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Boat Club Memberships?
Old 07-29-2018, 06:58 PM   #1
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Boat Club Memberships?

Curious to hear if anyone on the forum has any experience with boat clubs (like Freedom Boat Club)? If so would you care to share your thoughts on them....pros, cons, etc?

I don't know much about them and have read both good and bad reviews online. It seems like a more practical way of boat "ownership" and without a lot of hassle, especially for a busy working professional.
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Old 07-30-2018, 06:26 AM   #2
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We joined Freedom Boat Club where we spend the winter and like it. If we had one where we spend the rest of the year, we would probably join there as well, or get a 12-month membership that allows nationwide access.

Pros: simple, no need to do anything other than reserve, pay and enjoy. Boats in good shape, and new ones get rotated in frequently.

Cons: Not cheap, although probably cheaper than owning outright. We don't use ours as much as we expected to. Between iffy days, other activities, travel, etc., we don't go out as much as we thought we would. But, it's definitely fun when we do.

Since ownership of the clubs is local, I suspect quality will vary. Best to go down to the dock and stalk members and get their feedback.
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Old 07-30-2018, 06:41 AM   #3
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Interesting concept.

It is too bad that they don't disclose pricing without contacting a salesperson. (Yes I know that pricing varies by market conditions, but this is still not insurmountable -- if they desired to be transparent about this.)
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Old 07-30-2018, 07:04 AM   #4
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I know people who use and like the service. If you only use a boat a few weekends, or even a week or two a year, it's probably much cheaper in the long run than owning.

Personally, I like to be able to go down to my boat whenever I want, even if it's only to hang out at the marina for a few hours or overnight. Makes no financial sense, but then, nothing about a recreational boat ever does.
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Old 07-30-2018, 08:15 AM   #5
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I know people who use and like the service. If you only use a boat a few weekends, or even a week or two a year, it's probably much cheaper in the long run than owning.

Personally, I like to be able to go down to my boat whenever I want, even if it's only to hang out at the marina for a few hours or overnight. Makes no financial sense, but then, nothing about a recreational boat ever does.
Ha! Ain't that the truth! Well said.

I have a friend in Cape Coral, Florida, and they have at least one such club down there. We casually looked into it, and the concept certainly makes sense. The devil, as they say, would be in the details, as in:

quality of the boats, dependability, availability etc. I am certain that it would be cheaper than owning a boat equivalent to the boats you could take out.
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Old 07-30-2018, 09:02 AM   #6
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I saw an ad for a club around here once... the cost per month was pretty high and you still had to rent the boat when you used it...


Why not just rent a boat whenever you want to use one? My sister and BIL gave up their boat many years ago but still go boating.... and they do not have to haul one around (I still do )....


I do not get paying just to be in a club.... there has to be something else that makes this a valid option...




Edit to add.... looks like you do not pay for the boat, but only the gas.... but the price is kinda high...


https://www.howmuchisit.org/freedom-boat-club-cost/
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Old 07-30-2018, 09:40 AM   #7
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I think *the* biggest appeal in this is the cost efficiency of this vs. owning a boat.

Where I live (in Chicago), owning a boat (and docking it in the city harbors) can be very expensive. I don't have firm numbers on how much it would cost, but financing a boat big enough to go on Lake Michigan (at least $50k?) plus annual maintenance plus docking fees, I'd imagine you can easily drop $30k a year on your boat.

With boat clubs, it seems that you would pay a one time initiation fee ($3-$5k?) plus $150-$300 a month and be able to avoid the hassle of boat ownership and simply show up for the time slot that you've reserved the boat.

I haven't spoken to any clubs, but assuming a $250 per month membership fee, it works out to be $3k per year plus gas.

In Chicago, you have about 5 months of boating weather a year.

I'll let you do the math but you can see where the numbers make a whole lot more sense. Perhaps in the long run it would be better to own the boat, but then you're sacrificing a lot of time to care for it.

The biggest concern I have is the availability of the boats and being able to go out on a fairly regular basis when your schedule allows.

I am the "planner type" so I wouldn't mind picking dates far out in advance, but would want to make sure that the member to boat ratio is the right size.
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Old 07-30-2018, 09:42 AM   #8
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We paid $4,000 to join and pay $140 a month (for 12 months a year) to use the boat any three months (can change months anytime), no restrictions weekend vs. weekday. We pay only for gas we use, plus we usually tip the dockhands $20. I don't remember, but I think the monthly fee is fixed for at least some period of time (ours hasn't increased in three years). We are in a hurricane zone, so insurance on boats is expensive, and so is dockage (these are kept at a very nice marina). Factor in maintenance, repairs, depreciation, incidentals (emergency kit, pfd's, bumpers, etc.) that have to be replaced periodically and cleaning and it's a good deal. Also includes Sea Tow in case you break down or damage the boat. Damage is on your dime if you cause it. Membership includes a boating class, and they also offer fishing seminars and other events.

Boats are mostly 22", and include pontoons, center consoles, dual consoles. Some outfitted specifically for fishing. They aim for 10-12 members per boat and change them out after two-three years.

Reservations are usually easy to get. Theoretically, we could use a boat every day and only pay for gas. There are limits as to how many simultaneous reservations you can have (I think four at one time, or two weekend times), but we have never run up against the limit. If you wake up to nice weather and they have a boat available that day, you can take it and it doesn't count towards your reservation limits. Reservations made online or through an app.
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Old 07-30-2018, 11:26 AM   #9
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IMO if you have to think about the financials and/or don't plan on using a boat a lot, renting is probably a better way to go.

If you use a boat a lot (like every day or so) you should own but need to de-couple the cost from your enjoyment. Once you go down the "dollars per day of use" of ownership rat hole you're sunk (pun intended); you can never justify the cost particularly with larger boats...it has to be just part of your lifestyle.
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Old 07-30-2018, 12:30 PM   #10
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Unless you own the boat forever and I mean like 10 years and you paid cash..you paid too much for too little. But its a recreational hobby and most of us don't mind that.

Its the downtime with maintenance that is the issue. If you can minimize that or work around it and do it yourself..owning for longer than a few years is much more worth it if you paid cash. DON"T pay interest on a boat.
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Old 07-30-2018, 12:50 PM   #11
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We have some friends who were members (may still be) and we went out with them a number of times.... the boats were relatively new and were in good condition.

I think of it as similar to joining a country club.... you need to play a certain amount for it to be cost beneficial vs paying daily greens fees (renting a boat)... and in both cases you commonly pay for a cart (gas in this case). I think our friends felt that if they went out once a week or so that it was worth it for them.

I may look into it at some point but I suspect that they are right... if you go out once a week or so then joining a club or owing makes sense but if you only go out once a month or every other month then renting probably makes more sense.
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Old 07-30-2018, 04:31 PM   #12
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i was a member through club natique for years in san francisco. it's a great deal for those who don't want to own a boat or those who want to go out for a day or two. for longer trips i recommend a boat share, but for frequent day trips these clubs are great!
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Old 08-03-2018, 02:05 PM   #13
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I spoke with a rep from the local boat club here in Chicago.

Pricing is: $6,500 initiation fee, plus $300 per month. That includes unlimited boating 5/1 - 10/31 in Chicago, plus access to other franchises around the country.

I am going to meet at their marina tomorrow to check out the dock and boat selection. I have to say I am enticed by the idea. Being able to boat worry free in Chicago would be an awesome perk. Also, my parents have a home in Florida and there is a boat club there that I would also have access too.

Doing the math, it seems that this time of year would be a bad time to join. She did say the initiation fee is "$500 off" right now...but I'd only get 1.5-2 months, and have to fork over $6,500 plus $300 per month from now until 5/1, when I'd be able to use the membership again.
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Old 08-03-2018, 02:12 PM   #14
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Are there any provisions to suspend the monthly fee $300 (along with privileges) for any amount of time and then reinstate without forfeiting the $6,500 up front fee?

Also is the $6,500 up front fee non-returnable upon final surrender of membership?

I like to analyze the life-cycle of things.

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Old 08-03-2018, 02:35 PM   #15
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I spoke with a rep from the local boat club here in Chicago.

Pricing is: $6,500 initiation fee, plus $300 per month. That includes unlimited boating 5/1 - 10/31 in Chicago, plus access to other franchises around the country.

I am going to meet at their marina tomorrow to check out the dock and boat selection. I have to say I am enticed by the idea. Being able to boat worry free in Chicago would be an awesome perk. Also, my parents have a home in Florida and there is a boat club there that I would also have access too.

Doing the math, it seems that this time of year would be a bad time to join. She did say the initiation fee is "$500 off" right now...but I'd only get 1.5-2 months, and have to fork over $6,500 plus $300 per month from now until 5/1, when I'd be able to use the membership again.
That sounds very good compared to my deal, which is three months a year and no nationwide reciprocal. Our local owner has three locations, which we have access to. One is too far away to be of interest. The other two are both equidistant from our place, but we prefer one over the other. The ability to use the membership when visiting parents would seal the deal for me. You can also use clubs on vacation elsewhere, there are many locations across the country.
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Old 08-05-2018, 01:40 PM   #16
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I met with the sales rep yesterday....below is some info I found out. She said they could get me signed up and started with training within the next week. I have thought about it, and I think in order for me to seriously consider joining, they would have to come down to $5,000 for the initiation fee. Otherwise, there is no reason why I should join now vs. waiting until April 2019. Assuming I joined now, I would be out $300/month without any boat usage (due to off season) from Nov 2018 through Mar 2019. $300/month * 5 months = $1,500. Am I thinking about this correctly? I don't really know what the "going rate" for boat club initiation fees are so it is possible that the $6,500 initiation fee is inflated to begin with and that $5k wouldn't really be that good of a deal anyway

--->Initiation fee was quoted at $6,500 initially, and she came down to $6k. Then, I pushed back a little since it is late in the season, and she came down another $500 to $5,500.

--->She is "new" and was not sure if you can sell the membership to someone else down the road, or if you can get any of your initiation fee back. This is something I would want confirmation on.

--->You can only add your significant other to your membership if they are your SPOUSE. This is a negative for me. I am going to ask them if my SO can be trained to drive the boat but not actually be on the membership. It would be nice to share driving responsibility so we could enjoy drinks on the boat

--->Monthly dues are $300 for unlimited boating April - October in Chicago, and you can use reciprocal locations across the country (there are a ton).

--->You can suspend/pause your membership BUT it has to be for a full year (12 months). You are required to pay $39.99 per month under this scenario.

--->You get two rolling black out dates that you can book out as far in advance as you'd like for the season. Aside from your two black out dates, you can make unlimited reservations but only ~1 day in advance. She showed me a live calendar on their computer and there were a fair amount of open reservations, though weekends were generally more booked up.

--->She said they have about 160 members and their boat to member ratio is about 1 boat per 8 members.
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Old 08-05-2018, 02:07 PM   #17
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So, 160/8 means 20 boats..


What kind of boats do they have that make up this 20?


Were you able to go check them out... heck, take a test drive?


Edit to add... I doubt they would give your down payment money back... that is like the gym initiation fee... profit for them... I also doubt you can sell your membership... again like the gym, they lose profits if you could sell your membership to someone else...


BTW, sounds expensive to me... how often do you want to go boating? I have a small 18ft runabout... the first year we bought we went out a good number of times... it is now about 8 years and we will be going out for the 2nd time this year on Labor Day weekend... that is a LOT of money for a few times on a boat..


Now, if they have a 40ft sailboat like my BIL had, then it might be worth it....
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Old 08-05-2018, 02:17 PM   #18
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I agree with your thinking. I don't remember exactly, but our upfront fee was reduced by some amount on some sort of special. I would push back on the $5,000 and adding your SO to the membership. I don't think you get anything back if you quit. Ask how much the membership fee has increased in recent years. Also, how long they guarantee the monthly not to increase.
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Old 08-05-2018, 02:37 PM   #19
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She said most members use the membership 8 to 20 times a year, it just depends on your availability and availability of the boats. They have mostly powerboats/cruisers (25-30 footers) and they also have some sail boats. I could be trained on all of them included in the cost, although admittedly, I don't have a ton of interest in learning the sailboats but that could change.

It might sound expensive when you compare the costs to owning a boat on a rural lake, but in Chicago on Lake Michigan, annual docking fees can run $3,000 alone. So it is pretty cost effective compared to boat ownership.

I'm not certain how often I'd use it, I presume it would be super fun the first couple years and then the appeal would wear off over time.

Assuming I used it 15 times a year with an annual fee of $3,600 plus $5,000 one-time initiation fee, if I had it for 5 years I'd be out $23,000 for 75 boat rides. That comes out to about $307 per outing. Definitely not chump change, but it could be a good way to test out boating and see if it is a long term hobby/interest of mine.
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Old 08-05-2018, 03:16 PM   #20
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She said most members use the membership 8 to 20 times a year, it just depends on your availability and availability of the boats. They have mostly powerboats/cruisers (25-30 footers) and they also have some sail boats. I could be trained on all of them included in the cost, although admittedly, I don't have a ton of interest in learning the sailboats but that could change.

It might sound expensive when you compare the costs to owning a boat on a rural lake, but in Chicago on Lake Michigan, annual docking fees can run $3,000 alone. So it is pretty cost effective compared to boat ownership.

I'm not certain how often I'd use it, I presume it would be super fun the first couple years and then the appeal would wear off over time.

Assuming I used it 15 times a year with an annual fee of $3,600 plus $5,000 one-time initiation fee, if I had it for 5 years I'd be out $23,000 for 75 boat rides. That comes out to about $307 per outing. Definitely not chump change, but it could be a good way to test out boating and see if it is a long term hobby/interest of mine.
Looks like you have a good handle on the real cost, but dont forget fuel. 25-30' powerboats like 4mpg.

Some areas you can charter a private boat by the day with the owner as the skipper. Don't know if you have that availability near you.

I joined a Yacht club and go out on other peoples boats for free. Cruising on a 2 mil. yacht with a drink in my hand and the cost is $0 for the day. Just YC dues 149 mo and my bar tab
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