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Boat Dock Vs Boat Slip: Everything You Need to Know

Fact checked by William Hart

boat dock vs boat slip

When you rent a dock, marina owners will lay out a bunch of options with various prices. Never mistake a boat dock for a boat slip or vice versa. Even though they are both inland structures that you tie your boat to, they differ in their construction, price, and application.

The main difference between a boat dock vs boat slip is that a dock is open on three sides while a slip is open on only one side. At a dock, you attach your boat to the inland structures on its port or starboard side, leaving the other sides open. At a slip, your boat is surrounded on its bow, port, and starboard side, leaving only one end to steer the boat in and out.

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What Is a Boat Dock?

Mooring at a dock means securing one side of your boat parallel to the inland structures and leaving three sides open to the water. Below is an example of what is a boat dock. You will tie your vessel to the dock posts to secure it.

For new boaters, navigating in and out of a dock is much quicker and easier. You won’t need to get the exact angle to pull the boat into its place. They are also great for short stops as they save boaters parking time.

Docks take up less space because the construction is simple and flexible. Dock rental fees are usually cheaper than slips. If you are new to boating and have a limited budget, we’ll say opt for a dock.

But docks do not protect your vessel from waves, bumps, and grinds due to the open sides. The constructions are only practical for secluded areas, where traffic and weather aren’t as much of a concern. They also require boarding stairs for you and your guests to come in and leave the boat.

If you intend to install a dock at your waterfront home, know that a dock structure limits the number of docking boats because boats park parallel to the dockside.

What Is a Boat Slip?


A slip for the boat is a parking space contained on three sides. Traditionally, one boat slip houses one boat. The boat is attached to the dock on all its sides except for its bow or stern, depending on how the owner steers it into the slip. But to save space, many marina owners build slips that fit two boats. Each boat is attached to one side of the dock as in the picture below.

The sides of a docking slip help to block most wave actions. At crowded marinas, they prevent bumps and grinds when boats pull in and out of their berths. The structures also put docking spaces in order, reducing traffic jams.

In addition, they can accommodate more boats than docks, which makes them popular in packed dockages like here in Marina del Rey.

The downside between a boat slip vs dock is its high cost. Slip rental fees start at $15/per foot/per month, and you need to leave at least two feet between the boat and the slip on all three sides. For example, a 25-foot pontoon would require a slip that is 30 to 35 feet long. This increases the total renting costs.

It might be difficult for new boaters to steer a vessel in and out of a slip boat dock. You need to park quickly and efficiently to avoid causing wakes and congestion during rush hours. Although it might be the hardest thing for boaters, a little practice will go a long way. Watch this video for instructions and advice:

What Is a Good Place to Leave Your Boat?

Both boat docks and slip can offer huge benefits if you know how to choose the right ones for your situation. Sometimes, a dock is more convenient than a slip. Picking the appropriate storage will save you a lot of time and money. You can dock your boat as long as the spot meets the following criteria:

  • It protects your vessel from wind and waves.
  • It is safe from theft and vandalism.
  • There are not many vessels in the area.
  • The water is deep enough for your keel and stern.
  • It is high enough for you and your guests to step off and onto the boat easily. Otherwise, you need to have stairs or ladders.

If you travel in high-traffic areas or less ideal weather conditions, try to find slips. They will provide extra protection for your boat. In a climate as we have here in California, storing boats in slips year-round is highly effective and convenient. But what if you need to store your boat for an extended period in harsh weather? Are slips still viable options?

Can You Store Your Boat in a Slip Long-term?


Unfortunately, there are many drawbacks when you store your boat in a slip for long periods, such as during winter or rainy seasons:

  • In-water storage in the long term will cost you blisters and paint repairs.
  • Sun and wind will create wear and tear, dull the paint, and dry out seals and leather.
  • Birds tend to occupy empty boats and make a mess.

To prevent such damage, you have to invest in waterproof covers and boat lifts to get the craft’s bottom out of the water. If you live in a place with extreme winter, the cost will be higher:

  • You need fenders or dock bumpers, heaters for the interior, ice eaters to stop ice from forming around the boat, and tarps to seal out rain and snow.
  • You need to learn how to winterize the engine, electrical system, and plumbing system properly. Freezing weather can cause irreversible damage.

You can opt for dry boat storage. The service removes the watercraft from the water and stores it in an indoor facility. Dry storage blocks the harsh outdoor elements. It can also save your boats from unforeseen mishaps (e.g., other watercraft wakes, mold and mildew growth, and boat sinking).


Purchasing a boat is thrilling, but unless you are wealthy enough to own a marina, you will have to sweat it out a bit to find a mooring. Learning the boat slip meaning is the first step to finding your perfect parking spot.

We hope this article on boat dock vs boat slip comparison provided all the information you need to come up with the smartest decision. Let us know whether you chose a dock or a slip for your boat in the comments

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