In general I agree with Jeff on a few points, I think the "Frank Butler" experience can be blown out of proportion, but there is validity to it, but I beleive if you have a good dealer (as is the one I have heard of up in RI, I think they are called Eastern Yachts sales) then they will take care of any issues with the factory for you. I think the real issue is that there is only 1 Frank Butler and all warranty issue must go through him. Well that is ok when its a small boat manufacturer, but when you make as many boats as Catalina does then one person is not going to work and it doesn''t scale as well as it should. I have seen this happen to Business''s and Corporations that went from being Small companies to Large. With that said I think it will be a rarity that you will have a problem with that and I have heard of MANY positive experience. Usually the most vocal ones (maybe like Jeff has heard from) are the ones that are most negative, they make it a point to tell everyone they meet when they are not happy. It is still a very small percentage of the total boat buyers.
As far as the boats go, I think Catalina''s have moved from being Chevy''s to Buicks. I agree with Jeff and think Beneteau''s have very nice workmanship below, but something about their layouts are never quite what I like, its as if something is always missing. If I had to pick another boat I would lean towards one of the bigger Beneteaus...(I think they set them up better than the smaller Beneteaus) and I would want a lead keel. I think the Hunters have set up their boats to be very comodious for the dockside, but I think they do it at the expense of adding alot of freeboard and windage to the boat, which is not the best thing. Plus with all the different shaped windows at all angles on the sides of Hunters, I think they are not good looking (obviously a personal opinion). But I also think Hunter cheaps out on not so obvious but very important things. Take the Bilge pumps for instance. I was on a new Hunter 356 at the boat show and all they have is very tiny undersized bilge pump. Not a big deal, but I think Catalina does a very good job of putting the money into the relatively important parts of the boat and not into the "frills". I do not worry about the important systems on the Catalina boats (Hull, Keel - which was always lead and only now does Hunter and Beneteau as an option, standing rigging, etc, etc). I personally think you get more boat (not just teak woodwork below - but solid - what really matters parts of the boat) for the money than both Hunter and Beneteau....Most things are included on the price of the Catalina''s that are not always included with Hunters or Beneteaus.....Like Windlass, all winches included, even on the coach roof, refrigeration, etc, etc.......
I would join the Catalina email List (right here on Sailnet at http://members.sailnet.com/email_lists/index.cfm ) ask the same questions. They will tell it like it is....pro''s and cons. Also ask a lot of questions about the dealer you would probably buy from (eliminating the "Frank" factor)........Also the Catalina owners groups throughout the country are *very* active, strong and supportive, which is helpful, especially when you have issues with your boat (I have even seen things done by the factory because of these groups). Whether you like Catalina or not, they DO listen to their boat owners and make changes on their input. Another thing to remember, a lot of Catalina''s hold their value much better than other boats. In fact there are some boats that they have made that sell for just about what they sold for new....not the sole reason to buy a boat, but its something to think about, if/when, you think about moving up to a different boat.
All in all I am *sure* you will be happy with the Cat 310 (alot of people/couples like that boat) and just make sure you have a good dealer to work with.