Surrounded by lakes (both manmade and natural) and ship channels, and an hour’s drive from the ocean, Houston is a boater’s paradise. Add to that a few years of rain, and suddenly people are anxious to get back out on the water after the worst drought in state history. But is actually buying a boat worth it? That depends.
For Mark Kuchera, general manager of Texas Marine in Conroe, the answer, unsurprisingly, is yes. Having owned a total of 28 boats over the years, he maintains they’re the best thing he’s ever done for his family. “You can invest money in getting your memories on a cruise ship or fly your family to Cancún,” he says, “or you can take your boat out every weekend and live your memories.”
If you plan to water ski with your family, a roomy pleasure boat built for power and speed is ideal. If you’re interested in fishing, a simpler boat is fine. Newer pontoon models are designed for versatility, which explains their popularity in Houston, where a family may be tubing on Lake Conroe one weekend and fishing in Galveston Bay the next. “The pontoon boat is not an old barge anymore,” says Kuchera. They can do anywhere from 25 to 50 miles per hour, although they’re ideally suited for more laid-back lake activities like fishing or sunbathing.
As for costs, remember there’s an initial purchase price—around $23,000 for a good fishing boat, $30,000 for a pontoon, and somewhere in between for a pleasure boat—and then gas and maintenance to consider. Kuchera recommends an oil change for every 200 hours you log on the water, which runs a couple of hundred bucks. If you take your vessel out four weekends a year and use 30 gallons of gas each time (at $3.30 per gallon), add another $400 in fuel costs to your annual bill.
You’ll also need to keep your boat clean, waxed, and properly stored. If you don’t have a garage available, you may need to look into storage costs. And unless you live on the water, you’re going to need to look into a trailer for your boat as well. “If I leave it out underneath an old oak tree and it gets rained on and full of leaves it will start to rot,” Kuchera says. “If I don’t take care of my boat, it will very quickly depreciate in value.” If the extra cost and maintenance chores sound A-okay to you, well then go for it!