Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: SF - South Bay
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Okay, I am Pearson fan (323). I have not sailed in those specific boats, but 30-odd foot equivalents of all of them. In general (assuming similar equipment/condition) the Pearson tends to be more heavily-built, arguably better/more solid finish. The Pearson is has a more seakindly motion (which is a polite way of saying slower!). They are really solid coastal cruisers.
The 424, like the 323, has an encapsulated keel, which I personally like (dry bilge, no keelbolts to worry about).
Beneteau, Catalina and Hunters are all very fine boats; I cannot be objective here, but will say that those three tend to have a more "modern" appearance, whereas the Pearson is slightly more "classic".
As I said, I can't pretend objectivity, and with apologies to owners of the other boats, after my Pearson they all seemed a bit...flimsy. I would go to the Pearson in a heartbeat.
But then, the realities of price, condition, location etc come it to play; I would say any one of those four are great manufacturers, so go with what makes your heart sing.
By the way, a 40 footer is a big boat. Plenty big enough for 2! Or even 4.....