Just like every dock needs a boat, every boat needs a cover. When you’re on the hunt for a cover, there are a few different routes you can go. Deciding on that route will determine the cost, quality and craftsmanship of your cover. Let’s take a look at a few of these choices.
A Generic Box cover will usually run you between $50 and $150. These are the kind of covers that you find online, or at a big-box store like Walmart or Costco. These covers are designed to be mass-produced. They fit any number of boats, and they use cheap, low-grade material. All of this means that these covers usually don’t fit very well. Their lifespan is very low, usually lasting only about three seasons, at best. If money is tight and you’re in a bind as winter approaches, these are a great option. In any other circumstance, though, these covers are just about a waste of money.
With OEM or semi-custom covers, your options improve; but they’re still pretty limited. Unless you’re buying a boat that already has an OEM Snap cover, you’re pretty much locked into Storage or Mooring covers. Prices for these range somewhere between $300 (for a Semi-custom cover like on iBoats.com) to upwards of $700 – $1200 (for the OEM cover at your dealership). These covers deliver a slightly better quality than the generic out-of-the-box cover, but not by much. The manufacturer uses better material, but still cuts corners to ramp up production time. Since OEMs are made for specific models, the fit for your boat will be much better than the generic. These covers will likely last somewhere between four and ten years, depending on exposure and the type of fabric used. Their warranties will often vary.
CUSTOM SHOP COVER
If you want to protect your boat for the long haul, the absolute best bet is to get a Custom cover from a local shop like ours. The price you pay for a full Custom cover only comes down to materials and time (or labor). We can do more than Boat covers. We offer a variety of other textiles as well, including enclosures, Shade screens, upholstery, and Bimini tops. Custom shops offer more fabric options. Each shop also has their own specific fabrication styles: fitting, fabric selections, thread, needed reenactment, getting templates, and production practices. While the cost can vary from shop to shop, the finished product is always worth it.
There are a few different styles for finishing your cover. Some are better than others, and some are just a little different than you’d expect. The traditional method is to use the fabric that you’ll use to build the cover. First spread it over your boat, and then mark your seams and cut lines. The upside of this method is that production is fast. However, it doesn’t allow for much flexibility in placing the seams and darts. The other commonly used style is to make a template with paper or a thin plastic, similar to Visqueen. The advantage of this is that the fabricator can take the pattern back to the table. Then the fabricator can move seams and, in some cases, get rid of them or even add new ones to utilize the fabric better.
In most cases, labor is going to be the determining cost factor of a Custom cover from a local shop. For example, building a Mooring cover for a 24’ Ski boat with a Wakeboard tower will take about 9 – 13 hours from start to finish. Every shop is going to have different variables for how they establish their labor rate. Depending on where your shop is located, you can anticipate spending between $60 – $125 an hour. The things that factor into labor rates include health care, retirement, and team wages, along with everyday business overhead, rent, utilities, tools, and maintenance. Finally, custom shops do hope to make a profit when all is said and done.
With materials, there are many options and prices to go along with them. The higher price fabrics would be Sunbrella Supreme or Stamoid, and the lower tier is something like Surlast or Sunforger. This leaves Sunbrella, Top Gun, WeatherMax, and a host of others in the middle. In most cases, Sunbrella is both the most widely requested and most commonly used. Snap covers are going to use less fabric than a Mooring cover, which usually requires about 18 – 20 yards, ranging anywhere from $15 – $33 per yard. A storage cover will require even more since they tend to be larger.
The thread choices may be the most important option in a cover. By using a good quality thread, a good portion of Boat Cover repairs will be eliminated. Unbounded thread will be the cheapest (and if your fabricator is using it, go somewhere else). Bonded Dacron, and PTFE are some other choices. The most important thing is to use the right thread for the right application, so make sure you are asking your fabricator what they intend to use to hold your cover together. You’ll want to know, just in case something ever happens to it.
With all that said, you will see a wide range in price, anywhere from $800 – $1800 for a 24′ boat with a Wakeboard tower. Many custom shops offer warranties for their work. These help the cover to last longer, and can result in the longest life expectancy of 5 – 15 years.
Now, how you pick which fabricators to use is a whole different article.
What a price for your boat? Shoot us and email.