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Ten considerations before buying a sailboat
Boat Articles, Guides, Commentary and archival articles & helpful information
To Buy a Sailboat
The 10 considerations that prior burnt buyers said would be their guide the next time they buy a boat.
Do not be the first to jump on board. A good design ages and mellows with years. In the early days, a good design stayed the course for a lifetime. Today new models come out before the ink has dried on last year's literature. Why is this necessary? Many lofty new techniques (like carbon spars) come back down to the drawing board for further perfection before the boat's first month's payment is due. Our 6:1 motor lift, for instance. When it comes to buying a sailboat, the percentages are that you are going to do better with a matured design rather than the green hyper-shaped thing, piping hot out of the molds.
Talk and Talk
Mostly to owners. That is rather easy to do these days, thanks to browsers and the Internet. The latest issue of "Practical Sailor" has what may you consider a rave review. Boat shows are another good forum. You will be amazed how many of the clustered crowd around a boat are current or former owners in the mood to be sympathetic and knowledgeable critics for you to corner. But, to be fair, challenge the builder to respond to any hearsay negatives. There may be a good response that you should be aware of. In Fact, most stories are three-sided: your side, seller and buyer side.
The deal & Time
This is a seasonal business. Most of the world wants their boat May 15. Pick another date and negotiate a better price. The best deal. Order in the Fall for Spring delivery on a delivery date of your choice. Location as well as timing, can trim prices. Surprisingly, a boat show can be a good place to place an order, if you sense a motivated boat builder or dealer.
There has to be a reason for the existence of still one more sailboat. Sailboats have a lot in common. So, it is what makes them different that should be your focus. And does that different feature, or features, address your particular needs? Play with the boat features. How do they look, feel and work? Or, go to a reviewer of the boat, like Practical Sailor, who may have been able to do what you cannot get around to doing.
Sail and demonstration
Get a demonstration. Maybe two. Ideally, you would like to see how your contenders perform in light airs and in heavy airs and choppy seas. Set the stage for a full-fledged sea trial by telling your seller you would be willing to pay for the demo sail. Some boat sellers will ask for a modest refundable deposit. Don't be turned off. It means you will get a better testing opportunity than you would be getting from non-qualifying demo offers. Once on board, don't be a passive passenger. See if you can manage it all, all by yourself, without hassles, without helping hands, and in comfort.
But how can you think of selling when you have not even purchased yet?
But you should have an exit poll working. Models that have short lives before their builder has a replacement model out, plummet in resale pricing. "Why should I buy your boat with that kind of keel when, this year, the builder has switched to this kind of keel?" It is easy to check the classified for an indication of how value holds up among the various yacht brands.
Promises are only as good as the history of the builder. How long in business may be one guide. Practical Sailor has a feature called "Where Credit is Due". Has the builder been cited for a good service record. The point is, a guarantee is only as good as the people in back of it. A million year guarantee may not be as valuable as a one year term from someone who means it.
There is a long standing tug-of-war between "value" and "cost". It becomes clearer when you find that what you paid does not necessarily get you sailing as you envisioned. That you still have to shell out thousands more to make your investment work. So, when you see one boat selling at half the price of another, you have to turn to a value judgment. Does the lower cost boat include the genoa you wanted or those cockpit cushions you saw on the display model, and keep adding.
The Safety is one feature it is hard to put a value price on. You will just have to decide what safety is worth to you and then you will just have to ask: Is the sailboat unsinkable with positive foam flotation? Will the mast fall on everyone's head when the jib stay wears or will nine, instead of 6, stays save the day? - "Is the boat tender" but , "Is the boat non-capsizable".
Generaly: Your entry costs will be lower. Your sales will be easier. Your profit will be greater. Everyone enters a venture assured of success. Few succeed. So, most important of all, your risk will be smaller.
The boat that fits your needs
And finally, and most important, pick the boat that fits your needs as opposed to the needs of experts who may be nudging you to that boat because it is fast. What is it YOU want? Are you being realistic? Racing? Cruising?, Daysailing? Live-a-board or Not? Trailerability? There simply is no one such boat. Bend a little to the practical. Prioritize and zero in on the boats that do the job YOU want done. Then pick the best from this category. The boat experts can help, if you still need them.
The cost & Delivery
A Big Boat Sailor! - longing to return to the fun and more sailing time a single-handed smaller boat can offer - but not wanting to give up any of those amenities you have grown accustomed to on your larger boat.
The smaller offers you big boat amenities heretofore never found on small boats, including enclosed marine head with holding tank and "Y" valve for macerated discharge, water on demand system, dual loading ice box, gas and 110 shore power cooking, circuit breakers, self-tending jib.
A Worldly Wise Sailor or Not - who realizes that working up to larger and larger boats is really a self-defeating fantasy for most of us and knows that 22 or 26,28 is your practical size for a long time to come - so wants the very best 22 in the whole world - whose wisdom is, "Charter the big one - own the small one.
Who can now afford to reward him or herself - and cost is not the major decision maker in getting the very most pleasure out of our one time passage this way.
The Brand New to Sailing? - willing to start with the best because your entry-shopping discovery is that being the best is the very thing that makes the smaller, easiest, safest and most fun to learn on.
From the buyer's point of view, one of the most costly elements in purchasing a boat is delivery. Shipping a boat is very expensive. And it is a cost that will continue to increase each year. From the buyer's point of view, making an expensive purchase of a large, heavy, detailed toy, from a manufacturer far from home, can be cause for concern about the practicality of boat guarantees and servicing.
From a selling point of view, most buyers give a lot of thought to getting into sailing. But, once they make that decision, they want that sailboat now. Having to wait for a boat built in a foreign country, can result in their choosing a lesser boat built locally but one that they can be sailing tomorrow.
the sailboat budget
Who wants to match the sailboat budget to the time-use factor and return benefits - that the faster to set sail, easier to sail, less down-time small sailboat, will lead to less dollars spent per actual time sailing - that the best is the least costly in the long run.
VALUE is also at the high end, with none of your dollars going to dealer markup or advertising or fancy promotional literature - that it is value that makes the smaller one of the best buys when it comes to trailerables. Just look at the sailboat classifieds. And that much, much more comes back to you resale time than with any other competitive boat.
Buying advice - all the aspects of buying a boat