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Ask any two boat owners what it costs to get their boat professionally detailed, and you’ll get two very different answers – for excellent reasons. First, boat detailing is a big business – with more than 12 million registered/documented recreational boats in the US – it’s easy to see why.
And these boats come in all sorts of sizes and conditions. New boat? Old boat?
Sailboat, runabout, cruiser, or trawler? In the water or on the hard? So how much does it cost to detail a boat?
Let’s look at some of the variables and then some average costs.
How Big is Your Boat?
As boats get bigger, they also get wider, taller, and more complicated. Add in towers, arches, dodgers, biminis, swim platforms, and bowsprits, and prices increase. So a 40-foot boat isn’t just twice as big as a 20-foot boat to boat detailing services; it’s a lot bigger with lots more square feet to clean and detail.
The difference in detailing a 26-foot open bow with a 36-foot deep vee with an upper helm is night and day – and prices reflect that. Boats longer than 40 feet typically cost even more.
How Dirty is Your Boat?
Boat detailing a well-maintained boat will cost a lot less than detailing one that’s been sitting in the sun on the hard for a couple of years. A simple wash and shine will take care of a boat that’s cleaned regularly.
But boat detailing companies have to charge a lot more when you start talking mildew, rust stains, and Gelcoat oxidation – the kinds of things that happen quickly with boats that don’t get enough love.
Those jobs require a lot more materials, equipment, and labor. For example, a boat with heavy Gelcoat oxidation needs to be washed and then gone over at least twice with a buffer to grind away the oxidation – and then once more to put a coat of wax on it. And since time is money, you know what that means. Welcome to boating!
How Detailed do You Want to Get?
Are you just looking for a simple exterior wash and wipe? Or are you looking for boat detailing companies that can handle the whole gamut of detailing jobs? Everything from the interior to the exterior, the bilges to the topsides?
Canvas and isinglass detailing take a different set of skills and cleaners. The same goes for detailing vinyl seats and cushions. Do you want to have your engine compartment detailed?
How about the bilges? Do you have exterior teak on the boat that needs attention? Sanding and varnishing trim takes detailing up another level.
Once you’ve decided how thorough you want your boat detailing to be, the next step is to do some searching and then call ‘boat detailing near me‘ and ask for some prices. Read on to see what kinds of prices to expect on average.
Up to about 40 feet in length, most detailers charge between $2 – $4 per foot for a simple, basic wash and shine. If your boat’s been well-maintained, chances are this is all you’ll need.
For the same service on boats over 40 feet, expect to pay more, often twice as much.
If you’ve got some minor rust stains or mildew, or if you haven’t been waxing your boat every few months, you’ll need to pay more. Something in the $20 per foot range will get you a thorough cleaning, including vinyl and isinglass treatment, stain removal, and application of a wax coating.
If you’ve let things go longer than you meant to and have some serious stains or obvious signs of wear and tear, expect to pay a bit more to have your detailer take care of those issues.
A word of advice. Suppose you plan to start using a detailer on a scheduled basis? Mentioning that upfront might save you some money on your first detailing since they know you’ll be a regular customer and that they can build you into their schedule.
Down and Dirty
Let’s say you’ve got some severe oxidation – and your boat hasn’t seen a good cleaning for a long time. Removing the oxidation and restoring the Gelcoat is a big, time-consuming job.
Expect to pay $25 per foot on a small boat and up to $60 – $70 on a large boat. Yikes! That’s why detailing your boat on a regular schedule is an excellent idea!
Have your bilges and engine spaces gotten grungy and oil-stained over the years? Cleaning them is no fun – they are hard to get into, often hot, and often smelly. Which is probably why you haven’t cleaned them, right?
Your boat detailer will be happy to clean your bilges. And rest assured, your detailer is going to charge you. You can expect to pay something in the $125 – $500 range, depending on the size of the boat.
How Much Does it Cost to Detail a Boat?
By now, you’ve found out that the size and condition of your boat are the two most significant factors in determining how much detailing your boat will cost. Not surprising, right?
To recap, keeping your boat in good condition – having it cleaned and maintained regularly – will pay off in the long run. But, of course, that means taking care of the interior, too. So don’t just wash the hull and decks, be sure to show your vinyl and isinglass and canvas some love too.
Detailing neglected boats gets a lot more expensive, and the prices keep going up and up the worse the condition.
The Bottom Line
So how much does it cost to detail a boat? A basic exterior detailing job on a well-maintained boat in the under 40-foot range should cost somewhere in the $2 – $4 per foot range. For a more thorough job that includes the interior, the canvas, isinglass, and vinyl, plan to spend up to $20 per foot.
Remember that these are average prices across the country, so be sure to get specific quotes from detailers in your area.
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