How to charter or rent a boat

If it’s a perfect boating day, but one key ingredient is missing— a boat! Don’t be afraid. Renting a boat is much like renting a car and providing you with access to a boat if you want it without the repair and storage costs and hassles. 

Renting is also a great way to compare types and models of boats before deciding which boat to purchase. Only make sure you do your homework on the kind of boat you would like to hire, local vessel safety and piloting rules, as well as insurance and other fine print information in the rental contract.

  • Evaluating your boating preferences
  • Finding boats for rent
  • Completing the rental process
  • References

Evaluating Your Boating Preferences

1) Adapt types of boats to the sort of boating you want to do. Looking to go fishing, pull your wakeboard, island hopping, or just laze on the water? Once you start searching for boats, think about the type(s) that best suits your interests for your boating trip.

  • Sailboats and catamarans are perfect for leisurely cruising on the water with a group of family or friends and are quite easy to pilot even for beginners.
  • Sailboats and catamarans with a group of fellow boaters are perfect for sightseeing. 
  • Fishing boats are great for fishing, of course
  • Motorboats are perfect for zooming across the water or dragging skiers or boarders behind you.
  • Indeed, depending on your budget and tastes, you can rent anything from a boat to a yacht!

2) Decide whether you want to skipper a boat or a captain to be hired. You may be better off renting a boat that comes with an experienced captain as part of the deal if you’re just looking to relax on the water. 

If you want the full boating experience, however, you might just want to rent the boat and pilot it yourself.

  • Even if you have never piloted a boat before, most people can pick up on it pretty fast. 
  • Search sites for boat rentals often have search options for “captain” or “no captain.”

3) Check the safety regulations where you are going to sail. Especially if you are interested in driving the boat yourself, take the time to research the local or state sailing requirements. These can vary widely in the U.S., Croatia, Mediterranean, and elsewhere — Alaska, for instance, has no standards, while most states and provinces in Canada have their different requirements.

  • For example, in Pennsylvania, the minimum age for piloting a boat over 25 horsepower is 12, and you have to complete a safety course for a boat. Nevertheless, there is no license provided by the operator.
  • You can get a boat license in Croatia when your turn 16, and you can operate a boat up to 24 meters. 
  • Even if you are going to hire a captain to steer the vessel, it may be necessary for all passengers to complete a safety program for active boaters. Until you rent the boat, the boating rental agency may be able to provide this service.

4) Talk to your sailing insurance company or charter agency. Any boat you choose to hire should be covered, and you may have the option to pay for additional damage or injury insurance. Nevertheless, you may want to inquire in advance if your boat insurance company provides the option of adding insurance coverage to short-term boaters.

  • You may be able to make a better deal by negotiating with your agent rather than paying for additional insurance through the rental agency.

Finding Boats for Rent

1) Check Google or other search engines for “boat rentals” and your selected location. For example, if you’re heading to Split, Croatia, and want to rent a boat to go out on, just type in “Croatia boat rental” or “Skippered yacht charter Croatia.”. If you’re familiar with the particular type of boat you’d like to hire, you could type “Catamaran rent Croatia”, for example.

2) Contact marinas or tourist offices where you’re boating. Some marinas directly rent boats, while others may work with local rental agencies. They may also be able to direct you to boat owners performing private rentals.

  • For suggestions, if you are not acquainted with any marinas in the region, contact the local tourist office or chamber of commerce.
  • There is a list of all charter companies on our site, too:

3) Some people or newer boat rental sites might suggest you to check out rental sites for peer-to-peer ships. They might claim that technology has made it simpler than ever in many other industries to hire boats directly from boat owners. That might not be the case. 

If you’re searching for boat rental apps or websites, you’ll find choices that concentrate on direct peer-to-peer rentals that connect boat owners to eager renters. But the price is high, and other relevant services that you will need are missing. 

  • You will be better off renting a boat through a charter agency. The price will be better or the same, and they will also connect you directly with the boat owner. 

4) Ask questions to narrow down your options about the boat and the rental process. Once you’ve found some boats that suit your needs, dig a bit deeper into each of the specifics. Make sure that you get answers to questions such as:

  • Do I meet the basic rental requirements? In order to rent a catamaran or sailboat, you may need to be at least 18 or even 25 and have a valid skippers’ license.
  • Do you need a safety course on boating? At the pickup location or online, you may be able to take a short safety course.
  • Where can I pick up the boat? You might want to lead the boat to a launch slip, so you don’t have to go to the marina.
  • What is your weather-related cancellation policy? See if due to bad weather they give any kind of refund or discount.
  • Do you have gear for boating? At the very least, you should always have safety gear.

Completing the Rental Process

1) Carefully examine the boat and report damage. After making your rental choice and arriving to pick up the boat, take a few minutes to inspect it visually before you accept the keys. 

Check for and record bruises, cracks, dents, tears, and other damage. Save for your records one copy of this report and send it to the rental agent.

  • You can take some pictures or video.
  • Report any pre-existing damage now so that the rental agent can’t threaten to claim you’ve caused it, and then refuse to return some of your deposit.

2) Read the file carefully before signing it. Make sure you’re clear about all the fees involved, the duration of the coverage on the boat, exactly how long your lease will last, and where the boat should be returned, etc. Ask questions and get feedback now so that you don’t come across unwelcome surprises later.

  • If you’re renting a boat for an extended period or leasing something precious like a yacht, consider first getting a lawyer read about the rental agreement.
  • Best charter agencies have good boat rental ageements. 

3) If applicable, pay the deposit. You will often have to pay a refundable deposit before you get the keys to the boat to cover any harm you might cause. This deposit will range from $50-$5000 USD or more, and may often exceed the boat’s actual rental cost.

  • If possible, pay the deposit with a credit card, a check or debit card if necessary, and cash only as a last resort. If a conflict occurs over the return of the deposit, you will increase your chances of getting your money back.
  • A standard boat rental can cost from $150-$600 per day or more, not including the refundable deposit.

4) Listen carefully to details about health and piloting. Either before or right after handing you the keys, the owner of the boat or the rental agent should provide you with a security and operating breakdown for that particular vessel. 

Make sure you know where stuff like the first aid kit and life jackets are and listen to skippers tips as well.[

  • Ask for more thorough sailing directions for that particular boat if you are a beginner helmsman. And, even if you’re a seasoned captain, inquire for the boat about any unusual anomalies or insider info.

5) Prioritize safety when renting and complying with boating rules. When you take possession of the rental boat, you are legally and financially liable for returning it in basically the same state. Most importantly, if you’re piloting the boat, you have to do your part to ensure everyone on board is safe. Have fun, but do it responsibly on the water!

  • Drinking and driving on a boat is as risky as driving in a car.
  • Even if it’s not needed by local boating laws or the rental agent, consider asking everyone on the boat you’re renting to always have a life jacket on.



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