14 Easy Steps To Determine A Sailboat’s Value (Easy Guide)

Whether you’re buying a new or used sailboat, determining its value can seem tough at first. 

However, once you learn what to look for, the process becomes much easier.

In this boat value guide for sailboats, we’ll go over everything you need to know to get a better understanding of a sailboat’s value:

14 Things to Check On a Used Sailboat:

There are many different items that you’ll want to check on a boat before making a value assessment.

We went over many things to check in our complete 19-step guide on how to value boats (You need to check this post first, as this article builds on top of it!

However, some items are specific to sailboats that you’ll want to consider. 

We’ll use the rest of this post to talk about these items.

1. The Keel Must Be In Good Shape

A keel on a sailboat is the long flat blade built into the bottom of the boat’s hull.  This component is critical because it helps to keep the boat from slipping downwind and blowing over on its side.  Without a keel, a sailboat might easily capsize.

Unfortunately, sailboat keels can easily be damaged in shallow waters.  Keels are the lowest parts of the boat, and they are most likely to hit the ground first.

On top of this, they are harder to examine because you actually have to go under the boat to look at them.  If the boat is up on a trailer, you’ll definitely want to go underneath so that you can get a close look at the keel before placing a value on the boat.

If the boat is in the water, you would typically hire a marine surveyor who would want the boat to be hauled up to look at it.

Alternatively, you may be able to use a camera or get into the water yourself to look at it.

You’ll want to watch out for cracks, pits, holes, and corrosion on the keel.  If the keel has any damage on it, you’ll want to get it evaluated by a qualified person and possibly repaired before you set sail.

2. The Chain Plates Are Important To Check

Chainplates are used to anchor the mast’s rigging.

They are a crucial yet often overlooked part of a sailboat.  These plates are made from stainless steel, but they can corrode over time.  This is especially true if the boat is being sailed on saltwater.

Unfortunately, chainplates can sometimes be partially located below the deck, so they can be difficult to inspect.  Make sure you do not forget to inspect these items, or you’ll end up in big trouble out on the water.

Also, make sure you inspect the decking around the chainplate areas.

If the decking that the chainplate is connected to has gotten soft, you’ll need to replace it right away.

If you find your chainplates have to be replaced, you might have to get a fabricator to replace them.  This is especially true with older boats, and it can make replacing them both inconvenient and expensive.

Find a boat that needs its chainplates replaced, and you’ll definitely want to reduce the value of the boat before making your offer.

3. The Tiller or Wheel Helm

Boat tillers and wheel helms are what you use to steer a sailboat.  This is a critical part of the boat, and luckily it isn’t tough to inspect.

Start by checking to see if the wheel or tiller moves smoothly.  If it feels “spongy,” then you’ll know you have a problem, and you’ll want to pay special attention to this item.

Next, check to make sure the steering cable is in good condition.

If there is any fraying, sharp bends, or other abnormalities, it may need to be replaced.

After this, you’ll want to give the rudder an inspection.  Many steering failures occur because the rudder gets damaged.  You can check the exterior for cracks, and you can check the tiller post to make sure the bearings are in good shape.

You can do this by having someone move the rudder while standing near it to see if the rudder moves smoothly.  You can also check to make sure the bearing supports are in good order while you’re down there as well.  Checking for excessive play in the rudder post is a good idea.

If anything happens to the steering system while you’re out at sea, you won’t be able to repair it until you get to land.  For this reason, you’ll want to fix any issues with the steering system right away, so you must consider this when assessing the sailboat’s value.

4. The Pushpits, Stanchions, and Pulpits

A boat’s pushpit is the railing at the stern of the boat.  The pulpit is the railing at the bow of the boat.  The stanchions are the metal posts that support the lifelines between the pushpit and the bow pulpit. 

These railing can become loose over time.  This might not be a big deal, as they may need to be tightened.

However, a loose pushpit, stanchion, or pulpit requires further consideration.  Are the railings loose, or is the decking just soft underneath the railing?  Are the railings corroded?  Check the lifelines, too.  If they show signs of rust or fraying, they will need to be replaced soon.

If the decking is soft underneath the railings, you may have a deck issue rather than a pushpit or pulpit issue.  If the railing is corroded, you may have to get them reconditioned or have to get a new railing system altogether.

5. Soft Decks May Have Issues

A soft deck is an issue on motorboats as well as sailboats.  However, sailboat decks need to support higher loads from the mast and rigging, so they are even more important. 

For this reason, the deck needs to be in great shape before you set sail.

Imagine bracing your feet during a turn and having your foot go right through the deck.  You’d end up injured, and your boats rigging or even the mast could break. 

Be especially careful when checking the decks of sailboats, and use your hands and feet to look out for soft spots on the deck.  If the soft spots are in areas around chainplates, railings, or other hardware pieces, fixing them may cost more money than repairing soft spots in open spaces. 

Soft spots in the deck will severely reduce the value of a sailboat.

6. Inspect The Sails Thoroughly

When properly cared for, sails can last a long time.  Poorly cared for sails, on the other hand, will not last long at all.

This means you’ll have to do a thorough inspection of the sails even when you buy a sailboat that is only a few years old.

You’ll want to check for rips and tears in the sails.  You should also check for damage caused by UV radiation from the sun at locations that have not been covered.  

This is especially important at the seams of the sail.  Other items to check are the sail windows, the grommets, the leech lines, batten pockets, and tell tails.

Just because a sail has some issues does not mean it will need to be fully replaced.  It’s important to note each issue you find so that you can determine the condition of each particular sail.  

Obviously, a sailboat that needs sail repairs or a full replacement of the sails will be valued much lower than a boat with pristine sails.

7. Examine The Sail Rigging

Your sails won’t be very useful if the rigging isn’t in good shape.  Most people start at the deck to ensure that the deck’s fittings are all in good shape.

Areas to consider are the areas around the shrouds and chainplates.

Check the stays and roller furling as well.  It is recommended for boats used regularly that the standing wire rigging be replaced by the age of 20 years.  If you can feel sharp edges on the wires or see signs of fraying, they should be replaced.  

8. How To Check The Mast

The mast can have issues at the bottom where it connects to a soft deck.  It can also have issues end to end.  Issues such as cracks, holes, or loose hardware can become an issue.

The goosenecks are the hardware that connects the boom to the mast, so you’ll want to check this as well.

It would be best if you inspected the boom and the mast to make sure that it does not have any damage to it.  Also, check it for loose fittings as well.

You’ll want to look at all the related rigging.  Areas like the mainsheet and traveler are critical components that may need to be replaced or fabricated on older boats.  Any time you buy an older boat, you’ll have to consider the fabrication of parts.

Fabrication can get expensive fast, so you must make large adjustments to the boat’s value when you find parts that have to be fabricated to be replaced.

In fact, even if the parts are all in working order, you might still want to consider this as the parts may need to be replaced eventually.

6 Things to Consider When Comparing Sailboats:

When comparing both new and used sailboats, there are a few areas you’ll want to consider.

These areas are the:

  1. LOA
  2. LWL
  3. Beam
  4. Draft
  5. Displacement
  6. Ballast Weight

We’ll explain it all in detail below!

1. LOA (Length Overall)

The term LOA stands for “length overall.”  This is the boat’s total length, which measures the boat’s longest part from bow to stern.

The LOA is the length that boat manufacturers and sellers will list in their sale listings.

This length is important when you’re considering docking, storing, or trailering a sailboat.  When you’re at a dock or in storage, you’ll be charged based on this length.

For example, if the dock is charging monthly dock fees of $15.00 a foot and you have an LOA of 20 feet, you’ll be charged $300.00 a month to dock your boat.

When trailering, you’ll have to consider this length as well.  This is because your trailer will need to be long enough to accommodate the boat’s total length, even if a good portion of it doesn’t actually sit on the trailer.

Unfortunately, this length doesn’t paint the full picture, as a boat can have a long LOA without having much room to move around on deck.  For that, you’ll have to look at the LOD or length of the deck.  This number isn’t always stated, so you might have to bring a tape measure with you on your search.

A boat with a longer LOA is often more valuable than a boat with a shorter LOA.

2. LWL (Length at Waterline)

This is measured by determining how much of the boat actually sits at the waterline and measuring that length. 

This number is usually shorter than the LOA as the bow, and even the stern may extend further than this length.

This measurement can change based on how much weight is loaded into the boat.  Manufacturers will state the length that is achieved when the boat is under a default load condition.  Your LWL will probably be longer as you’ll have passengers and gear in the boat when you’re using it.

All-things-equal, a sailboat with a longer LWL will usually be faster than one with a shorter LWL.  This is true of typical displacement type sailboat hulls, but not for planing hulls (usually have centerboards but not deep keels.)  

Just keep in mind that all things are rarely equal, so you’ll have to consider other factors as well when determining boat speeds.  For example, the displacement of a boat may also affect its speed.  And multihull boats, like catamarans, are usually faster than traditional monohulls.

Boats with a higher LWL are often more valuable than boats with a lower LWL.

3. Beam (The Width)

The beam of a sailboat is its width.  This is measured at the widest part of the boat above the waterline. 

You’ll find this number to be important when docking, storing, and trailering as well.  While most docks charge by the boat’s length, the width plays a factor because some docks won’t be wide enough to accommodate some boats’ beam.

For example, a catamaran usually has a much wider beam than a traditional sailboat.  For this reason, most catamarans will have to be docked at the end of a dock.

If trailering in the United States, a person will want a sailboat that has a beam that is less than 8.5 feet.  This is because this is the maximum legal width for traveling on the highways.

When determining a boat’s dollar value, you might consider a boat with a wider beam to be more valuable than one with a more narrow beam.  They also generally have more room on the deck and in the cabin.

4. Draft

The draft of a sailboat is the distance measured from the waterline down to the boat’s bottom.  Boats with deeper drafts are usually better at handling rough waters and higher waves.

However, a boat with a deeper draft will run aground more easily in shallow waters, so your navigation skills will be more important.

This is because a deeper draft hull and keel need more water, or they will hit bottom.

The draft of a boat might be deeper depending on how much weight is loaded into the boat.  When a manufacturer measures the draft, they do so by measuring it under its expected use.  This means the boat will be normally loaded and sitting still.

People looking for deep-water sailing boats will value a boat with a deep draft higher than ones with a low draft.  Others, looking for boats to go into shallow waters, might value a boat higher with a low draft.

This being said, non-catamaran sailboats are usually more expensive when they have deeper drafts, as this means they either have a deeper hull or are heavier.  Catamarans can be more expensive than monohull sailboats because they need to be stronger and are more difficult to build.

5. Displacement

The boat’s displacement is the water volume that a boat displaces as it sits in the water.  It is typically measured under its design load for passengers and full tanks.  

A boat with a larger displacement will move more smoothly through the water.  This can be especially important when traveling through rough waters.

Boats with lower displacements can sail faster if they can plane, but they won’t handle as well in rough waters.  A sailboat’s value with a displacement hull will be higher if the boat’s displacement is higher.

6. Ballast Weight

Ballast weight is an additional weight added to the bottom of the keel to give it more stability. 

Many materials can be used for ballast, and usually, it is enclosed in the molded keel.  That means it cannot be inspected, but there is usually data available about the boat’s construction if this is important. 

Sometimes the ballast is in the form of water in a tank built into the hull.  These types of boats are lighter to trailers when the water in the ballast tank drains out.   

Overall, a higher ballast weight is generally more stable than less weight.  However, for the boat’s same size, a heavier ballast weight will probably make the boat sail slower through the water.

For this reason, cruisers might value a boat with a high ballast weight higher.  A person buying a sailboat for racing might rate a boat with a high ballast weight lower.

Final Thoughts

Determining the value of a sailboat can be hard work, but it can save you a lot of money, time, and frustration in the future. 

Be sure to thoroughly go over every sailboat component you buy before you make any final offers. 

Comparing the features and conditions of different boats can help you make a purchase decision.

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