Bene and Giu, (wasn't that a song by Elton John?)
Anyway, I won't be buying a new one due to somewhat lackluster performance in my stock portfolio recently (I'm currently sitting on a window ledge). Sounds like this ain't necessary a bad thing since the build quality is not what it used to be.
That said, what is the "sweet spot" for good quality in the Benes (early/mid '90s, early '00s, etc.)?
I'm not sure what size boat you're looking at, or if you are speaking of Beneteaus cruising boats, or their performance oriented boats, but one of the major issues that tipped the scales from Bene to Catalina (34'-36') for me was the fact that nearly every early '90's crusing Beneteau I came across was equipped with roller furling main.
That leads me to disagree with a blanket statement that Beneteau's are better sailing boats that Catalina's or Hunters, at least comparing similar models from the early-late 90's. Looking at PHRF numbers for the Chesapeake, I find C36MkII's with ratings around 156 and a Beneteau 361with in mast furling, rated at 165 (same as my C36MkI w/ tm, wk, fp, rfa). Put in mast furling on the Catalina MKII and they are very comparable in sailing performance. They are either both "old shoes" or not, depending on your point of view.
Now, Beneteau does make some higher performance boats, but your spouse is not likely to see it as comparing apples to apples when they take a look below in one of those, and then steps into a Catalina or, God Forbid, a Hunter. 30 seconds a mile ain't gonna mean squat, when they compare below deck amenities. More power to you if you can make the sale. I didn't even come close, my choice was Beneteau Oceanus or Catalina. Edited to add the fact that some of those better sailing Beneteaus from the late 80's early 90's can only be described as "FUGLY".
I'm talking used boats from around the 90's. If I was new boat shopping I don't know what I like. The latest Catalina's in the mid 30's range have too much freeboard to my eye. My slipmates Catalina 350 looks to be nearly 2 feet taller than my C36MkI and I can't get my eye to love it. I haven't really looked at the latest Bene's, since I spent my time at Annapolis looking at boats only CEO's of failing banks could afford. I went on the big Catalina 47 and really liked it, but since I'd have to win the lottery to buy it, I might as well wish for a Hyla's, Halberg-Rassy, Oyster, Swan, Hinkley, etc.
Alex's intial comments about the Catalina's he went aboard are exactly what I like about my boat, but realize that everyone weighs the compromises in production boats differently and I respect his opinion.