How To Buy A Used Sailboat

Buying a sailboat and taking on the deep blue has been a dream for so many individuals. Struggles in life, unexpected occurrences, and the lack of determination have kept most people from accomplishing this lifelong aspiration. However, hard work and small compromises will pay off in the long run. 

The previous year has been challenging for everyone, but as things return to normal, our need to escape our homes has risen dramatically than ever before. Aside from learning more about human nature and how to better ourselves, the pandemic has also taught us to live our lives to the fullest. There was never a better time for a lifestyle change, and buying a sailboat may be precisely what you need. 

If a brand new sailboat is too big of an investment to handle, purchasing a used boat is the right move. Knowing the costs of repairs and maintenance can make a difference between sailing every week and spending money on a failed prospect. Let us review the crucial aspects of a successful purchase of a used boat.

Set Your Requirements

You will have to create a rough outline of the boat’s specifications to narrow down the search. It should include exterior and interior dimensions, occupancy limit, application, and design. Another strategy is to have a set budget and see whether the available options are appealing.

Beyond that, you will have to browse the forums and talk to experienced sailors to see what kind of features are necessary for the type of boat you are looking for. Think of your last car purchase and how carefully you have crafted the equipment packages. The same applies to boats in ways you are probably unfamiliar with, so the assistance will prove invaluable.

Budget Distribution

Running costs of a new boat are far from negligible, but they are exceptionally high for used boats. Some aspects are predictable: fuel consumption, insurance, taxes, and mooring costs. However, maintenance and repairs are what can make or break a purchase. 

Setting aside half of the budget is advised to have enough capital to handle unexpected repairs and refitment. Approaching a used boat purchase as a long-term investment with minimal loss is a great way to have financial security. New boats depreciate rapidly in value until it stagnates and becomes less of a concern.

A well-maintained used boat acquired for the right price can even net a profit several years down the line, even though the running costs cannot be recuperated. But if you come to the point where the boat isn’t getting as much use, you will likely be able to resell it for at least the original price. 

Work With Professionals

This point is crucial, especially if you are buying a sailboat for the first time. There are far too many details that only a lifelong enthusiast can be aware of, so having an unbiased expert on your side can be of great help. 

Rather than thinking of it as an additional cost, consider the amount you will save by not performing expensive repairs. You can buy an inexpensive boat by yourself or with the assistance of a friend. But when it comes to a lifetime purchase, it is best to rely on professionals. 

For the inspection services, surveyors charge up to $20 per foot of the boat. Since boats increase in price with the length, the surveyor fee will remain a minor percentage of the total cost. 

What you will receive is a report on the vessel’s condition and its objective market value. A good surveyor will advise you on how to proceed, how much the repairs would cost, and even point you towards a reputable shipwright. 

During the negotiation, the seller will naturally disregard the flaws found by the surveyor. Keep in mind the individual working for you at a fixed rate and who’s in it for maximum profits. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a sailboat. The money you have spent on the inspection will not go to waste. But the money spent on the boat would have been.

By carefully observing what the surveyor is doing, you can apply their methods the next time you look at a boat. You won’t have the tools and expertise to make an accurate estimate, but it will be enough to spot the red flags. If the boat appears to be in good condition, then you can schedule another visit with your surveyor.

Reputable brokers can help you in many ways, but most importantly, assist in the search for the perfect sailboat. Their services are unnecessary, but we recommend consulting with the local broker to calculate the post-purchase costs. 

Services provided by surveyors and brokers include: 

  • Discussing requirements and budget to find the right kind of sailboat.
  • Boat hunt for appealing offers.
  • Inspect the state of a boat.
  • Perform an appraisal. 
  • Assist in the process of registration, insurance, and acquiring a marina slip.

How To Inspect A Sailboat

For those confident enough to inspect the boat alone, we can provide a few tips. Handling a few minor faults shouldn’t be an issue, but keep track of every problem you find. As the number increases, it’s essential to make a cut-off point, where the time and post-purchase investment will make the prospect financially unviable. 

Leaks are the number one problem to look for. Once the source is identified, they are generally easy to repair, but they can sometimes be a strong indicator of other major issues with the vessel. The same applies to the chainplate rust and spongy decks. 

Sails, canvas, and the accompanying gear need to be in great shape, as the repair costs can be astronomical. Blistering, hull damage, as well as keel and rudder corrosion, are to be avoided. Lastly, when inspecting a sailboat, follow your nose. Foul smells are strong indicators of major faults and poor maintenance. 


Buying a used sailboat is all about having the right idea of what you need and how much you can spend. Beyond the basic and inexpensive sailboats, you might have trouble identifying deal-breaking problems. For this reason, we highly recommend consulting with as many fellow enthusiasts and professionals in the field.