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.