Boat Dock Vs. Boat Slip: What’s the Difference?

Boat docks and boat slips – are they the same? While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are a few differences between them, the primary one being the design of these two facilities themselves.

So, if you’re often torn between these two choices when you pull your boat into the marina, we’ll help you decide which option is better for you in this post.

Read on to find out the four major differences between boat dock and boat slip and some tips on choosing the right type of boat slip or a boat dock for your boat. Let’s begin!

Boat Dock Vs. Boat Slip

If you’d ask us, boat docks and boat slips vary in four major aspects, namely, design and appearance, safety and storage, cost, and accessibility and ease of navigation. Below we discuss how these two boat docking options vary in terms of these aspects.

1.   Design:


The primary difference between a boat slip and a boat dock is that the former is open on one side, whereas, on the latter, three sides of your vessel are exposed to the water.

Think of a boat slip like a parking slop for your boat. There are not one but three walkways surrounding your vessel. If you constantly load and unload passengers or other items into and out of your boat, a boat slip would make the process much more convenient for the sailors like you.

Most waterfront homeowners have a dock with a single slip or two; the design somewhat looks like the letter ‘F’ in case of double slip docks and a big ‘T’ or an ‘L’ shape where the dock is designed in a non-slip style.

Boat slips can be designed as per your boat type, making them more accommodating and safe for your boats. Moreover, one can also construct a boat slip featuring a boat lift appropriately designed to make the boat lift even more functional.

2.   Safety and storage:

Safety and storage

The ‘U’ design of the boat slips makes it easy for the sailors to dock more than one boat onto the pier in an organized manner. This way, many of your boats can be tethered separately without letting them bump into the next vessel on the dock.

The boats held in place in slips don’t have enough space to swivel around once tied, thus, preventing the unnecessary collisions typically induced by water action.

On the other hand, in the case of docks, the wave-induced drifts force two vessels tethered to the docks together to collide constantly. Also, it isn’t easy to economize space when docking your boats in docks.

Overall, while both the boat dock and boat slips aren’t favorable for long-term storage and in case of harsh weather, slips are considered safer for short-term storage. Consider storing your boats in dry dock facilities available in the marina for long-term storage.

3.   Cost:

Boat slip rental costs vary depending upon the location, your boat size, the slip size, and a few other factors. But trust us, they are expensive. For instance, in Michigan, the transient rate of a 25 ft boat costs you around $22 to $52.

In general, boat slips cost you $12 to $50/ft per year in the US and remember that the price can rise up to or even more than $240/ft per year, depending upon the location. On the other hand, simply anchoring your boat can cut down your cost by hundreds of dollars.

Likewise, if you’re wondering whether to build a boat dock or a boat slip, the answer is somewhat similar. Boat slips require more parts, time, effort, and definitely cost. Therefore, if you only own a boat, a simple boat dock will just serve you right.

4.   Accessibility and ease of navigation:

Accessibility and ease of navigation

To boating noobs, it is definitely a challenging task to maneuver their boat into the designated slip. On the other hand, in case of docking your boat to a boat dock, one simply needs to align the boat parallel to the pier and tether the boat accordingly.

Also, boats tied into boat docks are easily accessible as they have three exit points, making docks the better option for short-term boat storage.

  Boat Dock Boat Slip
Pros Ease to maneuver your boat into and out of the dock Better protection from waves
Relatively cost-effective Storage of many vessels
Doesn’t take much space Doesn’t require boarding stairs for access to the boat
Cons Often require stairs or ladders to boat safely and easily Difficult to maneuver your boat into and out of a boat slip, especially for newbies
Relatively expensive

How to Choose The Right Type of Boat Slip For You?

How to Choose The Right Type of Boat Slip For You

Here are the few things you need to keep in mind if you’re planning to transiently or annually store your boat in boat slips at your local marina.

1.   Accessibility:

The distance to the marina from where you live mustn’t be too far. Especially in case of emergencies when you might have to see your boat right away, it would be best if you didn’t have to travel too much.

2.   Marina services:

The marina you entrust your boat with must be secure and responsible. Check if or not they have cameras installed and enquire about their guarding policy.

Furthermore, many progressive marinas have repair services and gear and accessories services nearby, thus, making it easy for clients to do any repairs or maintenance work whenever necessary. Therefore, make sure you choose a thoughtful and welcoming marina.

3.   Environment:

Unfortunately, sometimes a marina, despite having great features and services, might be located in an area with unfriendly weather. So, if the marina is prone to stormy winds and tides, it should be ruled out of your list right away.

4.   Depth of water:

Another important factor for you to consider is if or not the water level inside the slip is deep enough to clear the boat draft and propellers. For complete assurance, you can check the water depth using a bamboo stick.

5.   Approaching momentum:

When there is no prevailing wind during the docking, the fairway momentum will assist the sailors by tilting the boat up against the dock instead of pulling away.

How to Choose The Right Type of Boat Dock For You?

How to Choose The Right Type of Boat Dock For You

So, if you’ve decided boat slips are not for you and you’d invest in a boat dock instead, this section is just for you! According to FIXR, the average price of building a dock ranges from $7,000 to $25,000. It’s a pretty huge investment. Below are a few tips for you.

1.   Your expectations of the dock:

Firstly, analyze and introspect on why do you need a boat dock? Do you own one boat, or two, or many? Do you plan on adding a slit or more later? Do you want to add a boat lift? Are the guests allowed to entertain themselves at times in the dock?

If you own multiple boats, sooner or later, you’ll want to upgrade into slips. Also, the length of your boat must be considered in order to design the dock appropriately. Therefore, analyze and take weigh each and every factor that comes into your mind before the construction process.

2.   Local rules and regulations:

Before the construction, make sure you check with your local authorities regarding what rules and regulations they have in place regarding boat docks and get a permit if necessary. In fact, some of the local municipalities have a certain size limit for private docks.

Even if you have a reservoir, you might need to check in with a few regulating agencies. In any case, avoid being fined, or worse, having to remove the recently built dock altogether.

3.   Accessories:

Consider and budget for the accessories such as ladders, furniture, lights, storage units, etc. in order to make your time on the dock as hassle-free as possible.

4.   Installation and Maintenance:

Like any other infrastructure, a boat dock needs proper installation, religious attention, and maintenance. If you aren’t sure if or not you’ll be able to fulfill the responsibilities, it is better to invest in a premium quality dock kit that can withstand the test of time despite negligence.

Boat Dock or Boat Slip – Which One Is Better?

Boat Dock or Boat Slip – Which One Is Better

As we’ve discussed before, the answer to the question – ‘Boat dock or a boat slip?’ comes down to your personal preference and requirements.

If you own plenty of boats in a high-traffic area, you should definitely go with a boat slip, as it allows many vessels to be moored along the pier.

In contrast, if you don’t have enough space, only own a single vessel, and traffic isn’t much big of an issue, investing more in a boat slip would not be a smart idea.


By now, we hope you are aware of the clear differences between a boat dock and boat slips are.

In a nutshell, in boat docks, one side of the boat is docked parallel against the pier, and in the case of boat slips, the boat is enclosed from the three sides; thus, there’s only one way of exit.

If you own waterfront property, building a dock can be a smart idea. However, to make the right decision, talk to a nearby marina regarding the prices of slips and docks, and decide which facility is best for you. We hope you make a smart choice!

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