How to buy a sailboat and avoid costly mistakes

Selecting the right sailboat

Choosing your dream boat involves a long list of considerations and predictions about how you’ll be using the boat. I have encountered several experienced sailors who bought their first boat on a whim without considering how they will be using her. This may have worked for some people and they may still be sailing that same boat while speaking affectionately about her. However, many people have come to regret their sudden impulse buy, sailing less every year and eventually ending up selling their boat at a big loss.

In our case, we owned an old sailboat, which served as a great day sail tool, but ultimately was not what we had envisioned.

In other words, you cannot spend too much time considering how you will be using your sailboat. In the Northwest, for example, the water is deep enough without you having to worry about how far your keel goes into the water. But try squeezing an 18-foot draft into Long Island Sound and you will likely end up in an unpleasant grounding. If you live and sail in an area known for light and moderate winds, there’s no point in buying a boat built to cross oceans because you might, maybe, possibly at some point fulfill the dream you haven’t shared with your spouse, that someday, maybe, possibly, you might do a circumnavigation.

In our case, we asked ourselves the following questions.

1.) Where are you going to be sailing?

My wife and I
will
be
doing
most of our sailing in blue water, crossing oceans and exploring tropical island paradises. This means that winds can reach anywhere from dead calm to potentially violent gales. This narrowed our choice down to a blue water boat.

If you sail in an area with high winds like Hawaii you need a boat that will be comfortable in heavy air. If you will be sailing on a small lake, a light day‐sailer might do the trick. If you plan to live‐aboard and cruise the open ocean, you probably want a blue‐water boat. The important thing is to buy a boat for where you will be doing most of your sailing. This concept seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people I have seen get this wrong. They ended up getting the boat of their dreams, which turned out unsuitable for where they were sailing most of the time.

2.) How much are you going to sail?

When we owned our old boat, we used to sail
most
weekends. However, when we made our pact, we planned on circumnavigating the globe, which eventually required us to sell the old boat and look for more suitable options.

If you can only sail a few weeks a year, you might want to consider chartering or looking into guaranteed income/fractional ownership programs. A guaranteed income program allows you to buy a new, or almost new, boat, which will be chartered and managed by a professional charter business, usually for a term of up to five years. You are guaranteed a few weeks a year of sailing and a monthly income, which may partially or sometimes fully offset your costs. This is a great way to subsidize your boat ownership and at the same time the charter business keeps your boat in immaculate condition. When shopping for our boat we came across some boat owners who only sailed a few weeks of the year and had their sailboats sit idly on the hard and slowly deteriorate, which seemed like such a waste of boat.

  1. What type of boat?

This is the question that my wife and I found the easiest to answer. We both knew that the boat would have to be a blue water boat, equipped with all the extras, such as water-maker, solar panels, Single Side Band, etc. While I am passionate about monohulls and their aesthetic aspect, we decided to go with a catamaran as it provides a lot more living space and more comfortable cruising. Following are some types of sailboats and their different rig setups you may consider:

The Modern Sloop. The most common type of small to midsize sailboat is the sloop. The rig has one mast and two sails (Bermuda Rig). The mainsail and the jib or sometimes called the head sail. The modern sloop is a great all-round boat that can be used for day-sailing as well as crossing oceans.

Racing Sloop. Similar to the modern sloop, except that sails are much bigger than found on most cruising sailboats.

Cutter. The cutter rig sailboat has two jibs, the foremost one usually a high-cut yankee set on the forestay and the other a staysail set on an inner forestay. It’s a flexible, easy to handle rig. Its disadvantage is that it is not as efficient to windward as a sloop.

Cat Rig. While a sloop always has two sails, a cat-rigged boat generally has only one with the mast positioned very far to the front. The mainsail may have a traditional boom or a loose-footed mainsail. Its advantage is the ease of handling only one sail. However, considered less powerful that the Bermuda Rig, it is a less popular choice.

Ketch. This is a popular rig for midsize cruising boats. A ketch is like a sloop with a second, smaller mast set aft, called the mizzenmast. The mizzen sail functions much like a second mainsail. Overall, the sails of a ketch carry roughly the same total square footage of sail area as a sloop of the same size. Even though a ketch may have these advantages, they are usually more expensive, because of the added mast and sail. The sloop rig is in general considered faster and is therefore almost exclusively used in racing sailboats. The primary advantages of a ketch are that each of the sails is usually somewhat smaller than on a sloop of equivalent size, making sail handling easier. Smaller sails are lighter, easier to hoist and trim, and smaller to stow. Having three sails also allows for more flexible sail combinations. For example, with the wind at an intensity that a sloop might have to double-reef the main to reduce sail area, a ketch may sail very well under just jib and mizzen.

Yawl. A yawl is very similar to a ketch. The mizzenmast is usually smaller and set farther aft, behind the rudder post, while in a ketch the mizzenmast is forward of the rudder post. Aside from this technical difference, the yawl and ketch rigs are similar and have similar advantages and disadvantages.

Schooner. A typical schooner also has two masts (sometimes more), but the masts are positioned more forward in the boat. Unlike in a ketch or yawl, the forward mast is smaller than the aft mast (or sometimes the same size). A schooner may fly one or more jibs forward of the foremast. Nowadays, you can find more and more schooners using triangular, Bermuda-like sails on one of both masts, while traditional schooners have gaff-rigged sails (sails that have a short spar or gaff at the top, which allows the sail to extend back along a fourth side, gaining size over a triangular sail of the same height). Gaff-rigged schooners are still seen in many areas of the world and are well loved for their historic appearance and sweeping lines, but they are seldom used anymore for private cruising as the rig is more complicated and requires more crew to manage the sails.

Catamaran. These sailboats have more than one hull joined by a frame, one mast and one or two sails, depending on their size. The catamarans types include beach catamarans, open deck cruising catamarans, bridgedeck cabin cruisers, racing catamarans, Trimaran and many more. Catamarans are the ideal vessels for those searching for a real leisure cruise and also for those looking for fast sailing. Some advantages of catamarans are their stability and thus safety, more living space, less movement (heel), shallow draft and unsinkability due to airlocks, injecting foam blocks or foam polyurethane. Their disadvantages are area sail angle, more noise due to wave slap, more structural rigidity thus more prone to cracking under stress.

Some other factors to consider when searching for sailboats are:

Fixed keel vs. center board. Virtually all large racing and cruising sailboats have a fixed keel. A keel is needed to keep the boat from being blown sideways at all points of sail except downwind. A keel also provides weight low under the water to lower the boat’s center of gravity below the waterline, which is needed so that the boat bobs back upright if knocked over by wind or waves. Sailboats have many different types of fixed keels, such as full keels and fin keels. If you decide a fixed keel boat is best for your sailing purposes, consider also which type keel best meets your needs. Full keel boats track more easily through the water, generating a more sea-kindly motion. On the other hand they are slower to turn when moving the rudder, thus more difficult to tack. Because of the larger surface area of the full keel, they area also much slower than fin-keeled boats.

Overall, fixed keel boats provide the most ballast, resisting capsizing and ensuring recovery from a capsize. However, with the deeper displacement, full keel boats cannot access shallow areas and may not fit onto a trailer, requiring the inconvenience and expense of hauling, launching and storage.

Center boards function like a keel by keeping the boat from being blown sideways. Centerboards usually hang down from below the hull and can be raised. Daggerboards have the same function as centerboards and are commonly found on smaller boats or on catamarans. The biggest advantages of the centerboard/daggerboard are that the centerboard can be raised to decrease displacement to allow the boat into shallower areas. However, they are less effective at preventing sideways movement of the boat and may jam or break.

Who’s going to be sailing with you?

I know someone who purchased a gorgeous, new 60′ yacht in the hopes that the whole family will spend their future vacations on it. The problem is that his wife is scared of the ocean and gets seasick when thinking of a boat. Consequently, he ended up barely sailing his yacht. Hope is not a strategy, you need to be sure about who will be sailing with you. In our case we knew that we both love sailing and we both wanted to explore the world together.

5) How long will you own her?

Our first boat was a weekender and we knew that we wouldn’t own her for more than five years. We didn’t sweat the decision to buy and didn’t spend much money either. Even though she was old and had her issues, we loved her and sailed on her happily for five years. We plan to own our new boat for at least ten years and feel she will accommodate everything we may do in that time‐frame. Since we purchased our new boat, being our new home, we were a lot more meticulous in deciding on the right boat. It’s a long time to live with regret. If you plan to own your boat for a while, take the time to make a very informed purchase. Be patient!

6) For how much are you planning to sell her later?

By now you will have realized that I have not once used the word “investment” when speaking of your new boat. A boat is not an investment. It’s worth less than you paid for on the second you sign the purchase agreement, unless you’re very lucky. I suggest you research the resale values of older models of the boats you consider buying. You will then get an idea of your boat’s depreciation and what it may be worth down the road. Interestingly, some boats depreciate much slower than others. Just like cars, newer boats depreciate a lot quicker. In our case, we chose a newer Lagoon catamaran knowing that they generally have a good resale value. It should go without saying that boats with regular maintenance will be a lot more desirable to prospective buyers than run-down fixer-uppers. A boat’s condition can change its value by as much as 30%. When it came to make a decision between a handful of boats on the market, we aggressively pursued the one that had been cared for the best.

7) What is your budget?

This is probably the main deciding factor for most people. “How much boat can I afford?” A bigger boat means more space, stability and speed. Long passages are far more comfortable on larger boats, and hydraulic systems and roller-furling sails have made it possible to handle boats with fewer people.

But extra footage can also mean extra headaches. A 120-foot luxury sailboat requires a crew of four: a captain, engineer, mate and cook. The captain alone would be paid around $80,000 per year, and to find a good crew can be more challenging than to find than a good boat.

The larger a boat, the harder it can be to maintain and repair. Not all boatyards can handle large boats, so you may find yourself moving the boat around just to find a place that can accommodate it.

When searching for our boat we made sure we had all the previous points covered before fixating on the budget. Find the right boat for your needs and then start looking for that boat within your budget. If you end up making a compromise in the choice of boat, because you found a great “deal” you may regret your purchase.

8) New, used, custom?

If you can afford to purchase a new sailboat, “off the rack,” you may be able to choose the color and a few of the features, but, unless you decide to go for a custom boat, most of the details will have been decided by the manufacturer. Consider the trade-off between the convenience and higher cost and higher depreciation of a new boat vs. shopping around to find a less expensive, used boat perfect for your needs. Plenty of used sailboats are for sale at great prices, particularly in a down economy. Boat owners typically invest far more in improving their boats than they can regain in a sale, so a used boat buyer can get a lot of gear for much less than buying new. However, if the boat is more than ten to fifteen years old the engine and many of the instruments may be getting close to the end of their useful lives. It will also be harder to get good financing and insurance on older boats.

9) Don’t forget the many related costs you’ll incur after the boat purchase.

Ask yourself:

  • Can I make improvements on a used boat myself?
  • Can I afford boatyard labor costs for repairs and upgrades?
  • Do I have the time and energy to learn needed skills to do it myself?
  • Am I willing to shop around for used gear if needed?
  • Can I afford insurance, which can be a significant expense on a larger boat? Get estimates in advance.
  • How much money can I put down? What loan terms can I get? Even though you can find very good loan rates in today’s economy, get detailed information from your bank on the down payment required and on the monthly loan amount you will be paying. Getting pre-qualified for a boat loan is a very good idea, before shopping for boats.
  • Where will I keep my boat? Will you be keeping her in your backyard on a trailer? Or will she be sitting proudly on your private dock? Most likely you will have to find a boat slip or mooring at your local marina. Make sure to inquire well ahead of time on price and availability. When we bought our boat, there was a one year waiting list for catamaran boat slips in our local harbor. Find out about the costs before you buy. Costs of mooring or docking, boatyard haul-outs, winter storage all add to your running costs

A good rule of thumb is: “Running costs are proportional to the cube of the waterline length”

For a 25 footer: (25x25x25) = $15,625

For a 30 footer: (30x30x30) = $27,000

For a 40 footer: (40x40x40) = $64,000

So a 30-footer costs nearly twice as much to run as a 25-footer. And a 40-footer costs more than twice as much as a 30 footer.

The Research

Once you have defined what kind of sailboat you want and what budget you will be playing with, it is time to do some serious searching. This is when the fun part begins. I recommend you extensively utilize ALL of the following resources:

The Internet

We have mostly searched on www.yachtword.com and www.sailboatlistings.com. You will be able to enter your specific search criteria and browse through the results. In our case, we knew that we wanted a Lagoon 440catamaran, not older than 2005 and under $380k.But don’t limit yourself to just these two web sites. Google the type of boat you are looking for and start compiling a list of potential candidates.

This way you will be able to create a list of 15 to 20 boats that come close to what you are looking for. Create an Excel spreadsheet, showing each boat’s Name, Model, Year, Location, LWL, LOA, Draft, Extra gear/upgrades, Contact info, Comments, etc. This will give you a nice overview, when trying to narrow down potential candidates you will want to see in person.

Magazine

It is a very good idea to subscribe to magazines such as Cruising World and Soundings. You’ll be able to stay current with industry news and browse through hundreds of boats listed for sale.

Blog

Blogs are good tools to research what current boat owners have to say about their boat’s strengths and weaknesses. We predominantly utilized www.cruisingworld.com/blogs and www.sailblogs.com. Keep in mind that most boat owners are emotionally attached to their darlings and won’t easily admit to any shortcomings. If you have the option to talk to boat owners in person or have them take you out on a sail, you are assured to get a great idea on each boat’s characteristics, both good and bad.

Broker

We found it very helpful to engage a reputable brokerage firm to help line up potential boats. Our broker did a lot of the legwork for us, locating boats and lining up appointments. A good broker usually has years of experience owning and selling boats and can be an extremely valuable assistant. If you can find a broker who specializes in the type of boat you are looking for, even better. They will know what to look for when inspecting a boat, such as structural damage, hull blisters, or previously repaired areas to name a few. The nice thing is that you don’t pay a broker for providing this service, as they collect their commission from the seller (Commission is usually split between buyer’s broker and seller’s broker).

How do you find the right broker? Many buyers get referrals from fellow boaters, ask at sailing schools, or research on one of the two blogs I mentioned previously. However, you need to make sure you sign up with a good one. Check their references and interview them, before you make a decision. Does he seem professional? Is he familiar with the type of boat you are looking for? Is he willing to take the time to talk with you and answer all your questions? You’ll be surprised how hard it is to find a broker who actively listens to you and with whom you work well together.

Financing

Before heading out to visit a boat, I suggest you get pre-approved for a boat loan. There is a large choice of institutions that provide boat financing. I recommend you go with a NMLA (National Marine Lenders Association) Marine lender or a boat dealer. If you decide to purchase from a boat dealer, you’ll find that they may have special manufacturer and dealer finance programs available, along with year-round service departments, extended warranty programs and special incentive programs. The other option is to find a bank or credit union through the NMLA. These banks or credit unions specialize in boat loans and can offer competitive financing options, such as low down payment (usually around 20%), fast credit decisions, longer financing terms (up to 20 years), financing of electronic equipment, and lower monthly payments.

Meeting your boat

You don’t want to buy a used sailboat. You want to buy a “pre-loved” sailboat. You want to buy a boat from a sailor who hands the keys to you with a tear in his eye. Utilizing the aforementioned resources you should by now have limited your long list of potential sailboats to around three to six boats. Depending on where you are located, plan on taking trips to see the boats in person. With a bit of planning, you’ll be able to schedule several boat showings in a weekend. When we selected four potential catamarans, we planned a two week vacation to Ft. Lauderdale, Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands. This way we were able to enjoy some much needed R&R and at the same time thoroughly inspect the boats on our short list. All was well!

Beware of spontaneity and falling in love with the first boat that seems to suit your needs. You may regret it later. I am by nature a very passionate person and get very excited about new items that I am about to buy. I fell in love with the first boat we visited, a 2006 Lagoon 440. She was shiny, clean and without apparent defects. I was ready to make an offer, but thanks to the cool head of my wife we postponed our offer until we had seen all of our candidates. We ended up buying another sailboat, a 2005 Lagoon 440, with owner’s cabin and plenty of extras installed that the other boat did not offer. In other words, keep a cool head and look at the facts laid out in front of you.

When showing up to see a boat, come prepared. Bring a screwdriver to tap around the hull, a strong flashlight and a notepad with pen to take good notes. I strongly recommend that everyone in the market for a sailboat buy Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual. Not only will it serve you well with step by step guides on repair, maintenance and troubleshooting during your new sailing life, but also give you detailed instructions on how to inspect the boat you are about to purchase. Best $38 spent!

Generally, start on the outside, inspecting the hull, then the deck, and lastly below deck. Below is a checklist we found very helpful. Make a copy of your checklist for each boat you visit and rate each area using a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent:

  • Exterior – Bottom Surface; hull finish; deck/cabin; helm station; hull-to-deck joint; molding trim; hardware; cushions; hatches; portlights; windshield; liferaft/pulpit; engine; steering system; shifting system; propeller; battery; wiring connection; bilge pumps; fuel tanks; gauges; seacocks; lines
  • Interior – Water tightness; cabin security; upholstery; molding/trim; locker space; gallery equipment; head/holding tank; lighting; bilge; air condition; mast; boom; sails; running rigging; standing rigging; keel/centerboard; rudder; other

The Offer

Once you have seen a few boats and narrowed down your choice to around three boats, go back to Step 1 and re-evaluate, if each boat fits the criteria you previously determined. Do the boats I just saw really fit my needs and budget? If they do, create a basic cost of ownership framework:

Make an assumption on how low below asking price you can negotiate (in our case: 10%)

Add back to the purchase price the cost of all the work that needs to be done, such as work on engines, sail, electronics, dodger, new bottom paint, new mattresses, etc.

Now you may notice that the newer sailboat, which is a bit higher priced but not in need of so much work may be a lot more cost effective than the older sailboat.

Now that you have your financing set up and evaluated your numbers, it is time to make the offer. An offer to purchase is usually accompanied by a 10% deposit held in escrow. This offer is almost always subject to two conditions, the sea trial and the survey, and sometimes financing. If you have already obtained a pre-approval from a lender you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate. A broker will be a good guide in this process. When determining the offer price, ask yourself:

  • Is the asking price too high or too low? Looking at comparable boats and at the” time on market” will give you a good idea.
  • How much demand is there for my boat? We were searching for Lagoon catamarans, which are highly sought after. Even in a down economy these boats sell quite well and you won’t be able to negotiate much on the price.
  • In what condition is the boat? This point is common sense. Boats in pristine condition command a premium.
  • How motivated is the seller? Someone who doesn’t really need to sell his boat right away, may ask for a higher price, waiting for someone willing to pay the premium. Conversely, someone desperate to get his hands on hard cash will likely be more open to negotiate.

Once you decide on how much to offer, you sign a Purchase/Sales Agreement and your broker will submit it to the seller. We decided to offer 8% below asking price. A day later we received the counter offer at 3% below. Having done our research, we knew that this was a fair price and we accepted (“The Acceptance”).

At this point the seller is legally obligated to sell his boat to the buyer at the mutually agreed upon price. It is important to note that the buyer can still renegotiate the deal or withdraw completely without penalty, if he finds issues during sea trial or the boat survey.

The Survey

With a signed offer in hand, you will now have to start looking for a marine surveyor. A survey usually costs around $11 per foot. Similar to a house inspection, a marine surveyor will thoroughly inspect the boat’s condition, including hull, electronics, engine, etc. As with most service professionals, it is very important to select a reputable, if not personally referred, surveyor who is an accredited member of SAMS or NAMS and someone who specializes in sail boats. Being a competent marine surveyor requires expertise, a lot of expertise. The American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) published 68 standards with over 650 pages covering everything from deck hardware to fuel and electrical systems. A competent marine surveyor needs to be familiar with them all. In addition to ABYC standards, a surveyor must be familiar with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards and the Coast Guard’s safety requirements, and know various construction standards (ABS and Lloyds). Insurers and lenders will usually not accept reports from non-accredited surveyors. If you want a very detailed survey on the engine or rigging, you should hire a specialist. This is usually recommended on boats that are over ten years old.

If you have the opportunity to be present at the survey, you will greatly benefit from it. Not only will you get an immediate assessment of the boat, but you’ll be able to ask questions about your prospective boat. Usually the survey is done in four steps:

  • Inspection out of the water
  • Inspect deck and rigging
  • Inspect below deck, such as engine, bilge pumps, seacocks, etc.
  • Brief sea trial to check engines, electronics and rigging

Upon completion of the survey you will be able to determine, if your offered price is fair, or needs to be re-negotiated, or outright canceled. For example, if the survey report determines that the chart plotter is not working properly, you’ll be able to negotiate a survey allowance. Our survey report pointed out several minor deficiencies and deemed the value of the boat close to our price. We ended up negotiating $5,000 off the price to allow for the repairs, amended the Purchase/Sale agreement and sent it back with the balance of the down payment.

The Sea Trial

You don’t really know a boat until you have sailed her. You will be able to see, if all of the boat’s equipment is operable, if she handles well and if this is the boat you expected to buy. Usually, the sea trial lasts one to two hours and includes the current owner, yourself and your yacht broker. Sometimes you will be able to bring the surveyor along. Let the owner sail the boat and observe carefully, if he is making excuses for certain things that don’t work. Check electronics, refrigeration, bilge pumps, generator, sump pump, winches, roller furler, etc. Bring your notepad and take notes. Following is a checklist I used when going on our sea trial:

  • Engines – run & test port start/idle/full ahead/astern/stop, run & test stbd. start/idle/full ahead/astern/stop, is alarm system operational?, proper instrument readings, propeller folding/unfolding, observe exhaust water discharge for proper volume, feel exhaust hose for heat as evidence of H2O restriction in exhaust elbow, smooth operation? Excessive smoke exhaust, smell in & out of engine room, operational bilge blower, sea trial-check for vibrations & misalignment, preseason dive/hull inspection, engine controls-proper adjustment smooth operation, engine exhaust system double clamped, hoses checked., engine hoses & cable inspected for chafe, check engine noise levels/vibrations throughout boat, gauges, alarms, keys/spare
  • Steering – Steering-check cable tension routing & condition (chafe); steering-hydraulic; check fluid level in reservoir; check for leaks; inspect hoses & rudder linkage; autopilot maneuvers/display integration; autopilot calibration; rudder angle indicator; emergency steering
  • Sail Maneuvers – Tacks; jibes; running; reaching; try with different sail combinations; reefing jib; reefing main; main sheet traveler operation; jib traveler operation; Cunningham; outhaul; halyard tension; hoisting and lowering system; gennaker and spinnaker hoisting/dousing; sail storage
  • Anchoring – Anchor maneuver, hoisting anchor and storage
  • Dinghy and Accessories – Launch and run outboard, maneuver dinghy, retrieve dinghy, check trampoline condition, lashing
  • Machinery – Main Engine and Generator. run generator – check charge level; check shore power connection/generator switchover (correctly labeled); run desalinator; check fluid levels-glycol, oil, trans oil; inspect water fuel separator for contamination; check belt tension & condition
  • Electronics and Navigation – Plot/save course; autopilot maneuvers/display integration; switching displays – radar, video, plotting overlay; VHF radio(s)-test operation on CH16 & 68, antenna connection tight; depth sounder in good operation, alarms? GPS & Radar-test operation; chart plotter-test operation, inventory cartridges; stereo-test operation of received & tape/CD deck, check all speakers; wind instrument calibration; compass alignment needed? Deviation table posted; TV/VCR test operation of both; laptop test and operation
  • Miscellaneous – Check operation of all navigational lights; check operation of all deck lights, check operation of all anchor lights, check operation of all courtesy lights

The Completion and taking Ownership

Once you are happy with the boat and the negotiated price, you can then remove the contingencies and the deal is ready to close. The lender or broker will perform a title search on your new sailboat to make sure it doesn’t have any outstanding liens against it. Once this search comes back clear, the boat is ready to officially change ownership (“The Completion”). However, before you can sail off into the sunset, you’ll have to obtain insurance and register the boat. Do your research, ask your broker, contact several marine insurance providers and obtain quotes before settling on one. Most likely the insurance quote will be contingent on the survey. Sometimes an insurer may require you to complete repairs before granting an insurance policy.

Current insurance rates for sailboats are around 1%-2% of the value of your boat, which is determined by the sales price and verified by the survey report as well as the BUC report. The deductible is usually around 1%-2% of the value of the sailboat.

The policy determines in what waters you may operate your sailboat in. If you plan to cruise across the Pacific Ocean your insurance will most likely charge you a premium.

Boats are either registered through the DMV (state-registered”) or through the Coast Guard (“federally-registered”, or “documented”). The broker will handle the paperwork for you. We registered our boat through the Coast Guard as we were planning to sail internationally. The estimated cost to document a sailboat is $300.

Now comes the most painful step of the whole purchase process – Paying taxes! The buyer is responsible for paying all taxes, which range around 7% to 8% of the value of the boat. There are options to avoid paying that tax, if you take offshore delivery (at least 3 miles offshore), and then take the boat out of the US within 30 days for a minimum of 91 days. Please contact your tax lawyer or your accountant, if you plan to go this route. Usually, you have to carefully document each step of the process, such as video taping the offshore delivery and recording the GPS lat/lon display.

Once you are done with the paperwork, you are finally ready to enjoy your boat. But have you thought of how to transport her to her new home? If you don’t have the time to sail her yourself, you may want to hire a delivery crew, which can be quite costly. Expect to pay roughly $250 per skipper and $100 per crew per day, not including expenses, such as crew travel, fuel, provisions, transit fees and marina fees.

Boat Maintenance

I am a strong believer of keeping my boat as immaculate as new. Used boats that are well maintained generally hold their value very well. Some older boats may even appreciate a bit. When installing improvements, such as a new engine, don’t expect to regain the value upon sale as the buyer will only think that he is getting a working engine.

Plan to budget around 5% to 10% of the sailboat’s value annually for maintenance, insurance and dockage. Of course this cost will vary depending on the sailboat, how much you sail it, where you sail it and on your mechanical abilities.

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