Choosing a Boat That Suits You: A Practical Guide

What is the first thing you will notice when you look into the boats currently on the market? They come in manifold forms and shapes. There is truly a boat for every taste available, and the sheer number of different types can be confusing. This article will provide you with general guidelines, some of the most important things to keep in mind when choosing a boat that suits you.

It was all so easy in the 1920ies, the golden age of sailing: You are rich – buy a boat. The richer you are, the bigger. These days ended at latest when modern materials made dinghies lighter, more durable and, most importantly, cheaper. Fiber-glass hulls and aluminum masts revolutionized the boat and yacht building industries and opened yachting to wider parts of the population. Today, we can find such an enormous number of different boat types that choosing a boat is always a challenge – especially if it is your first time.

When it comes to choosing a boat that suits your needs, you will almost always have to make a compromise. Despite of the variety in boat types, practicality will force you to balance your dreams and wild hopes with an affordable option. However, there are always some general issues to keep in mind:

1.) Cost: The number one issue that actually comes in two parts: initial costs of the purchase and the running costs for maintenance and repairs. Both vary based on size and material of the boat. The initial cost, meaning the amount you will have to pay for purchasing the boat, is a clearly defined number. Estimating the running costs for maintenance and repairs are a bit tricky. However, there are sophisticated ways to calculate the running costs for every individual dinghy or cruiser model.

Most manufacturers will be able to give you detailed information on the estimated running costs of their vessels; it varies widely among countries and regions, as much of the running costs are concerned with dock fares, repair costs and taxes. Time is money, too, and you will also have to decide how much of your time you are willing to invest into your vessel.

2.) You and the crew: Who is going to use the boat? If it is only a small group of people or an individual with little sailing experience, a large cruiser shouldn’t be your choice – even if you could afford it financially. Try to find a boat that matches your skills, experience and physical condition. For beginners, dinghies are most likely to be the most appropriate vessels. Think of how easy a boat can be navigated, how heavy it is, whether or not you will have to transport it over long distances and if you will be capable of doing this.

All of this sounds a bit like common sense, but especially for men at my very age and a bit older, boats often become a bit of a penis thing and you end up spending too much money on a vessel too large for your skills. For the optimized amount of sailing pleasure, go for a boat that matches the sailor in you!

3.) Durability and resale value: We all love our boats (I do) and when you are just in the process of choosing one, you don’t want to think about selling it or getting a new one. Alas, this is a mistake! You should, as nothing lasts forever and in the end, you boat will either fall into pieces or you want to sell it. This is when the resale value kicks in and adds its weight on the total costs. Durable boats with solid hulls will keep their value for much longer and will be cheaper in maintenance, since they are less likely to fall into disrepair – however, they will most likely be more expensive to buy in first place.

4.) For what kind of sailing do you need the boat? Do you want to cruise the World – or are you happy sailing up and down your local lake? How many people do you want to load on the boat? How much cargo will you need? How safe and seaworthy will the boat have to be? This is also where you need to think about the powering of the boat, the electronics and navigational aids. Also, remember that size matters – which correlates directly with other factors such as cost and the constraints of your individual skills.

Keep these four points in mind and ask lots of questions – don’t waste you time with boat dealers that don’t seem to have the expertise to advise you properly and that can’t give details on each boat’s performance. There will be other dealers with more knowledge. Choosing a boat is mostly about facts and not about liking the look of a vessel.

Further Reading

Back to "boats"

How to Identify a Stolen Yacht

Guide to buying a boat on

United States Sailboat Show

References to Boat Shows Worldwide