there are many aspects to your question, that have been debated and worse. Are you comparing "older" boats of the same vintage...or new Tartan/Sabre to older Ericson and Pearson?
As a former Sabre owner, and current Hunter owner, I can give you quite a bit on both. Sabre is definitely a step up in quality, but would you see it day sailing or overniting? Is Sabre perfect, not by a long shot...my boat suffered from the mast step issue..it was a mid 80's boat, and you would think it would have been solved in subsequent years...wasn't.
New Tartans have had some build issues (you may have to look elsewhere for that debate, as the former owners flew hot and threatened a lot of folks) and the "newest" owners are building again, but the jury is out.
Are the same vintage boats the same, I would say that the Tartan and Sabre of the 80's were better built than the Ericson and Pearson, but they were all built heavy in that time of similar materials and quality.
You would need to let us know what your goals for the boat are to better answer. If you have questions on Sabre 38 or Hunter 42 or Beneteau 36CC, I can help you with real answers, as I have owned/own them.
All the best
You're right, a lot of different points of discussion. I'll clarify.
I'm looking for a boat to spend weekends on and daysail on Lake Erie with the versatility to go for a longer cruise up to Georgian Bay/North Channel. So, I'm looking for comfortable space/accomodations, stability to handle Lake Erie's quick temper, and I'm guessing shallow draft capability (a centerboard perhaps?) to have the versatility to explore North Channel. I'm guessing that most days on Lake Erie the shallow draft won't matter, but I don't want to be limited in where I can take her. A bit of speed wouldn't be so bad either. I'm looking mostly at 1980's-early 1990's vintage boats because budget is 35-45k, so I'm not really trying to compare newer Tartans and Sabres. Still waffling back and forth about boat length too, but I really don't want to buy and sell several boats, so I'm leaning toward getting a larger (i.e., 34-36, rather than 30-31) to start. Just did ASA 101,103, and 104 on a 43' boat, so that helped me feel that a 34 was manageable to start. I will also probably be single-handing it a fair bit.
I've been looking mostly in the 33-36 foot range including Tartan 34-2, Pearson 34, Sabre 34 and 36 and Ericson 35-III.
Thanks for your response.