Editorial / Sailboats / Sales

How to Buy a Small Sailboat – A Buyer’s Guide


How to Buy a Small Sailboat – A Buyer’s Guide

The following post is a collection of thoughts about buying a small sailboat by the partners at Shoreline Sailboats.

In 2020 we have seen an exponential rise in interest in sailing. People are looking for safe and fun ways to experience the outdoors. With so many new sailors coming to the fold, we thought it would be worthwhile to lay out the questions and answers that might help a buyer make the best decision possible.

Should I buy a sailboat?

You would think that our answer would be a resounding yes, right? Well, actually, it really depends. You need to know yourself. Know your personality, your goals, and your commitment to getting out on the water.

Where will you sail? Who will you sail with? Alone? With family and friends? A potential buyer needs to think through how the boat will be used before purchasing it. If you know you will be mostly sailing alone, a bigger two person boat doesn’t make sense. If you know you need to be able to rig quickly to be able to get out – a more complicated boat does not make sense.

Also, it’s important to know your physical capabilities. Some boats are more athletic and some are a bit more sedate. Knowing yourself means you will pick a boat that fits your needs and gets you out on the water, and keeps you coming back for more.

It may come down to the fact that you like sailing in the abstract, but owning a boat is not really for you.

How do I start my search?

Well, the internet is a wonderful thing… and that’s a start. Do some research. Check the postings about boats on the manufacturers’ and dealers’ sites. Find videos about boats that interest you. Read reviews. Narrow down your search to a handful of boats.

Need an honest opinion? Call us or email us. We pride ourselves on our ability to assess a person’s individual situation and to offer solid advice based on that. We enjoy doing this, because we love sailing, and want to help people to be able to figure out what’s best for them. When we talk to people about boats, we never push a boat, or a deadline, or a deal. We always want to maintain our integrity and let the sales fall where they may.

If I decide to buy a sailboat, when is the best time to do so?

The short answer is… right now!

The best time to buy a sailboat is when you have that initial burst of enthusiasm. Too often, we let an opportunity slip by, because we figure we will get around to it sometime. Many times we have had people contact us and we talk about a boat and the potential customer is pumped up and excited about a boat. We can sense their unbridled enthusiasm. Then a little time passes and the person will often say because of a, b, or c reason that the timing isn’t right and they need to wait a year or until some milestone passes. Too often, these people do not circle back around to the idea they had of owning a boat. We have seen first hand the joy that owning a boat provides, so we feel badly about missed opportunities.

Also, to best answer this question, it is important to think about the fact that you want to get your boat before or when you need it. With that in mind planning ahead is helpful. We currently have boats on order for customers right now. As a result these customers are guaranteed to get their boat when they want it. Will we have boats in stock in May, June, and July? Yes, but there is no certainty that we will have or can quickly get the boat you want when sailing starts in the Northeast.

Should I buy new or used?

This is an important question. The used dinghy market has a large number of potential boats. A more limited budget may push you toward a used boat. There are tons of used boats out there that have been well-maintained and won’t mean a list of projects. The older the boat, the more likely there are items that need to be addressed, or don’t work quite as well as they should. This should not be a deal-breaker, but it may go with the territory. We have had a number of customers bring in their boats to have a complete refit, from new running rigging, sails, hardware, spars, to hull repairs.

If you choose to buy a used boat, our favorite go-to sites are Craigslist (be sure to look through more than one region), FB Marketplace, Sailboat Listings, and Sail1Design Marketplace. Also, be sure to check out our used listings. We usually don’t have a ton of used boats on hand, but we usually do have something good!

Where should I buy my sailboat?

Shoreline Sailboats, right? Well, sure, we would greatly appreciate your business, and will work hard to make you a satisfied customer! However, maybe there is somebody else who you feel can do more, offer more, or work better for you. Our main goal has always been to promote sailing. We would be happy just to know another boat is out on the water.

Many times, though, we have had customers come to us because another dealer was non-responsive or told them a boat was impossible to get. We are always ready to help and to figure out a solution.

We ship and deliver boats. We are located near Rochester, NY. During 2020 alone, we sold and delivered boats to Indiana, South Dakota, Alabama, Maine, Ohio, Delaware, Florida, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Canada! We have delivery services and freight brokers that we work with to get the most economical solution for boat transport.

I just want a boat, do I really need any extras?

Probably. We have few customers that just buy a boat. There are a good number of items that either protect your initial investment or make the boat easier to use.

Ease of use items: These are basically dollies and trailers. Once you have a boat, you usually have to move it. Dollies are good for moving a boat by hand on land and launching or retrieving the boat from the water. Trailers are needed for over road movement. People will try to sell you products that can act as a dolly and a trailer. We prefer to not sell them and know that single purpose-built products always work best. We do sell a combo package that allows a boat to ride on its dolly on top of a trailer.

Protect your investment items: Bags and covers… These will protect your boat from UV light and keep it clean and free from leaves and other debris.

Different rigs for different sailors/conditions: A number of boats that we sell have different size rigs or packages to better suit the sailor or conditions. Sometimes, like in the Melges 14, a buyer will opt to have multiple rigs so they are ready for anything.

How does financing and payment work on a new boat purchase?

First off, contrary to what some people will tell you, you can finance a small boat purchase. For example, our bank offers new boat loans that are one percent higher than their car loans. Banks may only be willing to entertain financing purchases on new or newer boats.

Many will tell you that borrowing money to buy a small sailboat is a classic example of bad debt. That may be true. The counter to that is this: We have limited time on Earth… if financing a boat means that you then have a boat while your kids or grandkids are still little, then that is an example of good debt. You can’t put a price on the value of the memories you and they will have.

For payment on a boat, a dealer will typically expect a down payment upon ordering a boat (assuming that immediate delivery is not possible). The percentage of payment is dependent upon where you buy the boat. This down payment form our perspective is important because it creates a financial commitment by the buyer to make the purchase.

Credit card vs. check/cash payment: We, like many businesses, prefer checks and cash. The credit card companies charge us a fee on each purchase. These fees are particularly burdensome as they come directly out of any profit on a boat. For that reason we began quoting all prices as check/cash payment and identify the percentage and cost of using a credit card. We have also used wire transfers for purchases. There is a small fee in a wire transfer that we are willing to absorb.

When in doubt… contact us!

We are always ready to talk sailboats! We love them! Use the contact form below to start a conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!