Catamaran Buyers Guide. Finding The Perfect Boat, Step By Step (Part 1)


Buying a boat can be as much of an adventure as it can be pure torture. You find one you like, and then you notice that it has expensive hidden damages, or someone buys it just ahead of you.

During the last ten years, I have bought, used, and sold everything from sailboats and cars to motorbikes, and only two times have I sold something for less than I bought it for. Today I’m going to offer some of my tips on how to make a good deal on a Catamaran!

The best way to buy a Catamaran Sailboat is to follow these 10 steps, this will ensure you have a well-formulated plan, and you minimize the risk of surprises along the way.

  1. Identify Your NEED And NICE
  2. Identify Your Possibilities
  3. Set Your Budget
  4. Set Your Timeline
  5. Choose the right size of Boat
  6. Find The Boats
  7. Make an Offer
  8. Close The Deal
  9. Get The Boat
  10. Enjoy Life

1. Identify Your NEED And NICE

This might be one of the most critical parts of your buying strategy; I usually make a table where I list all the cool things that I want.

ThingsNEEDNICE
4 BerthsX
Sugar ScoopsX
Lithium-Ion BatteriesX
Dual EnginesX
Send me an Email if you are interested in the full spreadsheet

Under the “things” column, I put every idea that I have heard of and find appealing. The list becomes huge and develops over time as I learn more about my needs.

Once I have listed something under “things,” I check it as either NEED or NICE. Something that is NEED will be a requirement, so if the ship I’m looking at doesn’t have that feature, I’m not spending any more time researching it further.

Make sure you only put the things that are really really important to you under the NEED category.

In the NICE category, I put every cool little idea that I like, it might be far-fetched or unattainable, but it has some value to me. I use these features to compare boats.

Since all the boats I’m looking at have all the NEED boxes checked I can now compare which one has the most NICE boxes checked, this means that instead of an emotional boat purchase, I can now be structured and rational. And this is very important when you are looking to make a good buy.

2. Identify Your Possibilities

What are your skills, do you have something valuable when making a good deal? Maybe you know someone, perhaps you have access to a large place where you can store the boat under a roof and renovate it during the winter.

Maybe you have a friend that runs a stainless steel workshop that can help you construct pieces for the boat? Or maybe your dad used to work for Yanmar repairing engines.

Figure out what you can fix and what you cant

I think you get the point, so once you have figured these out, then you can get leverage over the market. Let’s say you find a boat, but it has engine problems, if it is a Volvo Penta engine, then maybe it’s not a deal for you.

But if it’s a Yanmar engine and you know that your dad has experience with those engines since that’s what he used to work with. Then maybe this is the leverage that separates you from other buyers, and suddenly, this might be a perfect boat for you.

3. Set Your Budget

This might seem like a straightforward task, but the matter of fact is that many break their budget, and this is not because of wrong calculations. My experiences tell me it is more due to the psychology of men.

Just as the example above with the NEED and NICE, if your budget is NEED to be under USD 200 000, then nothing that is above should you even consider. But if 200 000 is NICE then going over isn’t a problem.

So if you use this system and you adhere to it strictly then you will also get a boat that’s within your budget, not only will it make you not budge when it is time to haggle, but you will also have a more natural way to find a boat since if it doesn’t fit you are not interested.

When figuring out what budget you can afford, there are multiple things you need to consider. Can you get a loan(more on that below)? Have I covered all the costs? Will I also need money to sustain my living(for liveaboards)? How long will it take me before I get it to a state where I can earn money (more on that below)? And so on.

The equation above is simple but has worked for me whether I’m buying a boat, a car, building a Van, or any other project. It seems like it always costs 40% more than I anticipated.

I believe this is because it is rarely cheaper than I expect, seldom do I find something that I think needs to be fixed, and then it ends up not being a problem. Usually, it is the other way around, you buy it, and then you find all the weird and expensive stuff you need to fix.

So putting away 40% extra in your budget will make it more likely for you to finish the project, and every boat is a project. And if you end up not using all your budget! Great, now you have more money to travel and enjoying your boat.

Getting pre-qualified for a loan might be an excellent thing for when the day comes, and you need to strike fast.

Sometimes you might have to go a little smaller than you initially thought 😉

Also, getting a loan might be better economically than paying cash; more often than not, you will get a higher return on investment from funds than you will pay in mortgage for the loan.

See if you can make some money off your boat. A boat doesn’t have to be a big hole in the water where you throw all your money in. It is also possible to make some money off it without chartering it to some shady company.

Take backpackers out snorkeling or renting out a berth on AirBnB can bring in some good money and even better, can generate some new friendships! Be creative!

4. Set Your Timeline

Go small and go now (something like that, I dont really remember), is something that you read all over the internet and what many advocate for.

But I’m not really on this train, I believe if you figure out what you really NEED then that’s what you should aim for. I have done the go small go now thing. But when it comes to sailing big oceans, yeah, sure you can do it, but the idea is to enjoy it as much as you can.

My experience tells me that going too small or going too cheap potentially eliminates the fun. And this comes from a guy who loves living in a van, (i know a lot about minimalism, Check out my about page for a pic of my house/Van), and sailed a 35 ft monohull in the Caribbean.

Instead of going too small and going too soon, set a realistic timeline where you allow yourself to create the circumstances that you need, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s a particular set of skills, maybe it’s to organize your life, escaping never solves anything.

5. Chose The Right Size of Catamaran

This is something very personal, so I will only give you some guidelines that had helped me and learned when we got our boat in Miami. If we are looking at price, ease of handling, and hours of maintenance, a good rule of thumb is to buy the smallest catamaran you can get for the budget you have.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but having a smaller boat saves you soo much money and time. If you have read my article on Panama Canal, you can see that the toll doubles once you hit a specific boat’s length.

My old 35ft Mono was the right size at the time

And this is just for tolls, almost everything in the boating world is paid depending on the length of the boat, so more feet more money. This includes sails, standing rigging, etc.

It is also vital that you figure out how many berths you want; if you’re going to accommodate extra crew, you must plan this already in the buying process. this can become a way for you to finance parts of the expenses(more on that under Potential income)

6. Find The Boats

You should have the basics down, you know what size, price, and what your NEEDs are. Now it is time to actually go look for boats.

I want to clarify that whenever you change your mind, which is a natural part of the hunt for boats, you just update your NEED and NICE list and continue looking. Updating the list only means we have gotten a better understanding of what we need.

When looking for a boat, be a little nifty, of course, you will search online, t but that’s what everybody will do.

Look everywhere!

There are other ways to find boats. Usually, those are the ways that can be the best deals Firstly, I would recommend you visit different marinas, go look around, talk t people ask if they know anyone who has a boat for sale.

Pick a new marina every week, don’t forget the small ones that are between the big ones. Nobody goes there, and that’s why you should.

Make sure you check out not only the boats in the water but also the ones that are on land. Maybe its because it has a faulty Yanmar engine, and you know what that means… (if you don’t know what that means, read the “identify your possibilities” from above)

If you find a boat that you’re interested in but isn’t up for sale, talk to the owner, maybe he or she has been thinking about selling but hasn’t had the time yet.

If you can go look for boats all over the world, you can make a great deal. Usually, boats that are situated in remote locations are way cheaper. Look for places like Guatemala or Belize.

At the bottom of this article, I will show you some websites you can check out that might have suitable boats.

7. Make an Offer

Making an offer is an art in itself, at least, that’s what I hear when I talk to salespeople. For me, I think THE most important aspect is, What is this boat worth to me.

If I can get it for the price that I think is worth it, then it is a good deal. No matter if the price is way lower than what the seller is asking, this is not to be rude, it is just a way to be very honest and transparent with your intentions.

And if the seller isn’t interested. Well, then I will say thank you and continue looking.

You could probably learn many haggling techniques, but for me, just being honest with what I’m willing to pay usually works. And I usually don’t want to pay at all 😉 so most often I get stuff pretty cheap.

I always make sure that I am respectful. I never harass anyone, a no is a no, and business is business.

And a quick note for all of you out there that might feel bad for haggling, DON’T. Buying something is business, and you’re not being kind to anyone by not trying to make the most out of your hard-earned money.

I must add that this does not apply to people that are in a bad situation or your friends. When I bought a car from a friend a paid him 30% more than what he was asking because we are good friends and he has an entire family to support.

8. Close The Deal

This is the boring part about taxes, insurance, etc. I’m not going into detail here since I’m planning to write a separate article on the subject.

But I do have some recommendations, make sure you get everything in writing, and if you’re dealing with a broker, make sure they throw in many goodies.

And when I mean goodies, go for it, ask for something, whether it may be free marina fees for a year or some new gadget.

Now it may also be an excellent time to see if they can bring the boat to your marina, ask for a delivery captain, and if they can make a good price.

9. Get The Boat

You have finally bought your boat, now you just need to get it to where you want it. There are a couple of ways to do that.

You could take a vacation and sail it yourself, or you could get a delivery captain, a third option is to get someone you trust to bring it home.

Getting it home could be done by a delivery captain

Whichever you chose, just make sure you have all the insurance set up, and that the boat is seaworthy, you dont want to lose the ship on your first trip.

I would recommend you go for shorter sails before you do anything significant like bringing it home from let’s say Belize. And if you feel unsure, get a captain.

10. Enjoy!

This one is fairly intuitive. After all this work and all of the emotional roller coasters you have ridden, it is time to enjoy this beautiful boat of yours., give it a name, christen it and go sail!

If you need tips on good names for your boat, check this out

Start learning how the boat feels, bring friends on board and let me know! I love to hear from you guys whenever you achieve such a milestone as buying a boat.

Extra Tips When buying a Catamaran

When to buy?

Summertime (northern hemisphere) is the time to buy. Most people have already bought their boats for the season, and the ones that are selling usually accept a lower price since the market has died down.

Usually around September is when the market starts picking up again, so go look for boats in the middle of the summer

Wintertime is definitely the time to sell; everybody is sick and tired of the winter, so many people are dreaming of beautiful and warm weather cruising.

A few Links To Get You Started

Gabo

Owner of CatamaranFreedom.com. A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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