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 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 build on top of it.

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

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

The Keel Must Be In Good Shape

A keel on a sailboat is the long flat blade that is built into the bottom of the ship’s hull.  This boat component is critical because it helps to keep the boat from 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 may want to send a marine surveyor to look at it.

Alternatively, you may be able to use a camera or get into the water yourself to take a 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 repaired or replaced before you set sail.

The Chain Plates Are Important To Check

Chain plates 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 salt water.

Unfortunately, chain plates can sometimes be partially located below deck so they can be easy to forget about.  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 chain plate areas.

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

If you find your chain plates do have to be replaced, you might end up having 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.

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 very hard to inspect.

Start off 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 has taken damage.  You can check the exterior for cracks and you can check the interior to make sure the bearings are in good shape.

You can do this by having someone move the rudder while you stand near it to see if the rudder is moving smoothly.  You can also check to make sure the bearing supports are in good order while you’re down there as well.

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 it’s important that you consider this when assessing the sailboat’s value.

The Pushpits 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.

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

However, a loose pushpit or pulpit requires further consideration.  Are the railings loose or is the decking just soft underneath of the railing?  Are the railings corroded?

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

Soft Decks May Have Issues

A soft deck is an issue on motorboats as well as sailboats.  However, sailors often need to move about the deck more rigorously than a person driving a motorboat does.

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 boat wouldn’t make the turn.

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 pieces of hardware, fixing them may cost more money than repairing soft spots in open spaces.

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.

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

Just because a sail has some issues in it does not mean it will need to be fully replaced.  It’s important to mark each issue you find so that you can determine what is best for each particular boat.

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.

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 make sure that the fittings around the deck are all in good shape.

Areas to consider are the areas around the shrouds and chain plates.

You can use a magnifying glass to look for small cracks or anomalies.  Check the stays and roller furling as well.

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.

Goosenecks can be damaged or lose so you’ll want to check this area of the mast as well.

You can follow the boom from 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 be familiar with all areas of the mast so that you know what to look for.  Areas like the mainsheet and traveler are critical components that may need to be fabricated to be replaced on older boats.  Any time you buy an older boat, you’ll have to take fabrication of parts into consideration.

Fabrication can get expensive fast so it is important that you 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 take this into consideration as the parts may need to eventually be replaced.

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 total length of the boat which measures the longest part of the boat from bow to stern.

The LOA is the length that boat manufacturers and sellers will list in their sale’s 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 off of this length.

For example, if the dock is charging monthly dock fees of $15.00 a foot and you have a 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 total length of the boat 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 just 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 (Loaded Waterline Length)

This is measured by determining how much of the boat actually sits at the waterline and measuring from there.  This number is often 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 simply 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 because longer waterline lengths create longer wavelengths.  Boat speed is often restricted by wavelengths so the longer the wavelength, the less restricted the boat will be when trying to maximize speed.

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 have an effect on its speed.

Boats with higher LWLs are often more valuable than boats with lower LWLs.

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 length of the boat, the width plays a factor as well because some docks simply won’t be wide enough to accommodate the beam of some boats.

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 longer beam to be more valuable than one with a more narrow beam.

4) Draft Length

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

However, a boat with a deeper draft may easily become damaged in shallow waters.

This is because the boat’s hull and keel need more water or they will hit the 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 motors will be down and the boat will be 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 that has 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 a long keel.  Deep V hulls are usually stronger and more difficult to build as they require stronger materials.

5) Displacement

The displacement of a boat is the volume of water that a boat displaces as it moves through the water.  It is often measured under light loads and heavy loads.

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 usually travel faster but they won’t handle as well in rough waters.  The value of a sailboat with a displacement hull will be higher if the displacement of the boat is higher.

6) Ballast Weight

Ballast weight is an additional weight that is added to the bottom of the sailboat to give it more stability.  A sailboat will do this through the use of water that can enter the boat through its ballast tank.

The ballast tank sits below the water line so that water can freely move through it.  Ballast tanks with higher weights are said to be more stable than ones without them.  However, a heavier ballast weight will 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.

A boat can also have ballast weights added to the bottom of the boat.  These come in the form of metal weights that can be added or removed depending on the boater’s needs.  A 25-pound lead ballast weight might sell for around $100.00.

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 each and every component of any sailboat you buy before you make any final offers.



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