What to Look for When Buying a Used Sailboat

Purchasing a used sailboat is an exciting time in anyone’s life.  In fact, used sailboats are a great way to get into the hobby. There are numerous advantages to purchasing a used boat. In the first instance, used boats offer you economic advantages because the first year’s depreciation is paid off by the original owner.

Furthermore, you get to enjoy a lower cost of ownership compared to buying a new sailboat. For instance, the price of a six-year-old boat that you can get to use for four years will be far lower than a new boat that you get to use for the same amount of time. Used sailboats, in fact, get you the same luxury without breaking the bank.

The truth about luxury items like sailboats is that they’re way different from cars that get abused on driving long distances down the highways. Sailboats, on the other hand, can hold their value for over ten to twenty years because they’re in most cases handled with a lot of care by the owners.

But do not let emotions takeover since in most cases our purchasing decisions are driven by our emotions. It is important to have the whole exterior and interior inspected before you make any payments.

Most important things to look for when testing or purchasing a used sailboat includes the hull, trailer, motor, and electronics.

The Hull

Inspect the hull for chips and cracks. This is especially useful for inspecting the back and front of the sailboat.  Try as much as possible to inspect the hull for leakage.

There could be likely the presence of water-soaked cores between fiberglass due to improper build or possible inappropriate accessory installation. You need to check out for this otherwise it would cost you a lot of rebuilding. Detecting a wet core is really easy and you can do it on your own with a moisture meter. Moisture meters usually cost between $300 – $400. This small investment will be really worth it when you think about the cost of purchasing your used sailboat.

Also, check for discoloration coming from fittings when purchasing a used sailboat. This is another sign that water absorption could occur. The wet core may also freeze, resulting in cracking caused by venting or expansion.

Another thing to check for is blistering. This can be obvious from the fiberglass and in most cases blisterings are due to bumps on the surface of the fiberglass on the hull below the waterline. Low quality resin of the coating of used fiberglass is the major cause of this and you need to factor this when purchasing a used sailboat. To detect the underlying cause of this when testing a used sailboat, check for the blister size, and the location of the blister. Then lookout for possible water absorption into the hull’s shell or deck laminate. Small blisters usually have a source close to the surface while large blisters normally have a source deeper within. In some cases, you’d observe blown excreted water if the blister is punctured. Blisters do not cause a serious problem anyway, but if you’re testing a used sailboat or purchasing one, it is important to understand that the presence of blisters demonstrates the use of a low-grade material or low-quality laminate material. If you’re purchasing a used sailboat, we recommend you get a sailboat made with a hull and deck made with a vinylester “skin coat” (first layer behind the gel coat). Also, check the quality of the laminates. Fibers must be completely wet out with resin.

Observe the Transom

The transom is a particularly sensitive part for used sailboats and you need to check for that when purchasing a used sailboat. Never skip the transom when you’re testing a used sailboat. The first thing to do when buying a used sailboat is to observe the transom for possible rot. Look in the corners for cracking, look where the engine mounting bolts go through to see if the bolts are pulling into the transom. Check the screws holding the top cap on the transom. If they spin, find a different boat.

Tilt the motor up, hold the gearbox and shake the motor up and down and in several directions. Observe for movement of the transom. The transom is expected to remain rigid and solid. Broken transoms are expensive to repair, and this could cost you thousands of dollars.

Other things to inspect includes the boat’s accessories such as:

Stereos, the VHF, check your radio and ensure it’s working before you go out boating.  Furthermore, check the navigation lights, test them both in the day and also in the night to have a better idea of their brightness. Also, check the batteries for terminal conditions and ensure that the used sailboat has a battery isolation switch. Another thing to be inspected when purchasing a used sailboat is the wiring of the boat behind the battery and around the dashboard. Ensure there are no crappy connections. Also lookout for the presence of depth sounders or fish finders. Lastly, check for the presence of a water separator or underfloor tank

Questions to Ask the Previous Owner of the Sailboat

The following questions will give you an idea of the kind of questions to ask the sailboat’s owner about the battery, tank, sails, deck, hull, and ship log.

Batteries: How many batteries, age, type, size, and the charger model.

Motor: Ask about the last overhaul date, the rebuild date, last time the oil was changed. Ask if anything has been replaced within the last 5 – 8 years. Also, ask if anything has been replaced within the previous year.

Rigging Standing: Ask if the rigging standing has ever been replaced. If yes, ask about who/which service company performed the replacement. Furthermore, ask if the chainplates have ever been replaced or inspected. If yes, ask about when that was done. Also, ask if the rigging standing has ever had a major rigging failure. If yes, ask how and when. Lastly, ask if it has ever been rolled over 360 degrees.

Hull: Ask if any blistering has ever occurred on the hull. If yes, ask, when, and how it was corrected. Make inquiries about hull maintenance that has been done in the last 4 years.

Deck: Make inquiries if the deck has ever been repainted or if a new gel coat has been used on the deck. If yes, ask when that was done and the type of gel coat that was used.

Ship Log: Ask questions about where it has been docked/sailed mostly. Ask if the owner has a record for the ship logs and ask if the owner can provide repair/equipment purchase receipts.