How to Buy a Used Catamaran (Ultimate Guide)


Catamarans have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Sailors and people passionate about exploring the waters are buying them to meet their specific needs. However, new catamarans are pricey, leaving many with the option of going for the used ones.

To buy a used catamaran, first, understand your sailing needs, then set a budget and a time frame. Additionally, you should conduct thorough research and inspections on the catamaran in question. Once content with everything, finalize your deal and enjoy sailing on your newly acquired cat.

Although buying a catamaran may seem like a simple and exciting experience, it can be overwhelming if you are new to the sailing world. This guide offers a detailed outline of what you need to know when buying a used catamaran. Read on to get all the information you need, including the pros and cons of buying used catamarans.

Identify Your Needs

The first most critical step when buying a pre-owned cat is identifying your needs. Have a clear understanding of what you expect in your cat before you start looking for one. The pre-owned catamarans market is flooded with different cats to choose from, depending on your needs.

First up, decide on the type of catamaran you want. Choose between the two main types: cruise catamarans and sailing catamarans. If you want a luxurious, high-speed, and spacious cat, go for a cruise catamaran. On the other hand, if you want a simple cat for recreational purposes or water exploration, a sailing catamaran would be your best option.

Next, look into where you’ll be sailing your cat. Here, you should keep in mind that sailing in deep waters is different from sailing in shallow ones. For example, sailing in the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean is different from sailing in a shallow lake or river. Deepwater sailing calls for cats with large, well-designed hulls and sails as opposed to shallow water sailing.

It is also important to predetermine the material you want for your cat. Do you want a cat made of steel, wood, aluminum, carbon, or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP)? The type of material you choose determines the price of your cat.

Last but not least, you should have a length limit in mind. How long should your pre-owned catamaran be? 30, 40 or 50+ ft long?

Determining your needs in advance makes it easier to choose a catamaran that meets your specific requirements.

Set Your Budget

Now that you’ve decided what you want in your cat, the next step is to set a budget. How much are you willing to part with to get a used catamaran? When buying a used catamaran, always remember it is a huge investment that requires good financial planning.

In this case, you should come up with a realistic budget. Your budget forms the basis of the size, age, and model of the cat you will get. When setting a budget, don’t only consider the purchase price. Consider all the additional costs included, such as registration, insurance, maintenance, mooring or marina fee, and any upgrade costs.

While setting your budget, it is advisable to research the prevailing prices of your preferred cat and the additional charges to help come up with a realistic budget.

You can also set a time frame within which you need to complete your purchase. Having a time frame makes your plan more real.

Do Your Research

When buying a catamaran, either new or used, research is vital. For used catamarans, research what to look for when buying, important questions to ask, when to buy, and where to get the cats, among other factors.

You can do your research online or consult a sailing expert. Research forms a basis for your catamaran’s inspection procedures. It also helps you remain on the lookout to avoid getting the wrong cat or settling for a bad deal.

Conduct Inspections

Inspection is another critical step when buying a pre-owned cat. It gives you a chance to visually and physically analyze a cat as you identify any underlying damages or issues. Do not ever buy a catamaran without having its vital features inspected. It is such a huge investment that you cannot risk your hard-earned money on just any catamaran out there.

If you are unsure what to look for when inspecting a catamaran, consider hiring a sailing expert or a marine vessel surveyor. They will help you conduct a deep analysis to ensure you settle for the best.

Here are some of the essential features to check out during your inspection:

The Keel, Rudder, and Hull

For effective viewing and inspection, the catamaran should be on land. Although this limits the chances of a sail test, it allows you to inspect the features below the waterline, such as the keel, rudder, and hull.

To conduct your inspection on the outside of the cat, step back and view it from a distance. Does it appear to be well supported by its keels and rudders? Now, move to the front and visualize lines from below the keels to the mast. Is this imaginary triangle in line with the rest of the cat? Walk to the sides and inspect the hull. Is it in good shape, devoid of any distortions that could indicate repairs or weak points?

When inspecting the keel and the rudder, a damage or repair job at the keel’s leading-edge could indicate grounding

Grounding is common when sailing, especially in shallow waters, and this should not be a major issue of concern. However, it is important to have such damages inspected by a professional who’ll be able to note their severity depending on the impact of the grounding and the cat’s mode of construction.

Additionally, be sure to check the hull-minikeel joint. If it appears cracked or damaged near the keel edge, it could indicate that the cat was involved in grounding. This may portray other underlying issues.

For the rudder, give it a good shake to study the condition of its hinges. Are they firm enough? Additionally, swing it back and forth; a good rudder should move freely. However, it is important to note that rudders in most older cats are often waterlogged, following several years of use. As a result, they may require rebuilding for the cat to be considered seaworthy.

When inspecting the hull, check out for cases of osmosis blistering. Osmosis blistering manifests as small pockets of water on the fiberglass’ hull surface. Mild blistering cases appear as small pea-sized blisters and may sometimes be hard to notice through the hull’s thick painting. They are not a major issue of concern.

However, severe osmosis blistering cases can be an issue of concern as they affect the cat’s seaworthiness. They often interfere with the integrity of the hull as they get worse year after year. Osmosis blistering is not a deal-breaker, but it often diminishes the value of the cat.

Deck, Mast, and Rigging

The deck holds the cat’s hardware, and here, you should be on the lookout for any soft decks. You can inspect the deck by walking around and using your weight to feel any soft or mushy areas under your feet.

A little softness is common in many used catamarans. However, you can easily tell if there is an underlying issue if a given area on one side of the deck feels soft while the corresponding area on the other side is stiff.  

For further inspection, you can use the back end of a screwdriver to tap the suspected areas to assess the damage. If the tap produces a crisp, sharp sound, the deck is probably okay. However, if the sound is dull and thump, there might be an underlying issue.

Take your time and walk through the deck as you inspect the condition of the hardware. Watch out for cracks, crazing, and some weak or stress points on the hardware elements. Also, check  the cockpit where your crew will spend much of their time. Watch out for the stiffness of the seats, locker covers, and the condition of the floor.

Depending on a particular marina or club’s off-season practices, you may find the mast and rigging in place or pulled down and stored. Whichever the case, check out for any cracks or bends on the mast. Also, check for any corrosions and bends on the rigging lines. Do not forget to check the metal hooks and the winch.

The Engine and Sails

When inspecting the engine, make a point of starting it to verify that it works. Look at its general condition. If it seems new and stainless, it may be trouble-free. However, if it’s old and messy, it may indicate a lack of proper maintenance.

You can also check the condition of the engine oil. Is the oil clean? Is it sluggish, or does it have a burnt smell? Dirty oil with a burnt smell may indicate engine problems that may cost you a fortune to repair in the future. Make sure you check the engine hours and if regular maintenance has been done.

You can have a mechanic or sailmaker help you with engine inspection.

As for the sails, ensure that they are not worn out. If they feel crisp and stiff, they are in good condition and have a long lifespan. However, if they have a soft and limp feeling, they may have been overused and in need of replacement. Also, check for rips or stains indicating spilled fluids that could hurt the longevity of the sail.

Electrical Systems and Plumbing

Inspect the electrical system wiring. Check out for potential short circuits by looking for loose wires, frayed wiring, and exposed electrical panels. Ask about the output voltage and any power backups. Ask how old the batteries are, and when they will have to be exchanged; if they are lithium batteries, this can cost multiple thousands of dollars.

With plumbing, take a closer look at the freshwater piping and the waste systems. Are the pipes efficiently installed, or are they blocked or clogged? Do they need repairs? Check out for any leakages, cracks, and possible signs of previous repairs.

Inspect as many cats as you like until you find the one that perfectly suits your needs. Do not be in a rush; take your time!

Make an Offer

After identifying and inspecting a potential pre-owned catamaran, the next step is to make a purchase offer. The purchase offer is often dependent on the status report of the survey. However, there are instances where you make an offer before physically inspecting the cat.

So, when do you make an offer before the inspection? You make an offer before inspection if the cat is miles away from you, and traveling to inspect it could cost you a fortune. In this case, you first make an offer to establish the seller’s best price before embarking on the long travel.

If your offer is accepted, you can decide whether to travel for personal viewing or hire an independent surveyor. Whichever the case, the final decision lies in the survey or inspection report. Be sure to conduct a sea sail trial to gauge the efficiency of the catamaran. It will also help in post-survey negotiations, if any.

Depending on the survey report and the sea trial, you may decide to negotiate with the seller on the cat’s price. Your surveyor should also help in negotiations. If your negotiation is successful, you can proceed to the sale/purchase agreement. If it’s not successful, you should reject the cat and find an alternative.

Prepare the Documents

It is now time to close the deal. It is advisable to hire a professional documentation agent to help with the documentation process. They will help prepare the transfer of ownership documents and register the cat as per your state of origin laws. They will ask you how you want to take ownership, for example:

  • A spouse or partner name in the document
  • Your address
  • New boat name

Ensure that you check on your country’s or state’s laws before buying a foreign-built catamaran. Some countries have rules governing the use of foreign catamarans on their waters, including the sales tax.

Close the Deal

When all the elements are in place, the deal will finally be closed. This means that the money will successfully be transferred to the seller, and the catamaran will officially be handed over to you. Depending on the cat’s location, you may sail it to your mooring point or organize to have it transported if there isn’t a waterway connecting the two points.

Remember to check on insurance costs and marina costs in your location. Take the right insurance cover for your cat and pay any other associated costs such as the cat licensing and club or marina costs.

Congratulations, you are now a cat owner! Enjoy peaceful sailing!

Where to Get Used Catamarans

Are you wondering how to locate used catamarans on sale? Below is a look at where you can find them.

  • Local press and sailing magazines: Depending on your locality, you may find used catamaran adverts in a section of your local newspaper. Additionally, you may consider searching through sailing magazines that mainly focus on issues revolving around sailboats.
  • Online: Currently, almost everything you need is available online. Catamarans, too, are available in online sailing stores. Browse through the internet as you search for your preferred cat. Check out clients’ reviews concerning a particular online store to gauge how genuine it is. Ensure you buy from genuine dealers.
  • Clubs, marinas, or brokers: You may also consider visiting a marina or club. Here, you are most likely to find a cat on sale. If not, you can come across a broker who will help you find one.

Pros of Buying a Used Catamaran

Here are some advantages of buying used catamarans:

  • Price: One advantage of buying a used catamaran is the price. You can get a good cat at a low price compared to buying a new one. Therefore, if you are on a tight budget and want a cat, consider getting a pre-owned one. However, be sure to conduct a thorough inspection by following the tips above.
  • Purpose of the boat: The purpose of the used catamaran also matters. If you want to cross the atlantic you better get a boat that is blue water ready and built for living aboard. But if instead you are mostly looking for coastal cruising then something smaller and easier to handle might be better suited.
  • Record of maintenance: By checking the catamaran’s record of maintenance, you can know which parts have been repaired or serviced and those that are yet to. The advantage here is that you get to know the exact condition of the cat you are buying. 

Cons of Buying a Used Catamaran

  • No warranty: Most used catamarans are out of warranty for their hardware and other hardware equipment. As a result, in case of any damages, you will be fully responsible for their repairs. The manufacturer will not come through in any way.
  • Faulty parts: If not well inspected, you may end up with a faulty and uncomfortable cat that does not meet your needs.
  • Old styles and designs: We are currently living in a world where things are constantly changing. New trends are being invented with each passing day. Therefore, you might end up with a good deal when you get a used catamaran but in an outdated design.

Conclusion

Buying used catamarans may be a good approach if you want to get a cat but are on a tight budget. However, the whole experience can be overwhelming, especially for newbies. To be on the safer side, follow the guideline below.

  • Identify your needs.
  • Set a budget and a time frame.
  • Do your research.
  • Conduct inspections.
  • Make an offer.
  • Prepare the documents.
  • Close the deal.

Buy a used catamaran from marinas or clubs, online stores, sailing magazines, or local newspapers.

All the best as you look for a good pre-owned catamaran!

Sources

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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