Choose your country

Or view all businesses for sale



How to Run a Boat Rental Business in the UK

The boat rental business is unique and exciting, but it requires a lot of work and attention - especially on those dark, rainy days. We provide some vital insights every boat rental owner needs to know.

If you enjoy living close to the water and you want to capitalise off that, then you’re in the perfect business.

The boat rental business is versatile, and you have multiple opportunities ahead of you. But only the best innovation and customer experience can bring you success.

This business is dynamic, and your potential clients will care more about the experience than anything else. With the right information, ideas, and support, your boat rental business can be one of the most sought-after. Here are some useful guidelines to help you improve your business.

Improving Customer Experience

As a business owner, you know how much effort has to be invested into building a company. To stay in business and strive through the rainy, dark days (which are often), you need to build a strong, sustainable foundation for the business. This involves making customers happy by devising ways to improve their experience.

Target the right market, consider the safety of your customers and ensure you have extensive knowledge of your environment. With boat rental businesses, you need to be constantly up to date with weather conditions.

For a better customer experience, sailing routes are of utmost importance. You don’t want to take your clients around mundane routes with no attractions. Customers want to be happy, and they want to create new memories and experiences. Ensure that your routes are clean, attractive and safe. Be sure that the waterways are accessible enough for passage.

Target an area with a higher population to increase your chances of a large customer base. Sparsely populated areas can also be considered, but ensure that the population is interested in what you have to offer.

Attract your customers by establishing ride offers during festive periods and other special occasions. For example, you can give a 20% discount on couple anniversaries or Valentine’s Day. Special offers can also be created for friends, families, birthdays or other celebratory events.

Re-evaluating Your Target Market

In the UK, cities with large populations include London, Birmingham, Manchester, and West Yorkshire. But the cities with high tourism include London, Edinburgh, and Manchester.

Boat rental business owners can look towards the Clyde, River Medina, Isle of Wight, River Orwell, River Dart, the Thames and the Yealm as potential areas to operate.

These open waters come with a great view and atmosphere for customer experience. As a boat rental business owner, your focus should be directed here.

Tourists bring in high revenue while locals create business opportunities and customer loyalty. Keep in mind that the UK weather will be your biggest threat. Summer is a great opportunity to attract different demographics, but winter will be a challenge.

Factors You Need to Monitor

In every business, there will be factors that pose a threat. These threats need to be looked into to act accordingly. The UK is known for its bad weather, and the sun is not abundant. Boat rental business owners should adapt their operations to mitigate this threat.

While setting and adapting your prices, evaluate your costs. This is to ensure that you don’t run into a deficit. Boat rental businesses with cheaper pricing will always be a threat because clients go after the most affordable. Nonetheless, you should maintain your price and be sure your value proposition is worth it.

A licence is needed to successfully run a business like this. A commercial business licence is important for rental businesses in the UK. Before you can use a particular area of water for your operation, a permit is needed.

Permits are Vital

Before obtaining a permit, a landlord contract is needed. The contract shows your right to operate in a certain space over a period of time. You would be required to show the document to the local police to be eligible for a permit. Approach the authorities as a professional operator and ensure your legal documents are complete.

Some of the requirements needed from you as an operator include:

  • Safety certification
  • Certification for driving a boat
  • Certification for water code
  • First Aid certification
  • Personal Safety, Lifeguard, and other conditions
  • Diving certification
  • Other certifications

Note that these certifications depend on your location. Every city has its own certifications and requirements. Take the requirements seriously.

As a business owner, you need to show the authorities that you have good communication skills, and you can sustain a healthy relationship and cooperation. Your permit is not permanent; the landlord and harbour might tamper with your operations and contract. Have a clear understanding of the environment you operate in. This helps in curbing risks and gives you a chance at adding value to the environment.

Market Research

Research helps us narrow down the strength and weakness of our business. Ensure your research focuses on the vulnerability, threats, and opportunities of your business. Investing in sector statistics, research reports, and industry trends will be beneficial, and you should implement them.

For example, the British Marine provides research that measures the size of the boating population based on certain areas. Boating by participation outlines the places potential customers are likely to go boating and their regularity of the activity. Of course this statistic varies according to demographic, age, and income of potential clients in the UK.

Your Growth Potential

The boat rental business is very unique; it yields high revenue and there is certainly growth potential if you can retain your customers - especially during the colder months. Market research and analysis show that potential customers for this business include tourists, fishermen, vacationers, and law enforcement agents. This means that - if you work hard - you’ll have a steady income and possibility of expansion - particularly through franchising.

Some Interesting Industry Facts

  • To cater to specific demographics, some companies are introducing pet-friendly boating experiences.
  • In 2018, over 3.9 million adults (which is about 7.3% of the UK adult population) participated in water and boating activity.
  • The marine industry is very dynamic, and collectively contributes an estimated £9 billion in sales.

Innovative Ideas for Marketing

There are different marketing approaches and strategies that boat rental business owners can adopt.

While marketing your business, focus on the big picture. Let your future clients know what they’re signing up for. Upload great pictures and videos about the business, alongside what services you offer. Write blogs about the area you operate in, like the activities that go on in the community and tourist attractions.

Social media has a power of its own; harness the power and make good use of it. Reviews always go a long way, and they can bring in more customers. Search engine optimisation and search engine marketing would help grow your website and blogs. Offer discounts, allow customisation of experiences and connect with your customers online.

Financing Options

In the boat rental business, steady improvement and reinvention are needed. This will likely involve some form of funding (if you need it) - especially if you need to invest in more boats.

You can consider the following:

  • Loans for small businesses
  • Friends and family
  • Crowdfunding
  • CGI Finance or

Exiting Your Business

While you may not be thinking about selling your business, it’s always useful to prepare for it. Your main elements of value would be your location, client base and assets (boats and other tangible assets).

When conducting your valuation, ensure that you account for these elements. Of course, selling a business can be a stressful experience, so you’ll want to research everything you need to know before you do it. Our selling guide offers valuable information on the process, including valuation, negotiations and more.

Megan Kelly

About the author

Megan is the Content Manager for Dynamis and researches and writes for She is an expert writer and aspiring digital marketer.


Subscribe to our email updates

Sign up to receive the latest advice, most popular businesses, special offers and much more.

I'm interested in is committed to protecting your privacy. We will use the information you provide on this form to send you marketing emails . Find out more about what we do with your information in our Privacy Policy.
Marketing Emails: You will receive newsletters, advice and offers about buying and selling businesses and franchises. We will also send you information about events relating to buying, selling or running a business.