Owning a boat is only nice when you're actually on it. The rest of the time payments, repairs, dock fees and insurance costs will destroy your savings faster than sending your kid to college. Avoid the hassle of owning a boat. Rent one.
• Go in with friends. You'll each pay less than you would for waterpark passes.
• Most rental companies won't allow you to take the boat into the Gulf, but you can have just as much fun cruising the intercoastal waterways.
• Bring your own refreshments rather than docking at a waterfront restaurant. Eat at a beach bar after you've returned the boat.
• Bring a designated captain who knows what he's doing — or hire one.
• Carpool and arrive early. There's nothing worse than rushing to load your gear or waiting for friends during the time you've paid to have the boat on the water.
• The rental companies all have very similar rates: You can spend as little as $100 for 2 hours on a 17-foot sundeck boat, or as much as $295 for 8 hours on a 10 person, 20-foot bow rider, deck or pontoon boat. Gas and tax aren't included.
Dolphin Marine Rentals on Treasure Island, DolphinMarineRentals.com
Frenchy's Jet Ski & Boat Rental on St. Pete Beach, FrenchysJetski.com
Tierra Verde Boat Rentals on Tierra Verde, Tvboatrentals.com