Business Overview

Boat owners need a place to keep their boats, both during the boating season and the off-season. While some boats can be kept on a trailer and launched, other vessels cannot -- and even boaters who have trailerable vessels often don’t want to have to launch and take out their boat every time they go out on the water.

A marina business offers boaters a place to keep their boats, docking or mooring them in the water during the boating season, and storing them on land the rest of the year.

Who is this business right for?

People who are familiar with boats and mechanically inclined may be well-suited for owning a marina business. Having boating experience will help a business owner anticipate their customers’ needs. Basic mechanical skills can help reduce maintenance costs, as owners can make basic repairs to docks and other facilities themselves. These skills aren’t absolutely necessary, but they can help a lot.

What happens during a typical day at a marina?

Most marina business owners are highly involved in their business’ daily operations. They both interact with customers and manage their business. Depending on what services a marina offers, a business owner may:

  • Help boaters fuel up
  • Sell boaters supplies and equipment
  • Relay the day’s weather forecast
  • Recommend places to go boating
  • Help weigh fish

When not directly helping customers, a business owner may:

  • Manage and schedule employees
  • Reorder and restock products and supplies
  • Repair docks and other facilities

What is the target market?

A marina business’ ideal customer is someone who owns a sailboat or powerboat that’s too large to easily trailer. Not only will such a boat need to be docked or moored during the boating season, but it will take up a lot of docking space. Since docking and storage fees are often charged by the size of a boat, the costs for keeping these boats can be high. Large powerboats also require a lot of fuel, which can bring in more revenue if a marina sells fuel.

How does a marina make money?

A marina business’ primary source of revenue comes from providing docking, mooring and storage for boats. Docking and storage fees are often charged based on the size of a boat.

Other potential sources of revenue include:

  • Selling boating supplies and equipment
  • Selling fuel for boats
  • Selling fishing licenses (depending on a state’s licensing requirements)

One full-service marina in Minnesota even offers on-site entertainment and a firepit for evening gatherings.

What is the growth potential for a marina?

Many marina businesses remain independent businesses with one location. Some, however, have grown to be regional or national chains. Freedom Boat Club, for instance, has more than 115 locations. Nautical Boat Clubs is a smaller franchise, with 10 locations in four states.