Playing sports is a popular pastime for purposes relating to health, socializing and relieving stress. But what are the most expensive sports? We'll give you the lowdown.
Engaging in sports is an enjoyable way to maintain fitness, alleviate stress, and make new friends. According to a 2015 survey, 25% of US adults participate in sports. There are countless sports available, with team sports like football, basketball and baseball being the most popular in the US. Some sports, such as running or hiking, require minimal equipment, but expenses can accumulate for those with extensive gear and additional costs.
In this article, we will explore the costliest sports and recommend more affordable alternatives that are likely available in your area. Let’s dive into the top 10 most expensive sports in the world.
1. The Most Expensive Sport: Formula One Racing
Formula One (or F1) racing involves driving an open-wheel, open-cockpit, single-seat racing car around a track after completing several laps at speeds of above 200 mph. These cars can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Consequently, racers are usually sponsored by corporations instead of competing independently. Additionally, over $1000 is typically spent on fuel for each car per race, with 22 grand prix held annually.
The environmental impact of F1 racing should not be overlooked, as it generates 256,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, with 72.7% of those emissions resulting from transporting equipment and personnel.
Alternative: If you feel the need for speed, electric go-karts could be an appealing option. These environmentally-friendly vehicles produce zero emissions and can achieve speeds of up to 50 mph. Numerous tracks are available throughout the US, allowing for single-day driving experiences or more committed participation in the hobby.
Prices for a kids’ e-go-kart start at $350. Adults can also enjoy e-go-karting, regardless of their location, and this sport can be pursued individually.
What makes electric cars better for the environment? Check out our guide How Do Electric Cars Work? for all the information.
2. The Cost of Sailing Can Add Up
Feel the wind blowing through your hair and taste the sea salt on your lips; sailing is a fantastic outdoor sport — for those who can afford it. Indeed, sailing is one of the most expensive sports globally, requiring various equipment like life jackets, grippy shoes and weatherproof sunglasses, not to mention the cost of the boat and the trailer necessary to transport it to the water. Even smaller sailing boats, such as the single-person Laser, have a starting price of around $2000 for a used model. Additionally, sailing club membership fees and lessons contribute to the overall cost, making sailing an expensive pursuit even without owning a boat.
Alternative: For a budget-friendly water activity, consider stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). Complete kits start at $100, and no lessons or special clothing are necessary as you can teach yourself. SUP is suitable for weaker swimmers, as they can paddle in shallow, calm waters. The sport is accessible to both adults and children, although supervision and life jackets are recommended for kids. Paddleboarding can be enjoyed alone or in small groups on lakes, rivers or calm beaches.
3. Bobsledding: One of the Most Expensive Sports
Bobsledding is a thrilling winter sport that involves a team of four racing down an icy track in a tube-shaped vehicle called a bobsleigh, which is equipped with skates on the bottom. The objective is to reach the bottom of the track as quickly as possible. Bobsleighs are expensive, starting at around $30,000, so teams often rely on corporate sponsorship to cover the costs of the sled, protective gear, training and track rental.
Bobsledding also carries significant risks; “sled head,” or concussion in bobsledders, affects 13-18% of participants, making it one of the most dangerous Olympic sports.
Alternative: Sledding offers a safer, more affordable alternative to bobsledding. A wooden sled for adults can start at around $160, while sleds for children are more affordable. Sledding can be enjoyed in city parks or rural areas, provided there is a hill and snowy weather. For an eco-friendly sled option, explore these 7 homemade sled ideas.
4. Tennis Is Surprisingly Costly
While tennis may seem like a simple sport requiring only a racket, ball, net and a partner, it can be surprisingly costly. Tennis ranks among the most expensive sports, primarily due to the fees associated with renting tennis courts, which can range from $50 to $100 per hour. Additional expenses may include competition entry fees, lessons and specialized shoes and clothing.
Alternative: For a more budget-friendly approach to tennis, consider a more casual setup without using a tennis court. You can set up a net in your backyard or at a park for free. Although playing on grass differs from the hard surface of a tennis court, it can still be enjoyable. Opt for an affordable racket and wear your regular gym clothes instead of specialized attire.
Tennis can be played in singles or doubles format and is suitable for both children and adults. Children can use a racket with a shorter handle, and the sport can be enjoyed in both urban and rural settings.
The modern pentathlon, which includes running, swimming, horseback riding, shooting and fencing, ranks among the most expensive sports due to the extensive equipment requirements. Participants need fencing gear, a rifle, quality running shoes, swimwear, a horse (or access to one) and equestrian clothing. Moreover, there may be additional costs for lessons or classes in each discipline.
Alternative: Running is the most affordable sport in the pentathlon, making it an excellent choice for those on a budget. All you need are comfortable running shoes and clothing, and you can start running in various locations like your neighborhood, a park or the beach. Running is accessible to both children and adults and can be done individually or in small groups.
You can also get into running at any time of year! Check out our guides to running in snow and running in spring to get started.
6. Polo Is One of the Most Expensive Sports
Polo is a sport that consists of two teams, with each player riding a horse and wielding a mallet to strike a ball into a goal while mounted. Known as an elite sport with participants including members of the British Royal Family, polo is quite expensive. Horse-related sports generally come with high costs, but polo surpasses typical equestrian events due to substantial club and tournament fees.
Alternative: Soccer is a more accessible sport. It can be played informally with small teams or as a casual kickabout in the park. All you need is a soccer ball and makeshift goalposts, such as a shirt or a backpack. Children often start learning soccer at a young age, but adults can join in as well. Soccer can be played in parks, on beaches or in rural areas, and requires at least four players per team for a proper match.
7. Competitive Swimming
Swimming is a favorite sport for many, but competing can be costly. Large pool rental costs per week add up, as well as training costs, gym sessions and even hair removal costs — professional swimmers need to be silky smooth.
Alternative: Instead of swimming in pools that you have to pay for, try wild swimming, which is free, and you can be as hairy as you want! If you’re keen on swimming, you can even build a natural swimming pond in your backyard.
Wild swimming can be done alone, but it is probably best for adults as the swimming areas can sometimes be deep. It is best done in the country, in lakes, rivers and the sea, to avoid pollutants from the city. Learn more about the benefits of cold water swimming.
8. Equestrian Competitions Are Pricey
Equestrian events encompass three disciplines — show jumping, dressage and eventing. Owning a horse is a significant expense, including costs for feed, land for shelter, winter care, shoeing and veterinary bills. Even borrowing a horse often requires “rent” payments and covering many of the aforementioned expenses. Additionally, equestrian competitions involve the costs of equipment for both the horse and rider, transportation (such as a horsebox) and riding lessons, making it one of the most expensive sports.
Alternative: Dog training may not be a traditional sport, but it offers a similar opportunity to connect with an animal as equestrian events do. If you already have a dog, you may only need to purchase a training leash. Dogs can participate in group classes that teach basic behavior and more advanced activities like jumping and tunnel running (for inspiration, check out Crufts). Dog training is suitable for adults and older children and typically occurs indoors in urban settings.
Before starting, consider if getting a dog is right for you and explore the pros and cons of private dog parks.
Ice hockey involves significant expenses, including the cost of hockey gear and ice rink rentals, which can be around $250 per hour. With weekly training sessions, these costs quickly accumulate. Additionally, ice hockey players often sustain injuries, leading to substantial healthcare expenses that push the annual cost of playing hockey into the thousands.
Alternative: If you’re looking for a skating activity without the ice, consider roller skating. Roller skates for adults start at around $35, and this activity can be enjoyed in urban settings on sidewalks (if not too crowded) or in parks. Roller skating can be done individually or with friends, offering an affordable and fun alternative to ice hockey.
10. Gymnastics Is More Expensive Than It Looks
Gymnastics is a popular sport that many children begin at a young age and sometimes continue into adulthood. With weekly classes throughout their lifetime, the cost can quickly add up. Additionally, adults or those pursuing a professional career in gymnastics may want to purchase specialized equipment like balance beams, floor mats, climbing ropes and vaults, all of which can be quite expensive, making gymnastics one of the costliest sports.
Alternative: Yoga is a more affordable floor activity that focuses on stretching and strengthening the body. The only equipment typically required is a yoga mat (starting at $15), but it can even be practiced on a living room rug. While classes are helpful for beginners, numerous free online videos cater to all skill levels. Yoga can be done in various settings, with a quiet space being ideal for relaxation. It can be practiced individually or in groups, and children can participate as well. Check out these tips on yoga for children for guidance.
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