about that Kool-Aid…

Being that we live in a consumerist society, it’s sometime very easy to feel out-of-sync with the general view on the subject of value. For instance, at a local marina there are several dinghies selling for $9K or more while a 36-foot sailboat is selling for less. How is that even possible?

For starters, the pricing of used sailboats is just plain insane as it seldom has anything to do with the value of the boat and everything to do with the current circumstances of the situation which seldom have little to do with what a boat is actually worth.

For folks looking for bargains, you simply have to find someone who needs to sell their boat rather than wants to sell their boat. For instance, a boat with a berth that is unaffordable and hemorrhaging money the owner cannot afford is a likely good deal. Sadly this situation often get short circuited when greed becomes part of the equation and the owner is asking more than the boat is worth.

So, what’s a boat worth?

Since I’m writing this on a 54-year old CAL34, let’s use it as an example… Jensen Marine built a lot of CAL34s (347 to be exact) as well as another bunch of the mark 2 and 3. Which means there are always quite a few CAL34s for sale. As it happens, the least expensive CAL 34 for sale I know of is selling for $1,250 and the most expensive is selling for the princely sum of $29K. If you take all the current CAL34s for sale and average them out you’ll come to a number around $14,250 which is about the price you’d expect to pay for a CAL34 in good shape where everything works, the cosmetics are pleasing, and without any expensive surprises laying in wait. Which says to me that my boat at best is only really worth as much as $14,250 or so.

But what about the guy selling his CAL for $29k? Sadly, while it is a great boat, it is just never going to sell for that price unless the owner lucks into a fool with a lot of money in his pocket. The bottom line being that no matter how much nicer than the $14,250 CAL 34, the $29K boat is nowhere near worth $14,750 more. As the boat in question has been on the market for over seven years, it proves that the boat is simply not sellable at that price.

This sort of math works on just about any boat you might be considering and the average price provides a pretty good definition of value within about 10% either way. Offhand, I can’t think of a better way to disprove the “More expensive is always better” mindset than do your homework, factor in the available math, and base your decision on the actual condition of the boat in question.

The boat I just looked at had a street value in good shape hovering around $18K and the cost of fixing up the boat would have far exceeded its value. Of course, to know that, I researched just about every Irwin in the USA and Europe to sort out what the boat should cost and also keep abreast of what the materials and labor costs to rehab the boat would be.

The hard part is also the simplest and it’s ignoring the whole ‘expensive is better’ and taking the responsibility of making decisions based on our research and math abilities rather than drinking the kool-aid and going with what everyone else says.

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3 thoughts on “about that Kool-Aid…”

  1. But sometimes the more expensive boat may be the one to buy. If you have two left hands and only a limited amount of free time then the ready to go boat will be the better buy. You buy the 29k Cal, have your 12 or 18 month cruise. Hopefully drama free, because at twice the price you expect a great yacht. Then you sell the Cal for 15-20k and go back to work. Having had a great experience. I. see and hear a variation of this story all the time. Cruising has changed so much, more and more people treat it like a gap year and not a lifestyle.

    1. Well sure, a lot of folks can afford to spend more and if you’re only going to cruise for a year why not? That said, the whole VolksCruiser idea is cruising for folks without deep pockets or trust funds…

      Still, the $29k CAL in question is simply just overpriced. It is not a better boat or in better condition it’s just more expensive. Being an outlier in the market it distorts the overall pricing of the design and folks need to understand that expensive does not always equal better. On Craigslist yeasterday I saw a CAL 34 for sale in Mexico for $280,000,00 which I assumed was a typo but I expect some poor idiot will assume that it is actually better than other CAL 34s because, you know, it’s more expensive.

      Having a charter business I, sadly, have a too much experience with brand new expensive yachts which come with big expensive issues their buyers/crews have to deal with. As a result I tend to look at the boat rather than its price tag or hipness factor.

  2. I worked for an owner who refused to take a £20k hit on his asking price of over £200k, and then paid 3 times that amount in mooring and maintenance over the next 2 years. To him it was principle of not feeling “cheated”, and I guess being a millionaire he could afford to have his own principles on the matter.
    Personally I look at every boat on its own merits. Average market value is one thing, but a boat that has had a recent new engine, mast, rigging and sails can be worth paying for, and still a bargain.

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