I guess I was used to Keley Blue Book for cars where there was not much that would change the base that much.
I had to learn the same lesson. Part of the difference is that many sailboats sold only dozens of hulls, the most popular models a few thousand over 20 years. Popular cars sell millions of the same model.
Cars are often used up after 10 years a sailboat is just starting to be "not new".
It is a rare car that you would drop 15,000 for an all-grip job or 5,000 for new cushions.
The bottom line is that sailboats are a unique market and follow their own rules.
I believe that one of the rules is that brokers significantly level out the pricing. I have had several discussions with a local broker with about 40 years experience and I think I have some understanding of how he thinks and how his business works.
Let's say you have a 1984 Catalina 30, diesel, average condition that he says he wants to list for 15,000.
If as the seller you get anxious and want to sell, there is a price, maybe 10,000 at which the broker will buy the boat from you himself. This means that if as a buyer if you offer $9,000 the broker will either not deliver the offer or shame the seller into not taking the offer or buy the boat himself.
How many people no matter how desperate will sell the boat if the broker delivers this speech.
"I'm telling you, you should get 15,000 for this boat. This thief is offering 9,000, I'm only telling you because I legally have to. If you are that desperate to sell I'll buy it from you for 8,500 with no commission so you will be $400 ahead. I know I'll sell it in a month and I doubt if you want me get triple my commission, but it's up to you."
Why do the brokers stand firm on the price. First, they have hundreds of boats to sell, they would like to sell yours but a boat is a boat.
Second, they don't want to poison the well. It is a small community. If people find out boats sell for 50% off that will be the new set point.
Even despite a desperate economy, boat prices are only slightly down not precipitously, like would be expected.
What does happen on occasion is someone gets into a beef with the local broker and takes the listing away. Now when you are dealing with the owner and all possible emotions are in play any price is possible.
The problem is that finding a FISBO (for sale by owner) that is a good boat, not junk, great price, the right boat and executing the details of an expensive transaction without the benefit of a broker with a seriously annoyed seller who knows he is giving his boat away can be a really big job and take months.
Brokers do an important job but getting you as a buyer a steal of a price is not one of them.
If my theory is correct, then there should not be very many sailnetters that will be able to report getting a great deal (My definition is 50% off comparable) from a broker. I'm interested in the exceptions. Perhaps a young desperate broker, my guy is old, established has money and is the top broker in the region.