If you have ever spent a glorious afternoon on the water on a sailboat, you know what a thrill it is. Sailing represents freedom, harnessing the wind to drive you forward. It is a quiet time on the water and developing the skills to sail well can be addicting. It doesn’t matter if you want to simply go out for a few hours, enjoy an occasional overnight or weekend cruise, join the racing crowd and be in the frenetic chaos at the starting line, or dream of tropical sunsets in paradise far over the horizon. Sailing has great appeal to those romantic souls who discover its pleasures. And sailing can be a lifelong passion.
The average cost of a sailboat for sale will vary all over the board, given the many sizes, complexities, and types of sailboats out there. New or used, they can range from small, open daysailers to large catamarans that have multiple staterooms and accommodations for the entire family. Modern speedy monohulls will provide the adrenaline rush for those athletic enough to push them to their limits, while heavier, slower sailboats provide a comfortable platform to sail safely around the world, or wherever your dreams take you.
A 22-foot sailboat may be close to $30,000 brand new, yet an older model of the same boat built in the late 1970s might be purchased for $5,500 or less. A shiny new 48-foot catamaran will cost you well over $1,000,000, while a similar boat built in 2008 may be purchased for $425,000, and be better equipped. This new-versus-used situation is going to be true for all sailboats, no matter if they are monohull, catamaran, motorsailer, daysailer, or racing machine. Is it best to always buy a brand-new boat? That depends. The key is to understand that there will be additional costs that may not be obvious.
(Seen below: The Hanse 315 is an approximately 30-foot sailboat that costs between $100,000 and $150,000 when purchased new.)
The docks at all major boat shows showcase the diverse range of sailboats to satisfy everyone’s ideas, and it is easy to fall in love with one boat after another. Sailboats are funny like that, so similar, yet so different. How to choose the right one often comes down to what one can afford. That sail away special during the show may be enough to pull out your checkbook, but there is more to it than just the sale price. There is the obvious need to keep it somewhere, insure it, and maintain it.
One must have realistic ideas of what they are looking for, and an experienced yacht broker will be of great value to help determine that. A broker is key to weave the person’s sailing experience with the kind of sailing they hope to do, while working within their budget. But once the basic plan is in place, it becomes a fun adventure to look and learn from as many boats as possible. Some will appeal straightaway, for any number of reasons, while others may be intimidating in terms of size, complexity, and finishes that demand expensive maintenance. Boats with highly varnished brightwork will be much more labor intensive than white fiberglass, minimal interior appointments, and just basic systems. Low maintenance boats are literally a wash and wear proposition that live just fine during the season on a mooring.
For instance, most new production boats are built to the level of completeness necessary to satisfy most buyers. It is sufficient for how most people will use it. That is smart and intentional. It makes no sense to fully outfit a sailboat to the level where it can safely cross oceans, because the builders already know few owners have that desire and doing so drives up the costs significantly. So, the manufacturers complete the boats to around 80 percent of what would be necessary for a passagemaker ready to conquer the world.
If you have long-distance cruising plans, keep that in mind.
(Seen below: This is a very interesting video from a couple that lives on their sailboat. It gives you an idea of what you 'could' equipped with.)
What new boat buyers soon learn is the extent of associated costs that necessarily increase as the boats get bigger, more complex, with more systems for comfort and ease of sail handling…all intended to provide a higher quality living aboard experience.
A partial list of such items may include:
• Diesel engine propulsion system, including transmission, shaft and seal, and propeller
• Additional standing and running rigging, such as whisker pole and inner forestay
• A sail inventory beyond regular sails, such as spinnakers, Code Zero, and special purpose sails
• Some form of renewable anti-fouling protection for hull and propeller
• Batteries, which often must be replaced every six years or so
• Ground tackle, which may include electric windlass, chain/rope rode and heavier anchor(s)
• Navigation electronics and autopilot
• Safety gear, such as PFDs, life raft, EPIRB, flares, harnesses
• Dinghy and perhaps a gas or electric outboard
• Comfort appliances, such as refrigeration/freezer, air conditioning
• Bow thruster
• Exterior canvas for bimini and covers for sun and weather protection
• Additional fenders, dock lines, shorepower cords
One will also have to put together tool bags to maintain all the above, and there needs to be storage for these and other special tools that find their way aboard. In a harsh saltwater environment, tools typically must be replaced every so many years. (Read Our 4-Part Series On Boat Tools)
On a new or almost new boat, it is generally agreed that 10 percent of the value of the boat will be needed for recurring annual maintenance costs, for things like varnish, bottom paint, zincs, cleaning supplies, fuel filters, oil, grease, and other consumables. If one can do the work themselves, it will be much cheaper than paying the going yard rates.
On an older boat, the budget for keeping things working will generally be higher, unless the boat is simple and does not have lots of winches, systems, or complexity. The gaff-rigged Tahiti ketch comes to mind, as does the Westsail 32. Once a boat reaches 10+ years, things just start to wear out, hoses get brittle, plumbing cracks, wires corrode, pumps fail, and seacocks deteriorate. While older sailboats have the obvious appeal of a low initial price, a false sense of value can be shattered when it is determined that the engine must be replaced, all the leaking ports need major work, or it’s time for a new mast and rigging. Old roller furling gear goes into the dumpster.
That romantic cutter, all covered in teak decks and gleaming brightwork will cost you thousands of dollars to maintain the varnish. Unless you want to do it yourself, of course, but most find it tedious and time consuming.
Many younger people go the old, fixer-upper route, and they figure they can make it work while learning new skills. But they are still in their prime, don’t mind a little discomfort by roughing it, and their dreams and vision cuts through the cloud of difficulties to get the boat that much closer to begin living the dream. There are scores of YouTube channels that celebrate this lifestyle theme of living the experience.
While there are compelling reasons to buy a new boat, the sweet spot for managing the cost of buying a sailboat, I believe, is to find one that is neither brand new nor very old. Searching for a boat that fits one’s needs and is under 10 years old can result in a purchase that has the best all-around value. The boat’s propulsion, plumbing, steering, and electrical components are still working, the equipment still current and good for the foreseeable future. One does not expect the same service from an autopilot that is 30 years old, assuming it even works.
Look at the popular Beneteau Oceanis series sailboats, for example. Keeping it under 10 years old, one finds a 2015 Oceanis 41 around $178,000, and a 2018 Oceanis 41.1 at $198,000. These are not bad prices for newer boats that are also well equipped. The same holds true for other main brand manufacturers, such as Jeanneau and Hanse.
Many of the classic, proven sailboats are still out there, though, and worth a look if you can find one. While the design is now 50 years old, the Valiant 40/42 remains a popular choice for cruisers. The older, original Valiant 40s come on the market for around $75,000, while the newer V42s built in Texas still hold their value about $225,000. The same is true with established designs from other top yards, such as the Swedish and English builders of Hallberg-Rassy, Malo, Rustler, and Oyster.
(Seen below: This 2000 Jeanneau 45 Sun Odyssey is a good example of a used sailboat on the brokerage market. It is listed for under $200,000.)
For performance and fun, a five-year-old J/22 can be bought for $9000 and offers a lot of sailing pleasure in a small package. A 10-year-old J/105, a more capable sailboat, is right around $70,000.
Not surprising, the age of the boat has as much to do with the asking price as its condition and how well it is equipped. A 1977 Catalina 30 can be purchased for $15,000, while a five-year-newer boat is listed for $25,000. A Catalina 30 built in 1993 is asking $29,000.
Ultimately, the cost of buying a sailboat must be balanced with the value it brings. Newer boats aren’t just fresher and cleaner, they are arguably better boats, as the technology of boat building has made great strides in improving the product. Vacuum infusion is now commonplace and is far better for building a strong hull that is lighter than traditionally hand laid fiberglass, where it was difficult to control the resin to glass ratio.
Diesel engines are now much cleaner, lighter per horsepower, have better fuel economy, and overall, propulsion systems have greatly improved with electronic controls. The same is true for most other components, from appliances to steering systems. And today’s electrical systems are lightyears better than what is found in older boats. LED fixtures, lithium-ion batteries, regeneration gear, and much improved wiring practices add to the marvelous systems of today.
Across the board, hull shapes have changed, and they are more powerful, more easily driven, and the sailing systems that power them are also much improved, while being safer and easier to use. Some builders, such as Tartan Yachts, even promote that they have put the fun factor back into sailing, as their sail handling systems are a joy to use.
If you are ready to join the sailing world, find yourself an experienced broker to share your ideas and plans, and get real. Dreaming is fun but being at the helm of your own sailboat is better than any fantasy.
The world awaits. Good luck.
Enjoy these other boating and cruising articles:
- The Unexpected Side Of An Aging Sailor
- How Big Of A Sailboat Can One Person Handle?
- What Is The Best Size Sailboat To Live On?
- Moving From A Sailboat To A Trawler
- Sometimes It's All About Simplicity
- The Bucket: A True Story
- Essential Supplies For Extended Cruising
- The Exhausting Need To Keep Up With New Technology
- Have A Backup Plan!
- Northern Marine Exhaust Systems Are Better
- Cruising Boats Come Of Age
- Changing Rituals
- Did Wisdom Come To The Ancient Mariner?
- Going World Cruising? Not So Fast
- What Engines Are In Your Boat?
- Letting Go But Still In Control
- Learning To Handle A New Boat
- Improving The User Experience
- A Paradigm Shift In Cruising
- Consider Buddy Boating
- A Matter Of Staying Safe While Boating
- Should I Carry A Gun While Cruising?
- A Boater's 3-to-5 Year Plan
- Provisioning Your Yacht For Extended Cruising - Bahamas
- Provisioning Your Yacht For Extended Cruising - Alaska
- The Evolution Of The Trawler Yacht
- Getting Ready For The Great Loop
- A Winning Great Loop Strategy
- Tips For Cruising South
- The Great Loop