This is the third post in the journey to buy a used boat. We started the story with an overview of the whole process. Last week was the first big step, determining how you will use your boat. Hopefully by now, you have figured out how you will use your boat, where you will do most of your sailing and how much you can afford. Now for the fun part: Dreaming and exploring your options.
One thing is for sure, you have a ton of options. Right now, there are close to 10,000 used sailboats listed on Yachtworld in North America. It's a little overwhelming. How do you find the one boat in ten thousand that's your boat?
There are essentially three types of resources to avail yourself of.
1. The Web: Personally, I spent hours online researching boats to buy. There are several sites to chose from. You should start your search on Google to get the full range of sites selling sailboats. At the end of the day, everything came back to Yachtworld.com for me. They had the biggest inventory and I became fairly proficient in searching on this site.
In our case, we had decided that we wanted a 35-39' used cruiser. Everyone has different criteria. Our bias was towards a more premium boat but older. Given our budget we were looking late 80s or early 90s, C&C's, Tartans, Bristols, Sabres, Calibers, Pacific Seacrafts, Pearsons and Ericsons. We decided not to go the Hunter, Beneteau, etc route. No judgement on these boats. Just not what we were looking for.
By entering in parameters of price, length, region of the country (we weren't going to buy a West Coast boat), we were able to develop a list of 25-30 boats that were in the realm of what we were looking for. I kept a record of our search with a spreadsheet. Here's a partial snapshot (note: I removed the $ column).
2. Hearing From Owners: Once you have narrowed the options to a list of 20 or so boats, it's time to hear what owners have to say.
There are a couple of ways to do this. Firstly, many boats have owner groups online or posts on general sailing discussion boards by owners. These are good for getting to know the issues with some of the boats but bear in mind that most people love their boats and won't hear a bad word said about them.
There is little substitute for talking to an owner directly. The only thing better is talking to an owner going out for a sail on his boat. In our case, we our blessed by having many boat-owner friends. Of course, nearly everyone of them owns the best boat in the world so you have to put on your objectivity filters. I found that by talking to as many people as I could about their boats, I developed a sense of the pros and cons of each boat I was interested in.
3. Buyer's Agents: I confess that I have little experience here as we did not go this route but getting an agent to do the work for you is worth considering. These guys will help you figure out the right boat for you and go find it for you. You don't pay a thing as the seller pays them (I believe they split the sales commission with the seller's broker).
If you lack the time or feel the need for more expertise, a good buyer's agent can be a great solution. I supsect they are better at digging up good boats than you can find online too. They should also be better at surveying a boat than you as well.
The key here is to find a GOOD one. Check references!
The important thing in this step in the process is to enjoy exploring and develop a simple way to keep track of your work. The goal here is to develop a long enough list that you feel you have options but manageable enough that you can move on to the next stage Narrowing Down Your List. This is where the fun really starts and you pay a visit to a few boats on your list.
Next Week: Step 3 Narrowing Down Your List