The Hidden Costs of Grown-Up Toys

jet ski costs

Many of us own or want to own toys. Campers, boats, jet skis, snowmobiles, ATV’s and classic cars are just a few of the toys that grown ups aspire to own. Many people, when considering the purchase of such items, only look at the cost of the item. They say, “Well, that used boat is $5,000. I can afford that!” and they run out and write a check. If so many people are so thrilled to get these things, why is it that so many end up sitting in the driveway, covered and unused? Chances are it’s because the buyer forgot to factor in all the extra costs of the toy. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the extra costs your grown-up toy might incur.


Unless you already have a large garage or a homeowner’s association that allows you to store things in your own yard, you’re going to have to build or pay for some way to keep your toy out of the elements. At the very least you’re going to have to pay for some sort of fabric cover. You may need to build a shed, carport, or garage to house the item. If you live in an unforgiving housing development or you don’t have the room to keep the item on your lot, you’re going to have to pay for offsite storage.


Toys need things to go with them. Campers need kitchen equipment and towels. Jet skis, boats, and the like need trailers. And don’t forget the life jackets. ATV’s require helmets and trailers. Most toys need more than just the toy to make for a fun, safe experience. The costs for this extra equipment can be steep.


You’ve got to insure the toy against accidents, theft, damage and any injuries you might inflict on someone else. Depending on what kind of toy it is, how new and swanky it is, and your personal driving record, your insurance costs can range from affordable to astronomical.


The thing will have to be maintained. The oil will need to be changed in anything with an engine. Boats need special care to keep them from leaking. The roofs of campers require special care to prevent leaks. Most things need to be winterized/summerized to keep them protected during the off-season. Any toy requires some level of care. If you’re good with an engine you can do some of the work yourself. But anything that’s beyond your expertise is going to have to be professionally done. Even if you do the work yourself you still have to buy parts, tools, and equipment.


Don’t forget that the government will want its share of your toy. Anything that will be used on the roads will have to have a license plate, thus you must pay vehicle registration fees and possibly an inspection fee, too. You’ll likely have to pay property taxes on your toy. Depending on the tax rate and how new and nice your item is, the taxes can be crippling.


Time doesn’t require you to spend money, necessarily, but before you buy any toy you have to be realistic about how much time you have to use it. It’s great to visualize summer day at the lake, but if you work sixteen hour days and never get (or take) a vacation, those days are likely a fantasy. If you won’t use the toy it will just sit, unused. If you can’t use it enough to justify the expenses, don’t buy it. Be honest before you buy so that you can make a good decision and not waste your money.


Most toys require money to use them. You have to pay for gas. You have to pay for a spot at a campground. You might have to pay access fees to even get your boat in the water. You have to go somewhere where that ATV can be ridden freely and that likely means a vacation somewhere. Once you have the toy you want to use it, so you need to know what it’s going to cost to take it out and play. If you can’t afford the vacation or the money it costs to operate, what’s the point of owning it?

The purchase price is usually only a small fraction of the total cost of the item. Once the buyer has the item home, these other costs quickly become apparent. Once they’re all paid, there’s often nothing left to actually go out and use the item with. So the toy sits in the driveway, a reminder of a dream not quite achieved. Before you buy a toy, make certain that you can pay for everything that it requires, not just the purchase price.

(Photo courtesy of donjd2)

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One Response to The Hidden Costs of Grown-Up Toys

  1. Julie says:

    I think the more likely reason the toys sit unused relates to a lack of time…at least that is the case for us.

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