Folks know crab fishing is a multi-billion-dollar industry, making it unsurprising that they ask, “How much does a crab boat cost?”
Although you can get a tiny, old crabbing boat for about $10,000, a high-end, custom-built vessel can set you back by up to $5 million. The drastic price disparity can only mean one thing – crab boat prices depend on various factors.
Please continue reading to learn how much you must save to buy a Deadliest Catch-worthy boat.
Table of Contents
- The Cost of Crab Boats
- Factors Affecting Crab Boat Costs
- Additional Expenses and Considerations
- Assessing the Return on Investment
- Tips for Budgeting and Financial Planning
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Cost of Crab Boats
Crabbing vessels range in price from $10,000 to five million US dollars. That said, it’s not unusual to hear about the cost of a crab boat breaching the $5 million mark. As a rule, a large crabbing vessel will cost more than a tiny one.
As an example, the largest crab fishing boat to be featured on Deadliest Catch – the 166-foot Fierce Allegiance – costs roughly $4 million. However, note that the vessel is relatively slow and old, given that it was built in 1978.
Nowadays, engines for crabbing vessels can cost up to two million dollars. Hence, it’s not unusual for an Alaskan crab boat to set you back by at least that much.
Factors Affecting Crab Boat Costs
Let’s learn the factors influencing crab fishing boat cost so you’ll know how much to earmark in your budget for a seaworthy crabbing vessel.
A small crab boat smaller than 30 feet should not cost you more than $100,000. For example, you can buy a brand-new 16-foot Hooyah for about $30,000. On the other hand, the 18-foot-long Caremi has a $32,000 price tag.
Meanwhile, a behemoth vessel can easily breach the million-dollar mark, especially a 100 ft crab boat or longer. For example, the 113-foot Time Bandit featured on Deadliest Catch costs roughly $2.9 million.
2. Quality (equipment and amenities)
You might wonder why two 50-foot crabbing vessels with identical fiberglass hulls have different prices. This disparity reflects other crucial factors in determining crab boat values – equipment, technologies, and amenities.
- Living Quarters
A large commercial crab boat can have a crew of 20, while a small version might only need two. It’s worth noting the captain has separate quarters, while the crew can share bunk beds in another section.
Crabbers need living arrangements to sleep, cook, eat, rest, and do their stuff while underway. They need freezers, refrigerators, ovens, and stoves. Some might even have a TV.
- Lift System
Crabbing vessels also require a lift system to raise crab pots from the water onto the deck. Elevators also help simplify the stacking of empty pots. Unfortunately, these technologies can cost crabbers $50,000 to $100,000. Note that they also require periodic maintenance and refurbishing.
- Crab Pots
Crab pots can cost boat owners $30 to $200 per cage. A 50-pot crabber can set the owner back by an extra $1,500 to $10,000. On the other hand, cables, lines, and hooks can set crabbing vessel owners back $5 to $20.
- Sorting Table
A crab sorting table allows the crew to separate marketable crabs from unmarketable ones (i.e., too small). It can cost at least $20,000.
- Live Tanks
Crabbers integrate live tanks in their crabbing boats to ensure these crustaceans are alive when they reach the market. These compartments require a budget of at least $1000.
An automatic identification system can cost at least $5,000 with installation. The technology allows crab fishing vessels to navigate foggy and nighttime waters while ensuring their visibility to larger vessels.
Also crucial are GPS, internet tools, depth finders, radios, and satellite equipment.
“Deadliest Catch” crabbing boats are the meanest in the business, braving massive swells and the bitter cold to bring home the biggest haul.
If you’re contemplating buying any of these “famed” crabbers, prepare at least $2-$5 million. Although nobody knows how much is the FV Northwestern crab boat worth now, the vessel had cost Sverre Hansen $1.2 million when he bought it in 1977.
Given its popularity and the inflation rate since 1977, one can estimate that the FV Northwestern can hit the market at more than $5 million.
A brand-new crab boat will cost about twice the price of a second-hand vessel. For example, the 22-foot Katherine might cost you $36,000 brand-new, but you can expect the price of a used Katherine to be lower.
As expected, used crab fishing vessels are less expensive because they already show signs of wear and tear. Although buyers might save a large portion of their budget by buying an old or second-hand unit, they must exercise caution.
For example, you might save $30,000 on a used 50-foot crabber but spend $50,000 to make it seaworthy. In that case, you’re better off with a brand-new crabbing boat. Of course, that’s a different story if you have a legend (like the Southern Wind crab boat) on the table.
Additional Expenses and Considerations
The cost of crabbing vessels doesn’t end with the purchase price. There’s also the cost to run a crab boat.
1. Operating costs
Although crabbing vessels don’t head to the sea daily, they spend money when they do. The cost of operating a crab boat can run in the tens of thousands of dollars every season.
- Crew Salary
The average crabber took home about $28,530 annually in 2017. However, ten percent of high-earning crabbers have a net annual income of $48,170.
Deckhands earn about $14.65 hourly, while skippers charge $20.55 per hour for their captaincy.
However, King Crab fisherfolk can bring home at least $60,000, depending on the catch.
Suppose the crab boat has a 50,000-gallon fuel tank, and a gallon of fuel costs $5. In that case, you’ll spend $250,000 on a full tank.
Crabs don’t enter pots on their own. You must put bait in the cages to entice crustaceans. Crab baits can cost you $5 to $20 every 1–2 ounces.
Your crew needs food, toiletries, potable water, and other items to make their crab fishing adventures less stressful. You can spend thousands of dollars on groceries per trip.
2. Maintenance costs
Boat engines can fail. The lift system’s hydraulics can malfunction. Other technologies and equipment can falter, requiring expensive repairs. Hence, periodic maintenance (i.e., engine tune-up and oil change) is necessary to keep these mechanical components in tip-top shape.
3. Licenses and permits
Most states require crabbers to obtain a crab fishing license before heading to sea. This regulatory requirement can cost you $10 to $100, depending on fishing laws.
Assessing the Return on Investment
Assessing the profitability of crab fishing is as easy as determining the difference between the money gained and spent and dividing the result by the money spent.
For example, suppose you spent $1.5 million on a brand-new crab boat, including the operating expenses and licenses. Let’s also assume you generated $1.8 million in one year.
In that case, $1.8M minus $1.5M is $300,000. Dividing $300,000 by $1.5M is 0.2 or 20% return on investment.
Tips for Budgeting and Financial Planning
Here are a few tips to help you create a reasonable budget for your dream crab boat.
- Research your crab boat options. As mentioned, a second-hand crabbing vessel might seem within your budget. However, repairs and maintenance requirements can hike the cost, making the boat less practical than a brand-new unit.
- Consider how you intend to buy the boat. Will you be paying it in cash or financing? If the latter, do you have a favorable credit score? How about your debt-to-income ratio? Most lenders don’t want to finance a boat to someone with a DTI greater than 43%.
- Learn basic boat maintenance to save money on professional servicing.
- Revisit your family budget and cut back on unnecessary spending to finance your crab boat, including its maintenance.
- Be realistic. Don’t buy a crabbing vessel you cannot fit in your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a crab boat for other types of fishing?
Yes, you can use a crab boat for other types of fishing. However, the equipment (i.e., lift system, crab pots, and hooks/lines) will go to waste unless you also pick a marine harvest that requires these tools.
Are there any safety regulations or training required for crab fishing?
Safety regulations and training requirements for crab fishing vary across countries and states. Hence, aspiring crabbers should contact their local fisheries department to learn specific requirements.
How much money does a crab boat make?
How much money a crabbing vessel makes depends on how many crabs it catches and what type. For instance, King Crabs cost $40 a pound (although it’s pricier in the market). Hence, if the crabber nets 100,000 pounds of King Crabs, it makes $4 million.
How much does captain of crab boat make?
If you’re wondering how much does a Deadliest Catch crab boat owner make annually, the answer is about $170,000. Of course, “relatively unknown” skippers might earn less.
How much does a crab boat cost? The answer depends on various factors, including vessel size, “popularity,” age, and included equipment. Although you can get a small two-crew crab boat for about $10,000, it might not be as profitable as a multi-million-dollar crabbing vessel.
The initial stages of the crab boat operation might be challenging, but careful planning should help you earn the ROI you expect from your crab boat.
Ten years of enjoying countless trips on boats never made me love them any less! So I am here to put all those experiences into good use for other boaters who want to have a safe and fun trip with their friends and families.