How Much Does a Boat Lift Cost?

Explore boat lift costs for every type & what factors influence the price. Perfect for boat owners & travelers. Learn to save on your next boat lift.

Kit Evans
July 16, 2024
Explore boat lift costs for every type & what factors influence the price. Perfect for boat owners & travelers. Learn to save on your next boat lift.

If you own a boat, then you already know it takes a lot of time to maintain it properly. Avid sailors and boat lovers don’t mind; the effort is worth the time they spend at sea. A boat lift can increase your boat’s lifespan and make it easier to maintain, but how much does a boat lift cost?

The average cost of a boat lift is roughly $5,000, but it can cost anywhere from $1,000 to over $20,000, depending on the boat. Your boat’s size, style, weight, and where you buy the lift will influence the cost. Other factors that affect the boat lift price are the lift’s capacity, style, labor and installation, and accessories.

You can choose from several styles of boat lifts, so consider your options when selecting the one that’s right for you. Also, many factors go into determining a boat lift’s cost. Depending on the price, you may need to decide if a boat lift is a necessity or a luxury.

What Is the Average Cost of a Boat Lift?

What Is the Average Cost of a Boat Lift
Average Cost of a Boat Lift

The average cost of a boat lift is around $5,000, but this is a very rough estimate. It can vary significantly based on several factors, including the lift's size and capacity, manufacturer, and quality. The type of boat lift plays a large role in its price tag.

Some smaller, simple lifts can be under $1,000, while larger styles with lots of bells and whistles can surpass $20,000. Your most common sizes will fall somewhere in the $3,500 to $7,000 range, hence the average of $5,000.

One suggestion is to expect to pay $2,500 for every 2,000 pounds (or one ton) the boat lift can handle. So, if you get a boat lift capable of holding 5,000 pounds, it would cost approximately $6,250. If you need something to support your 10,000-pound boat, expect to pay closer to $12,500.

But if you only need a boat lift for your small 1,000-pound craft, it might only cost about $1,250. If it's barebones with no frills or extras, it could cost less. Start adding lots of accessories, and it will be more.

What Are the Main Types of Boat Lifts and Their Costs?

What Are the Main Types of Boat Lifts and Their Costs
Main Types of Boat Lifts and Their Costs

Four-post conventional, hydraulic, cantilever, floating, and electric are the five main types of boat lifts. The most commonly seen of these is the four-post conventional lift. Depending on the boat lift style you choose, you'll pay different amounts.

But don't let price be the only deciding factor. Some of these boat lifts may be more suitable for your boat and situation than others. Therefore, it's best to get an understanding of how each one works and what it will cost you.

1. Four-Post Conventional Lift

The four-post conventional lift is a good choice if you're new to boat lifts, averaging $5,750. You'll see plenty of these lifts along the lake since they tend to be the most common. They're a good fit for lakes and rivers.

These lifts feature four pilings that go into the ground to support the top beams. For heavier boats, your installer might add posts for extra support. A motor and a pulley-and-cable system raises and lowers the boat.

Four-post conventional lifts can typically handle boats between 4,000 and 20,000 pounds. However, you can find ones to accommodate heavier boats, using extra posts and a stronger motor. They're easy to use and install, which are more reasons many people choose them.

You can also choose from various accessories, like boarding stairs, a walkway, a motor stop, or a boarding platform. These additional features will all add to your bottom line.

2. Electric Lift

Electric, or elevator, lifts raise and lower your boat using an electric winch and cost about $11,500. Some people prefer an electric lift because there are no cables to deal with. You can also install them fairly close to the shoreline, making them ideal for docks in narrow passages.

For example, some models mount directly onto the seawall. You can also mount lifts onto a dock or dockside pilings.

Electric lifts are also a good option if you live in an area where the surface under the water is too hard for pilings. Or in some areas, outboard pilings may not be allowed, making this lift a good choice.

With an electric lift, the boat sits atop bunk boards you can easily operate with a touch of a button. However, in some areas, you might need a permit to install this type of boat lift. Therefore, this would add to your overall costs.

3. Cantilever Lift

The average cost of cantilever lifts is about $4,025, thanks to their simple design and technology. The cantilever boat lift uses a winch and crank system to lower the boat lift and raise it.

Another reason for this lift’s lower price tag might also be that it takes some extra care. A cantilever lift sits on the bottom of the waterbed, so you want to make sure you have a firm surface. It has two H-frames that the cranks bring to an upright position to lift the boat out of the water.

If you live in an area where the surface changes or the water level changes frequently, a cantilever lift might not be your best option. Furthermore, it isn’t a good choice for saltwater since it stays submerged most of the time.

To protect your cantilever lift you would have to design a way to get it out of the water in colder months. Freezing water could crush the lift or compromise its functionality. So you would need to consider possible winterization costs and steps for the lift and your boat.

But if you live in an area where you don’t need to worry about freezing temperatures, the lower price tag might be appealing.

4. Hydraulic Lift

Hydraulic lifts use a piston and steel tube mechanism to lift a boat, and they cost an average of $11,500. These lifts can typically lift a boat higher out of the water than other types of boat lifts.

They also are fairly easy to operate and maintain thanks to a simple, straightforward design. Also, when in operation, these lifts only make a quiet hum. Hydraulic lifts also operate more quickly than other boat lifts, and they can work in various bodies of water.

Unlike with four-post systems, there aren’t any cables and pulleys that need to line up just right. You simply push a button, and the lift does the rest.

The average hydraulic lift has a capacity of up to 10,000 pounds. However, you can find those that can lift two or three times that much. Of course, with the increased lifting muscle will come a much higher price tag.

5. Floating Lift

You’ll spend an average of $8,000 on a floating boat lift, which acts somewhat like a floating dock. It floats alongside the dock, using special inflated tanks to lift the boat out of the water.

Many floating lifts can handle boats that weigh up to 30,000 pounds. You use a remote button to pump air into the tanks. Once the boat is out of the water, you press a button to stop inflating the tanks.

To lower the boat, you just let the air out of the tanks until the boat is back in the water. It’s a fairly simple operation, but you don’t see too many of these boat lifts around.

Depending on where you live, there might be specific restrictions in place regarding floating docks. Always ask the proper permit authority or office to determine the scope of your boat lift.

You might only be able to get a certain size or style, or weight. Or you may need to install it in a particular spot or in a certain way.

What Influences Boat Lift Costs?

What Influences Boat Lift Costs
Influences Boat Lift Costs

Installation costs, accessories, maintenance, the boat lift’s capacity, and potential shipping fees can also influence what your boat lift costs. You’ve already seen how the type of boat lift can affect the cost, but there are many other factors to consider.

Within each type of boat lift design, the costs can still fall within a broad range. Typically, the larger and heavier the boat lift, the more it will cost. But where you buy it also plays a role, as well as other factors.

1. Labor or Installation Costs

installation rates depend on the boat lift type and where you need to install it. You can ask the company you buy the lift from if they include installation. Some companies do include it in the cost, but many do not.

Instead, you might need to find a local construction company or contractor that specializes in marine equipment. Installation costs can run anywhere from $500 to $1,100. It’s best to find a professional and pay for installation.

If you try to do it yourself, you can end up damaging the lift and your boat. Installation requires precision, so if any part is done incorrectly it can jeopardize the entire setup.

2. Boat Lift Accessories

You can choose from tons of accessories to maximize the functionality of your boat lift, like motor stops, railways, and carpeted bunks. You can think of it like buying a car with all the extra options. They make your car a lot more user-friendly and amazing, but it adds up quickly to the final price.

Some examples of accessories and their potential prices are:

  • Solar Charging Kit for 12v Systems -- $165
  • Remote Control Flood Light Kit -- $235
  • 22’0 Boat Lift Canopy -- $890
  • Motor Stop -- $175 to $275
  • Walk board -- $550
  • Boat Railway -- $1,500 to $3,500 (if you need to bring your boat onto the shore or into a boathouse, this could be a necessity for you.)

There are tons of different accessory options available for various boat lifts, and many come in a bunch of sizes, colors, etc. Since it can add up quickly, make sure you have a clear budget in mind before you start shopping.

3. Maintenance Requirements

Regular maintenance of your boat lift will add to its overall lifetime costs. You will need to do things like lubricating gears and cables, checking various components, and replacing damaged parts as necessary.

The amount of maintenance your boat lift requires depends on the type of lift and its size. But, if you want it to last as long as possible, you don’t want to ignore routine upkeep.

4. Potential Shipping Fees

If you pay for shipping, expect to pay another $700 to $800 or more, depending on your boat lift’s weight and size. Sometimes you might be able to find specials that include free shipping. Or, if you purchase your lift locally, you could opt to pick up the lift instead of having it delivered.

5. Where You Buy Your Boat Lift

Buying directly from the manufacturer will cost you more than looking for a third-party dealer. You can find boat lifts online, at local dealers, and even on sites like eBay. Another option is to check local used sales or places like Facebook Marketplace.

6. Weight of Boat

Typically, the heavier your boat and the more weight your lift can handle, the more it will cost. If you have a small boat, you can get a smaller, simpler boat lift that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

However, if you have a large craft, say over 10,000 pounds, you can expect to pay much more for your boat lift. If your boat is 30,000 pounds, you can undoubtedly expect to pay the top of the range.

A 10,000-pound capacity boat lift could cost between $8,000 and $14,000 or more, depending on the type. A 4-post conventional lift would cost closer to the lower end of the range. But hydraulic and electric models would be more expensive and cost closer to the $14,000 mark.

Is a Boat Lift Worth It?

Is a Boat Lift Worth It
Is a Boat Lift Worth It

If you own a boat, a boat lift can certainly be worth the investment, offering convenience, protection, and overall savings. A boat lift makes storing your boat a lot easier, and it also makes it faster to use your boat.

You don’t have to transport your boat from your house to the dock or worry about untying lines, etc. Since the boat stays at dock level, it’s also easier for people to board your boat and get off of it.

A Boat Lift Can Save You Money In The Long Run

The biggest advantage of a boat lift is that your boat remains out of the water when not in use. This adds to your boat’s lifespan and protects it from damage. If your boat stays in the water, it accumulates scum and algae on the bottom of the boat.

This can lead to an increased risk of corrosion, staining, messed up paint jobs, and more. The boat lift eliminates all of this.  Not to mention you won’t spend so much time cleaning algae off your boat.

Plus, you don't need to worry about waves knocking your boat against the side of the dock when the wind picks up. Overall, these qualities will save you money in boat maintenance fees.

A boat lift also makes it harder for thieves to take your boat. It’s more difficult to get it off the lift without the proper equipment, which is why thieves target boats in the water.

How Can I Save Money on a Boat Lift?

How Can I Save Money on a Boat Lift

You could look for a good used boat lift and potentially save up to 60% on the price. Another option is to look for third-party dealers instead of buying the boat lift directly from the manufacturer.

If you live near a dealer or third-party seller, consider picking up your boat lift to save on shipping fees. You can also look for pre-owned accessories and other equipment.

However, make sure you’re getting high-quality items. Do your due diligence and research the dealer and equipment before making your final purchase.

Final Look At Boat Lift Costs

A boat lift can be a worthwhile investment for boat owners, making it easier to handle your boat and maintain it. It also helps save money in the long run on maintenance fees and prolongs your boat’s lifespan.

But you need to choose the right type of boat lift for your vessel. You can choose from a four-post conventional lift, electric, hydraulic, cantilever, or floating lift. The four-post model tends to be the most common, averaging $5,750.

The least expensive models are usually cantilever lifts, with the most expensive being hydraulic lifts that average $11,500. However, boat lifts can cost from $1,000 to over $20,000, depending on many factors.

The largest influencer on the cost is how much weight the lift can handle. Typically, lifts with more capacity that can handle heavier boats will cost more. Other things that affect the cost are where you buy it, installation costs, and any accessories you add to your lift.

If you’re planning to buy a boat lift, know exactly what you need for your boat and where you live. You’ll find lots of types and prices to choose from, so make sure to find one that works within your budget.

Kit Evans
Article updated:
July 16, 2024 11:14 AM

Kit Evans is a seasoned marine journalist and naval architect, bringing over 20 years of multifaceted experience in the boating industry to his writing and consultancy work. With expertise ranging from boat design and marine surveying to charter operations and vessel restoration, Kit offers unparalleled insights into all aspects of maritime life. When he's not penning articles for top boating publications or hosting his popular YouTube channel, Kit can be found sailing his lovingly restored 1960s Columbia 29 on the Chesapeake Bay, embodying his commitment to both preserving nautical heritage and embracing modern innovations in boating.

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