Used and New Boats - SailNet Community
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Used and New Boats

Since boats that are approximately 10 years old are about half the price of a new boat, would you consider it worthwhile to buy a used boat to take on an extended cruise around the world?

Doug Cotton

Jon Shattuck responds:

Here are some pros,cons, and observations to ponder regarding buying and owning new or used boats:

New boat:


  • New boat smell
  • You get to choose all the options and gear
  • Factory warranty
  • Dealer support
  • Zero hours on everything
  • Super clean
  • Maintenance and upkeep are minimal


  • Take what's in stock, or wait up to 24 months for delivery
  • Maximum price per foot
  • You buy all options and gear
  • New boat and new gear need to be rigged, installed, and debugged

Used Boat:


  • Lower cost per foot
  • Comes equipped and debugged
  • Ready to sail or drive away at closing


  • "As-is, where-is"
  • Boat and gear come with varying levels of wear and tear
  • Generally higher cost of ownership
  • Annual maintenance is more proactive; repair and upgrade versus buff and scrub

As boats grow older, their maintenance changes from a defensive "keep it clean" mode to repairing and replacing minor, then major systems. Remember, though, that the average life of a boat, short of catastrophic failure or accident, is longer than yours or mine.

But this longevity only applies if various parts are replaced periodically.  And this depends on the initial quality, amount, type, location of use, and maintenance of those parts:

  • Running rigging - approximately three to five years
  • Canvas—approximately four to seven years
  • Sails—approximately five to 10 years
  • Electronics—approximately seven to 10 years
  • Cushions—approximately three to eight years
  • Standing rigging—approximately eight to 12 years
  • Plumbing—approximately 10 to 15 years
  • Engine—approximately 20 to 30 years
  • Wiring—approximately 10 to 30 years
  • Fiberglass—approximately 40 years and still counting
  • Steel and aluminum—until it corrodes away

Generally speaking, boats depreciate the day they are bought, and then their value flattens out until they fall apart.

Quality, desirability, and condition are key factors in the long-term value of a used boat. Better-built boats last longer, poorly built boats don't.

Higher-quality boats change hands quicker and tend to hold their value (or even appreciate slowly), while lower-quality boats tend to take longer to sell and generally lose value over time.

The older a boat is, the less expensive it generally is per foot, but the higher the annual cost of ownership due to a greater need of maintenance, repairs, and upgrades.

If you are a first-time boat owner or aren't interested or able to do more than cleaning, then I would recommend you buy a new boat, or a well-equipped, properly maintained newer boat. If you have the time, interest, ability, and experience you will be fine with an older boat.

  • 10 years old? Just broken in.
  • 20 years old? Middle age.
  • 30 years old? Higher maintenance.

Some people love the experience of ordering and specing out a new boat, and some people enjoy upgrading an older boat, treating the project like an archival restoration. Me? I just want to go sailing. With all things in life, you always get what you pay for, especially with boats.


Jon Shattuck is offline  
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