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I'd also add Beneteau to that list. Here are my general pro/cons for each brand and for Beneteau, each line...excluding the new Deck Salon Sense line...I just haven't seen/experienced them yet.
1) cheapest of the 3 major builders (Hunter, Catalina, Beneteau) in the 30-36 foot range. Tend to get pricier in the larger models.
2) Usually have the most fancy interiors and equipment package for dockside comfort living.
3) B&R Rig (backstayless rig) may mean less complexity and overhead arch for easier control of sail rig
1) Reputation as the poorest in build quality of the big 3
2) B&R Rig absolutely sucks going downwind...you will need a asymetrical or be doing lots of deep reaching. Likley early sail damage due to wear/chafe if you do a lot of downwind sailing.
3) They still make some compromises in construction that give me pause
4) Resalve value absolutely stinks.
1) They dont cut corners in key areas. For example, they're still using lead keels in their cruising and bigger boats. They're still using *REAL* teak for interior woodwork, which makes owner maintenance easier
2) They keep their models in production a looooong time (20+ years for some) which really helps in resale value.
3) Owners are fiercely loyal to the brand so there are large groups of people willing to help
1) Hull profiles are a bit dated vs more euro-modern (Beneteau, Jeanneau, etc). So the sugar scoops on some models look old even when new. The fact is, Catalina does so much in-house, that its often too expensive to replace tooling to adapt to a modern design feature. The flip side is that you benefit from the quality control of an in-house builder rather than some made in china outsourced supply chain! I'm a fan of this integrated supply chain technique...its a dying trend in this world today.
2) Highest pricing of the 3 production builder. Foot for foot of LOA, Catalinas are the most pricey
3) Warranty work can be a bit slow, as nearly every major claim is reviewed by Frank Butler himself. He has a reputation (at least with my dealer that sold both Beneteau and Catalinas at one time) of being ornery to work with. But the general consensus is that Catalina comes through in the end bigtime and the owners love the brand even moreso for it.
Beneteau - I will be breaking it out into the First & Oceanis/Numbers series. (Full disclosure, I own a Beneteau).
1) Price - they tend to be just slightly more expensive than Hunters, but pack a lot of things into it. You just cant beat the price on large vessels (40/45+ foot) when comparing to the old shoe builders. And many many of these larger Beneteaus have made transatlantic or major ocean crossings in rallies. Now, I wouldn't take a large Beneteau on an expedition on all major capes...but for the occasional ocean crossing, nothing beats the value of a larger Beneteau (or their sister company Jeanneau).
2) Performance - easily the best "sailing boat" of the 3 major builders...but Catalina is close on the Oceanis line. These boats are known to win races handily and are great buoy racers/club racers. An oceanis 46 in charter configuration has been our club champion for years and years...beating oysters, tartans, etc handily (rating adjusted).
3) Modern hull designs that are rarely more than 5 years old. The most modern (or faddish design element depending on your perspective) will likely be found on Beneteau Oceanis
4) Beneteau sells parts at what feels at a very low markup. I've been amazed at how cheap some replacement parts are on Syselios...often cheaper than West Marine/Port Supply pricing! They even sell parts on ebay. Recently, a Beneteau 343 mainsail went on ebay for $340...some lucky bastard got that. This is a $2000 sail if you get it done by one of the big lofts out there. (Kicking myself for missing out on that one).
1) Lots of "composite" and "laminate" materials on the interior. If you get a scratch on the wood, its a pain to repair. Sometimes some of the features are form over function.
2) Those "modern" designs right now tend to be flat bottomed hulls...these boats slam and dont like to sail heeled. Sail 'em flat and reef early and you'll do better
3) Iron keels. This is a BIG drawback (and I'm realizing this on my boat) because you are grinding out rust spots and worrying about interaction with copper bottom paints. This will be the second haulout in a row that I will have to address the iron keel. Also, Iron is less dense than Lead, so your boat is understandably more tender than the same keel profile in Lead.
4) Resale can suffer because many many many Beneteau Oceanis/number line boats are sold into the charter trade. This floods the market with Charter model boats (usually 3-cabin with a galley on either side of the vessel), which needs to be brought up delicately during a sales negotiation. There are lots of offers with "Why should I pay $40k more for your boat when there is the same Beneteau in Tortola with Moorings Brokerage for so much less"
4) Modern "faddish" designs can at times not age gracefully. Beneteau's from a few years ago with a lot of fancy design elements just look worse for the wear....think things comparaible to shag carpeting and orange laminate formica kitchen cabinets in a house from the 70s. So it goes with weird companionway hatch configurations and odd materials used in galleys and heads.
5) Beneteau churns models. Your new Beneteau will be replaced within 5 years...7 if you're lucky. This hurts because suddenly, a boat that is still relative new is considered "out of production" which can make custom parts (anchor hatch covers, interior panel covers, etc) tougher to get since the inventory of inhouse parts runs out....forcing you to customize or DIY.
Beneteau First Series
1) Awesome performance, as is expected
2) Longer production runs (probably to encourage one-design fleets)...can be up to 10 years for some production models
3) Some of those compromises made in Oceanis line aren't made here. Lead keels on some models, taller rigs, bigger winches, better deck hardware (Harken instead of Lewmar).
1) Can be pricey...boats are often sold WITHOUT a suit of sails!!!
2) These boats are raced hard and put away wet...owners campaign them so buying a used one can
3) Some of the design decisions can make for uncomfortable at anchor/cruising. Huge destroyer wheels, heads in the forepeak, smaller anchor lockers, etc.
This is a start...I'm sure many will add much more. I dont know much about Jeaneau, Bavaria, Dehler, Tartan, Sabres...but since Jeanneau is made by Group Beneteau and shares production and design talent, I'd imagine much holds true there that holds on Beneteau line.
Last edited by night0wl; 09-26-2011 at 05:31 PM.