragile, and more care is required in their handling and transport. Sailboats are one example of this, so if you’re shipping a sailboat, be prepared to pay more. The boat’s size impacts the shipping price exactly as you would expect; the bigger the boat, the more expensive the shipment will be. It requires more effort and time to transport a larger boat. More importantly, shipping a larger boat means more weight, which translates to more fuel being burned by the carrier truck throughout the shipment. Hence, it costs more to have larger boats shipped. In addition, longer distance shipments take more time and cost more fuel. The further you ship your boat, the higher the price will be. 

How far in advance you schedule your shipment affects shipping price because a boat carrier truck is easier to find and less expensive to book the further out you schedule your shipment. This is because the supply of capable carriers becomes less when more people book shipments closer to the date of your choosing. Thus, carriers know they can charge more because a potential customer will have fewer options at that point in time. 

Finally, the time of year during which you ship your boat impacts the cost to do so. Generally, the busiest and most expensive time of year to ship a boat is May through September since recreational boating spikes over the summer. 

How Long Will It Take to Ship a Boat?

The amount of time it usually takes to ship a boat will differ from shipment to shipment. The variables that determine the transit time of a boat shipment are the distance of your shipment, the locations of the pickup and delivery of your boat, the weather along the shipping route, and the traffic along the shipping route.

The further you’re shipping your pontoon boat or other boat, the longer it will take. If your boat shipment needs to be ocean-bound at any point, like shipping from Texas to Hawaii, it will add even more time to your overall shipping duration. The location of where your boat is picked up and where it’s dropped off impacts transit time because some locations are more difficult to access. Thus, it will take more time to get to and from those areas.

The weather and traffic along the shipping route can add time to your boat’s shipment by creating delays that add several hours. Delays like this are often entirely unpredictable; thus, your boat shipment’s estimated shipping time is only given as an estimate, not a guarantee.

Alternative Options for Transporting a Boat

Alternative options for shipping your powerboat or other boat include towing it yourself, driving it via various waterways, or shipping it via freight if it’s a mid-size or smaller boat. Towing or driving a boat will always be your cheapest option. However, when you factor in the cost of fuel and the opportunity cost (how many hours or days it will take), these options will not save you as much money as you think.

Towing a boat yourself requires a boat trailer. Buying a boat trailer will run you anywhere from $700 to $7000, depending on what type of trailer you need. Boat trailer rental is another option. Renting a boat trailer costs between $100 and $300 daily. The downside of renting a boat trailer is that you’ll likely be responsible for returning the trailer to the location you rented it from, which means a return trip. 

Shipping a boat by freight means that you’ll ship it inside a cargo container. This also means you’ll need to transport the boat from the dock to the container and vice versa when it’s delivered, which may defeat the purpose for many people.

With spring in full swing, it’s the perfect time to start looking for your next boat. If you’re ready to start browsing for the summer boat of your dreams, check out our nationwide new and used boat inventory at

By Matt Osborn


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