How I started my 20Ka-month boat rental business

  • Mylène Garot loved being on the water and wanted to start a boat rental business in Miami.
  • Garot used her savings to buy a boat and started renting it out on Boatsetter, an Airbnb for boats.
  • Impressed by the income potential, Garot reduced its fleet to five vessels in two years.

This essay is based on a conversation with Mylène Garot, a 32-year-old business owner about her boat charter. He is originally from France but now lives in Miami. Edited for length and clarity. Insider verified Garot Boatsetter’s revenue.

I have a master’s degree in business development from a university in France. In 2015, I immigrated to the United States and settled in Florida.

I got a job at Aquajet Miami, a water sports company. I started as an intern and worked my way up to marketing director. It was a small firm of five people and I helped secure some big accounts.

I was hired by a Miami real estate company in 2018 and worked there for two years.

In 2020, I was looking for ways to make money. I Googled platforms similar to Airbnb and found Boatsetter, where boat owners can list their boats for rent.

My husband and I thought it could be a good source of income. I had experience in water sports and wanted to start a boat rental business. My husband was a boat captain and managed the property – it seemed pretty perfect.

In March 2020, I quit my real estate job to start my boat rental company

I used my savings and bought a 1950 Tahoe that cost $25,000. We listed on Boatsetter in May 2020 and received bookings within the first week.

To list on Boatsetter, you need a boat with at least $1 million in commercial insurance, which costs $350 a month.

Boatsetter offers insurance underwritten by GEICO. Boat owners can expect to take home between 65% and 85% of the boat’s listing price, depending on the coverage plan. Boatsetter deducts the remaining income for insurance costs.

Potential hosts then fill out all the required information, upload photos, decide whether to offer a captain or let the renter drive, and create their rental calendar. We started chartering our boats without a captain.

Miami was the hot place to be in the summer of 2020 due to more relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. Everyone wanted to use our boats.

We purchased a second boat in June 2020. Since this new boat, a Monterey M205, cost $40,000, we paid it off in installments after putting down a $5,500 down payment from our savings. We immediately listed it on Boatsetter.

Boatsetter helped us pay off our boat and earn an income

From June to October 2020, we had 101 bookings and generated $45,000 in revenue. During this time, I worked 10 hour days, seven days a week, managing bookings, overseeing cleaning and stocking after rentals and marketing our business.

We rented our boats without a captain. We charged $150 to rent the boats for two hours and had them sanitized and sanitized after each use.

Revenue was increasing, but a private charterer, renting out of Boatsetter, damaged one of the boats in September 2020.

They drove our boat into a shallow area and damaged the hull. We only noticed the next day when it started taking water.

The repair cost $5,500. We kept the customer’s deposit of $1,000, but had to pay the rest out of pocket.

We decided to start chartering with a captain and raised our prices

Even before the September incident, we were often stressed about what visitors were doing with our boats. We also spent a lot of time explaining how to handle a boat and what to look out for on the water.

Having captains reduced that stress and gave us back some of our time. Starting in October 2020, we asked renters to use our captains.

Charterers pay a starting rate of $350 for two hours, which includes the captain. This price increase did not affect our bookings and we gained 30% after paying the captains and gas.

In February 2021, we purchased a third boat for $79,000. We financed it through a private lender — a real estate investor I had met through work. The private lender loaned us the $79,000. I paid off the loan he gave us within a year with profits from boat rentals.

We had three boats in the fleet listed on Boatsetter and our private booking site.

March is historically the best month for boat rentals in Miami due to spring break and the start of the city’s high season, and we were fully booked.

We made $70,000 in revenue in March 2021 with 160 bookings.

We purchased a fourth boat with cash from our Boatsetter bookings

During three months in the summer, our three boats brought in $188,000 in bookings. We purchased a fourth boat, a Monterey 275SY that cost $85,000, in July 2021 in cash. Then we added a fifth boat, a Searay SDX 270, for $90,500 at the end of 2021. We made a $20,000 down payment from our savings and the profits from the other boats and financed the rest.

In January 2022, we decided not to buy any more boats due to talk of a recession and how that could affect boat charters. Our revenue with five boats is close to $20,000 per month on average.

Our team consists of five captains, two assistants and myself and my husband. Three of the captains are on our payroll and two are contractors. We also employ three other captains on call.

I handle the maintenance and marketing myself

I maintain boat lots for all boats, stay in touch with repairmen and handle any emergencies.

I own our business and answer questions on Boatsetter. I try to close deals, book and check boats at the end of each day. I hire all our employees. I interact with guests and handle logistics such as putting gas on boats.

I work about 60 hours a week including weekends and often have no free time. We have a live-in nanny who watches our daughter so my husband and I can work on the businesses.

You can’t be happy in the world of boat charters

To do well at Boatsetters, don’t try to please people – be direct and make sure your guests follow the rules.

We’ve had difficult customers, but we’re always polite — we try not to be confrontational. People have been good about following our rules, but if they don’t, they will be banned and reported to the authorities if necessary.

Boat maintenance costs about $40,000 a year for five boats, or about $600 a month. This includes cleaning the bottom, painting underneath, mechanical, electrical, all fiberglass repair and seats.

Our five boats listed on Boatsetters now average $19,800 per month. They help our family build financial independence.

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