Choosing a boat: Complete Guide

Are you planning on getting a sailboat? What do you need to know? 

We will discuss basic things you should consider in sailboat shopping. I want to give you enough information so that you can form your own opinions while purchasing a sailboat. And it is all about what works for you, and it does not matter what someone says on a forum about their boat or somebody else’s boat; it’s all about you and the comforts and amenities you need to save your personal life enjoyable.

Where to look for:

List of websites to look for,, in Canada, or in the states. Chances are you will find your boat there.

If you want to buy a boat, you may want to contact a broker, there are lots of boats for sale, and they don’t sell fast. Most people selling boats will wait a long time to get an interested buyer. After all, that’s a buyer’s market.

I recommend you take your time and look at many boats, especially if you’re looking over a broad area. It would be easy to find a boat within driving distance of your location, but a boat with everything you’re looking for might be hundreds of kilometers away.

Size of the boat

What size sailboat will work for you?

When you’re looking at sailboat sizes, there are two numbers that you need to pay attention to, the length of the water line and the length overall. The length overall is going to be your running cost. That’s what you will be charged for in slips, haul-outs, maintenance fees, and things like that. 

Your length at the water line is your livable space on board. That’s how much room you have to do whatever you want to do, as simple as that’s your comfort on board.

The most common sizes are 35 to 42 feet; however, they vary drastically depending on the length of the water line, so the first thing you need to do is determine what length that water line and beam work for you; this will eliminate tons and tons of sailboats,

the length of the water line versus the overall beam and narrow down the size vessel that works for you.

What style cockpit:

What type of cockpit works for you, a center cockpit or an aft cockpit? That depends heavily on what type of sailing you will be doing.

A center cockpits works if you’re going to be sailing in colder environments where you’re going to be inside the vessel more often got yourself center cockpit.

But if you’re down here in the tropics and you got yourself a center cockpit, it makes no sense that you spend all your time outside because it’s hot.

Center cockpits can be fantastic vessels, especially once they’re above about 42 feet. Anything less than that, generally, center cockpits have a tough time.

Do you want a single or dual helm if you decide to go with an aft cockpit? This is very simple. A double helm gives you a larger outdoor cockpit.

This is really a personal preference.

Sail Plan:

Should you go with a ketch, a cutter, or a fractional rig sloop? It’s simple a fractional rig sloop. Ketches and cutters are pretty outdated. They cost more to maintain and are harder to solo sail, so we recommend a fractional rig sloop for an enjoyable sail.

Type of keel:

All keels have pros and cons, and you should look at what type of environment you will sail in. Are you going to be up in the arctic? If you are, a full keel may be better suited as you might just be hitting some icebergs often, so you’ll want something pretty sturdy. But again, we’re not sailing uncharted waters with today’s technology. Here we’ve got charts. We know where everything’s at. It’s pretty easy most of the time not to run into anything, so that shouldn’t be a huge concern.

In the tropics, you want something shallower because the water’s shallower. If you’re up north, you want something deeper because the water is rougher.

It’s going to be a personal preference you should research and Figure out what’s going to work best for you, but you need to be honest with yourself about the sailing you’re going to be doing.

Budget and Finance :

Your boat budget must include the cost of the boat, the cost of a surveyor, the cost of launching, the cost of hiring a captain to bring it home if you need one, the cost of insurance, and most importantly, the cost of any necessary improvements. It’s very rare to buy a boat that doesn’t need something done. However, it will cost you several thousand dollars as you progress. So it requires some modification to make the boat capable of doing what you need.

I would recommend that you start searching for your financing early. If you’re getting a boat loan or other means of financing, it may take some time, and when the selling broker is looking to have papers signed, you can able write a check on the spot, so be prepared.

Additional Tips:

Always ask for additional photos, even if it means the broker has to go and take more pictures and send them to you. Most brokers will do that for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for photos. If you see a boat that you love, don’t jump at it. You can fall in love with a boat from a photograph, love how it looked or felt, or the photos just got you but thoroughly investigated each boat, then you would realize that there were very good reasons not to buy some of these boats. 

Also, It will be much cheaper to purchase a boat within your country than to import a boat. However, even if the price tag of the foreign boat is very less, chances are you’ll have to pay duties, taxes, import fees, registration, licensing, or other costs depending on Where you live.  

Also, if a lot of background information about the model of the boat is needed, chances are there will be an online owners group for that model. If you can find it sign up and start asking questions. They’ll tell you about common problems and things that have gone wrong with their boats and will help you ask the right questions.

In my case, there was a boat I was looking at that had a problem with its chain plates. I would have no idea if I had not contacted other owners of the same model boat through Facebook, who warned me about this chain plate issue, and I did not buy that boat.

Where to park/store a boat?

Most of you are looking for sailboats over 25 feet, but where to store that? 

People tend to forget that this is a big expense, storing in a dock, in a marina, in a boat yard, or on a mooring ball. Now a lot of locations don’t even have space available. So you have to put yourself on a waitlist.

You have to think in advance that you don’t want to buy a boat and then not have a space to store it.

Let’s talk about some of the pricing for spaces. It’s related to the size of the boat. For example, many times, the marines will cost per foot, so on the average beach, you know, a 35-foot boat, you may have a slip fee ranging between 800 or more to three or four hundred dollars a month. But it’s still that is a big piece of the budget. 

Boat stored in dock

There’s also a mooring ball situation in which some cities have mooring fields you can look for where you can find a lot cheaper, and there are pros and cons to it; we have to paddle out on a paddle board or take a dinghy out to reach the boat, but it is much cheaper than a dock. So this is an option to consider.

image source
image source


Are you planning to go cruising long distances? Do you want to take off from the east coast and do winters in the Caribbean? Do you want to go to the Bahamas and down further down and spend months on the boat, then you’re going to want an RV kind of boat. It has a nice bathroom, kitchen area, and enough space if you have, you know, two or more people.

Or if you get like a 25-foot boat that was perfectly fine for two, three, even four people cruising around the bay for an afternoon, have a couple of glasses of wine.

Or you can rent your boat on weekends. 

Just find the purpose and get a boat suitable for that. 

Offer and Survey / Inspection :

So you find a boat you like?

You make that appointment to do a second viewing or a survey. Now it’s controversial whether it’s necessary for a survey every time you buy a boat. A survey will cost you 20 percent of the cost of the boat. So you can ask a friend who knows about buying the boat or some well-known people to guide, to cut surveyor cost. 

If you are unfamiliar with boats and don’t know what to look for, then definitely hire a surveyor. Surveyor is going to charge you per foot. Usually, 18 to 20 dollars per foot. Let’s say it’s a 35 or 40-foot boat, and maybe it will be seven or eight hundred dollars for the survey. Make sure it’s the boat you are interested in before you go to this expense. 

If you are buying for the first time, it is critical to watch this surveyor closely and learn from the survey that it’s not rocket science. They’re going to be looking for the same things every time. And the good thing about a survey is they’ll give you a report, usually several pages afterward. So you usually know 30, 40, or more pages of what they found because they may recommend a certain price discount. After all, the survey has uncovered certain negative things that they feel would warrant a price decrease. 

In addition, you’re probably going to do a sea trial on the boat with the surveyor. You need to pay the marina to lift the boat out of the water or put the boat in the water for a thorough inspection. In contrast, the sea trial is included in the survey’s price. So there will be an additional cost of a few hundred dollars to the marina if you use the marina boat lift.

Contact the seller or the selling broker and request the most recent survey sometimes, this throws them off a little bit, but in most cases, they will produce a survey and send it to you. With the survey, you can find out if the boat has had any recent problems and had any repairs done to correct those problems, whether the boat is insurable, and whether or not you will need to also pay for a survey depending on how recent this survey is? 

Also, if there’s a problem with the boat, the surveyor can get you out of the deal. 

Most insurance companies will require a recent survey before they insure a boat.

We recommend going to see the boat in person before hiring a surveyor. 

We found the surveyors have missed many of these things. A good surveyor should check a boat from top to bottom, and a decent surveyor can save you on a good deal or help you kill a bad deal. However, finding a good surveyor can be tough. Brokers will usually have a list of local surveyors but don’t be afraid to find one on your own make sure it’s not the broker’s buddy.

Initial viewing of the boat:

Initial check of the boat here, we listed some checkpoints,

try to do these checks by yourself before ever considering spending a dime on a survey,

Hall damage,

Osmosis blistering, 

Recent bottom coat,

Is the prop in good shape? 

If there’s play in the rudder?

If there’s play in the prop shaft? 

Is the hull wet? 

Can you tap the fiberglass for wet spots? 

Check for any soft spots in the deck. 

Check for wet spots with a moisture meter if possible, 

check the condition of the deck fittings, 

check the state of the standing and running rigging, 

check the gel coat for spider cracking, 

check for water damage on the interior teak, 

check the bilge for an oil spill,

Is there an odor?

Is there any mold or mildew? 

Are the keel bolts rusty?

Is there any obvious damage? 

Are the chain plates corroded?

Is there any weakening in the bulkheads due to wood rot or maybe separated tabbing?

Check boat length, the water line length, and the rig type.

Full or fin keel,

the boat’s draft

the engine hours on the diesel engine 

the age of the rigging 

the age of the spars 

how many spars 

the age of the batteries 

Are any recent or new items added to the boat? or 

if the boat is more of a racing boat or more of a cruising?


These were just some essential items to help people start to narrow their boat search the more work you do with the research stages, the less time you’re going to waste, and the less money you’re going to waste.

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