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Deciding on a New versus Used Boat

When we were thinking about buying a boat, we were weighing between the pros and cons of a new boat versus a used boat. One of the things we assumed was by the time we refit everything and pay for everything for a used boat, we would basically spend the same amount as buying a new boat. On top of that, we looked at inventory availability and there were just no three cabin boats that were of interest to us. What we were seeing was a trend that many of them go really fast and are sold at about the same price as a brand new boat. So basically, it was a wash in terms of the decision on the outset.


The misguided assumption early on about getting a new boat, is that we thought you order the boat, you get the boat, everything is under warranty, the end. This is not how it works.

In reality what we learned from other owners is that quite a bit of time is spent having conversations about finding and fixing problems on a boat that literally just came out of the factory.

As an example, we were sent photos from our broker of the boat on the date it officially became a catamaran, which is when the hull and all its internals get connected with the topsides and we were gooing at the pictures like proud parents going over our first ultrasound. That's when we realized that the wrong generator had been installed. How did we know? Well, because it was peaking out of the engine room sitting there naked. And this is the expectation new owners should have - it’s just how it is.


I was sent a message recently asking for tips on negotiating the best price for a boat. I muffled a giggle and shared my perspective which was not to focus on negotiating for the price of the boat, but negotiating for getting the actual boat you ordered. This little generator story fully demonstrates just a sliver of what I’m talking about. Well, it’s not so little since it's one of the most expensive systems on the boat in the first place, but who's complaining. I'll pick this kind of problem any day, but I'm just saying.


It’s important to have perspective and think about it as if you are building a customer home and not buying a new car. These boats are created in factories, but these factories are still very much custom shops where much of the work is done by hand, and honestly many like Fountaine Pajot are operating still like family-run businesses. You can get a good feel for the process by reviewing the blog on the factory visit.


In new boat owner circles it is a well known fact that new boats all have problems. The good news is that troubleshooting can be easier because nobody has been there before to jury-rig wiring or MacGyver systems. Also, troubleshooting is easier when you have a coordinated team looking at it trying to get to the root of the problem; the broker, the commissioning agent, the reps from whatever system you are looking at and direct contact with all of them. The good news is everyone on the ground in La Rochelle is like family, they all know each other and often hang out for and after hours aperitif and complain about cranky customers...just so you know.


This picture below was our 'Dream Team' on the ground in La Rochelle who helped us solve our saildrive problem; our broker, Uchimata, Loic from Yacht Tech International, and the Volvo dealer.

Only if you buy your used boat from a single owner who has been taking care of their boat like a baby (if you are lucky with an off the chart OCD diagnosis) are you assured that things really are truly running the way they are advertised. That is, if you can get the boat fast enough before someone beats you to it. If you can find that, then it’s a matter of getting to the boat at whatever location it might be at, with checkbook in hand and a credible surveyor you can trust.


The real benefit we think at the end of the day as we have spoken to new boat owners 3-5 years later and have been cruising for a long time is that they believe they experienced fewer issues after getting through the first year fixes and in general, spend less time on boat maintenance than other boats....THAT’s what I’m talking about!


The point is, what we have learned through this process if you can be sane and happy if you focus on the most productive way to solve problems, not focus on the fact that there are problems.


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