The Most Expensive, Elite Hobbies in the World

While any hobby can get pricy--just ask anyone who does scrapbooking--these pastimes are in a whole different (tax) bracket.

Money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy incredible experiences, rare collectibles, and the opportunity to take up the world’s most expensive hobbies. From climbing mountains to racing horses, these are the priciest ways to pass the time.

Photography

Taking a photograph at sunset
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While anyone can snap a great picture with a cell phone camera, photography is not a cheap hobby. The most significant expense is gear. In addition to a high-quality camera body, specialty lenses can be thousands of dollars each. Most photographers now shoot digital instead of paying for darkroom access and chemicals to develop their shots. However, the cost of this hobby can skyrocket once you start traveling in search of the perfect photo.

Riding Horses

Ask anyone who has horses, and they’ll tell you how expensive it is. Horses are usually costly to buy, but the expenses continue for years or even decades afterward. They are expensive to feed, stable, and keep healthy and shod. Beyond that, equestrians need riding gear and tack. If riders get involved in dressage, the costs become so prohibitive that only the very wealthy can afford it.

Skydiving

tandem skydiving
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For most people, skydiving is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But for a few, it’s not just a bucket list item. As a beginner, a tandem skydive can cost upwards of $250 each time. However, if you wanted to get licensed as a skydiver and be able to jump solo, then you’re looking at a minimum of $3500, according to Skydive Carolina. Once you get licensed, you’ll have to spend upwards of $5000 on gear.

Scuba Diving

If diving out of a plane isn’t your thing, what about diving under the sea? As with skydiving, the initial cost for beginners on a supervised dive is just the beginning. People who try scuba diving on vacation might not be aware that it can cost thousands of dollars for gear. Aqua Sports Planet states that certification will run about $300, and individual dives will cost between $75 and $150. Don’t forget that you’ll also need to travel to places where you can dive!

Archery

Archery isn’t just for kids at summer camp. At the competitive level, it can be a very expensive hobby. The daily fees at an archery range can run between $5 and $20 a day, according to Archery Mind. That doesn’t seem so bad, so what’s the catch? The real expense is in buying equipment. Even a beginner compound bow is at least $300. Recurve bows cost much less, but both types of archery require additional protective gear, targets, and other supplies. Lessons to learn how to use your new bow will also add to the price tag.

Buying Art

Art auction
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Being an art collector could mean paying $10 at a flea market, $100 at an antique store, or $1,000,000 at an exclusive auction. High-end art collectors have deep pockets and a powerful competitive streak. Beyond the initial purchase, the cost to maintain an art collection keeps adding up, year after year. You can’t just hang a rare oil painting on the wall and forget about it; you’ll need to pay for insurance, home security, and preservation.

Sailing

Any time a boat gets involved, costs go up. Whether it’s a tricked-out yacht or a relatively simple sailboat, this is one of the most expensive hobbies on the planet. First, there’s the cost of buying a boat and learning to sail it. Then you’ve got to pay marina fees or storage, plus a trailer and a truck capable of pulling it. Boats need plenty of maintenance, too, as well as replacement parts and supplies. The good news is that sailboat insurance isn’t that pricey, but you should still plan to pay a minimum of $1500 a year, according to Best Boat Report, even if you are renting the vessel.

Collecting Or Restoring Cars

There’s a good reason why collecting luxury cars is the favorite hobby of certain music, movie, and sports stars. It takes a serious amount of cash to buy luxury cars–not to mention the cost to maintain and insure the vehicles. Jay Leno is said to own 130 cars and 90 motorcycles, making him one of the biggest car collectors on the planet. He drives them all, too!

Restoring cars might seem like a more accessible hobby. After all, a lucky hobbyist could pick up a classic car at a junkyard for next to nothing. But the cost of parts adds up really fast. It’s also a deeply time-consuming hobby that requires specialized tools and workshop space.

Raising Exotic Pets

African gray parrot
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While we don’t condone keeping exotic animals as housepets, some wealthy hobbyists can’t seem to resist collecting rare and valuable animals. Big cats, such as the tigers that once belonged to Mike Tyson, get all the attention. However, monkeys, parrots, and pythons are all among the most expensive pets in the world. Even smaller cats, such as the Bengals belonging to Justin and Hailey Bieber, cost thousands of dollars.

Playing Poker

You might think that the only real cost involved in playing poker as a hobby is the amount you lose. That’s true–to an extent. If you have a weekly game with your friends or play the occasional hand of online poker, then it can be a fun hobby without too much risk. However, high-stakes poker is a different world. The minimum buy-in for elite tables is $100,000–and the stakes can go much higher than that.

Racing

Racing anything is an expensive hobby. Drone racing–an increasingly popular hobby–can cost hundreds of dollars for equipment and even more for entrance fees. According to Turn Fast, an amateur car racer can expect to pay a few thousand dollars a year on event fees, gas, maintenance, and travel. Formula 1 racing adds several zeros to that figure, with the cars costing millions of dollars to build and maintain. Racing yachts rival the pricetag of Formula 1 cars; both hobbies are only accessible to the extremely wealthy who can afford the equipment, fees, and travel costs.

Building Model Railroads

Model trains
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Model railroads are not for kids. Serious railroading enthusiasts pay anywhere from $70 to $400 a square foot for their projects, according to Progressive Model Design. That price tag includes not only the trains themselves but also the tracks, scenery, wiring, and supplies to make the model railroad landscape as realistic as possible. It’s a hobby that requires a dedicated space, plenty of disposable income, and lots of free time.

Climbing

How expensive is climbing as a hobby? Well, it depends on what kind of climbing you mean. Paying for a membership at a rock wall gym is one thing; climbing Mount Everest is another. Rock climbing requires only a couple of hundred dollars in gear to get started, making it less expensive than many other popular outdoor hobbies.

Mountain climbing, on the other hand, can be incredibly expensive. Will Gray, writing for Red Bull, states, “From kitting up for a big climb to shelling out for a flight to a distant mountain range, costs can quickly build up into tens of thousands.”

Cosplay

Cosplay is the hobby of creating and wearing costumes that honor characters from comic books, TV shows and movies–even podcasts. If there are fans, there are cosplayers. It has grown in popularity over the last decade as “geek” culture has gone more mainstream. These folks aren’t dressing up for Halloween but crafting high-quality, screen-accurate costumes and props–or creating their own fantasy versions of characters. The cost of materials for each costume can run hundreds of dollars, plus cosplayers frequently travel to conventions to display their work.

Playing Polo

People playing polo
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Playing polo is expensive, which is why it’s one of the favorite pastimes of the wealthy. Prince Harry and William both play polo, and it takes a royal fortune to keep up with the costs associated with the sport. The membership fee at an exclusive club is just the start; polo players need a trained horse and all the associated costs of keeping the animal in tip-top condition.

Birdwatching

You might think of birdwatching as a relaxing hobby that’s essentially free. Just sit down on a park bench or your back porch and enjoy nature, right? Wrong! While experts claim that the bare minimum to birding is a pair of $100 binoculars, a serious birder can spend much, much more than that. High-end equipment and travel costs are on par with elite photographers.

Flying

Last but not least, one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive hobbies is flying. Depending on the type of plane, costs for an aircraft can range from $8,000 for an ultralight plane to $300,000 for a multi-engine plane. Lessons and licensure add more costs for the beginner pilot. However, the ongoing costs of insurance, storage, and fuel will continue to add up.

It turns out that even flying miniature aircraft can be an expensive hobby. RC aircraft cost hundreds of dollars–and the learning curve is steep! Pilots need to purchase not only aircraft but also a radio to control the plane. The biggest cost for beginners is repairs or replacements after a crash.

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