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Old 05-14-2021, 07:15 PM   #1
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Larger/older vs. smaller/new for the same price

I'd like to throw out a general question to the wise and experienced out there: For the same price, would you prefer a larger, older boat perhaps from a 'premium' maker, or a smaller, new boat?

I know the answer is, "it depends". It depends on the particular boat, it's condition, how it's been taken care of, type of engine(s), hours, etc. (especially condition). I would still be interested in and appreciate all thoughts and views.

I've been searching for a boat for a while (my 14th in 50 years), and am getting increasingly frustrated with the low inventory, high prices, and poor condition of so many boats in this 'sellers market'. I've wasted a LOT of time driving sometimes long distances to see boats advertised and claimed to be in 'perfect', 'like new', 'bristol', 'needs nothing' condition - only to discover within seconds of arriving that it's a project boat with six figures worth of needs. Everything looks great in internet photos. In person, not so much.

With the prices of used boats high these days, it's dawned on me that for a not too dissimilar price, a new boat could be bought, albeit somewhat smaller. There's a wait for getting a new boat, but, I could spend another year searching and wind up with nothing but more wasted time.

With all the reasonable caveats about condition and other specific details, I'd be interested in anyone's thoughts: for the same price, would you choose -

(1) a used boat, say 10-15 years old, 1000-2000 hours on the engine, in (apparently) very good condition (IF I could find one like that) in the 44-46 ft range, perhaps from a U.S. or European builder, or

(2) a brand new boat, built to spec including some customization of interior layout and engine, in the 38-ish foot range, from a well-regarded Chinese builder

Either size (or in between) would serve our needs.

Thank you!
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Old 05-14-2021, 07:55 PM   #2
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Ignoring everything for a bit.
What are your goals, your cruising area.

How long will it take for the 'new build'?
Look at American Tug for a fresh perspective.
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Old 05-14-2021, 07:55 PM   #3
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You may wish to wait. After the new year we may find the market sliding back to “normal” which means a buyers market. Still may take another year to normalize, but the indications I’ve seen in boat sales, lumber prices, housing sales, etc. all seem to indicate we’re heading over the top of the bell curve now.

Trees don’t grow to heaven. Bull markets don’t last forever.
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Old 05-14-2021, 08:30 PM   #4
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Ignoring everything for a bit.
What are your goals, your cruising area.

How long will it take for the 'new build'?
Look at American Tug for a fresh perspective.
I know AT very well, and have owned two of them, a 34 and a 39, and liked them very much. The 34 at this point is a little smaller than we'd like. I loved our 39, except for the lack of walk-around side decks. At this point I'd be very happy with another AT39 despite the side decks - except that new prices have escalated out of our reach, and there aren't any used ones on the market right now (and the ones that have recently sold went for almost what they cost new despite engine hours that were probably halfway through their service lives).

A new build will take roughly a year from order to final delivery. I'm looking at Helmsman and North Pacific.

Our cruising area is New England. Home ported in Narragansett Bay, cruising Block and Nantucket Islands, Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands, Long Island Sound, and hopefully, periodically the Maine coast. Most future trips likely to be on the shorter side (a week or less) so long-term independent provisioning isn't a high priority.

The areas have rocky bottoms, shoals, lots of rocks, and weather conditions that can quickly churn up unpleasant sea conditions, squalls, and Nor'Easters. So seaworthiness is of prime importance. No (sane) person intentionally goes out in nasty weather, but sometimes you get caught in it.
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Old 05-14-2021, 08:40 PM   #5
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You may wish to wait. After the new year we may find the market sliding back to “normal” which means a buyers market. Still may take another year to normalize, but the indications I’ve seen in boat sales, lumber prices, housing sales, etc. all seem to indicate we’re heading over the top of the bell curve now.

Trees don’t grow to heaven. Bull markets don’t last forever.
You speak great wisdom. The combination of a soaring stock market that's made a lot of people feel wealthy, plus many people 'discovering' boating as a (perceived) safe pandemic activity, has resulted in increased demand and decreased supply.

By default, I might end up waiting a year anyway. I've been searching for over 2 years now, came close once but the dealer reneged on the deal. I will not lower my standards (despite the motto of my life having been "When all else fails, lower your standards" - it's a philosophy that works in all situations, professional and personal). I will not buy a boat ill-suited to our needs, I will not buy a boat with pod drives, and I will not overpay for a project boat with needs well into six figures. So, by default I've been 'waiting'.

The problems with waiting are that no one can predict when market conditions will return to sanity. Economic forces being what they are, the path back to normalcy may be a stair-step function over several years. Boats previously worth 5 and now selling for 10, when the prices drop to 7 or 8 will be seen as 'bargains' and bid back up to 9, then when they fall to 6 or 7 will be bid back up to 8, etc.

At this point in my life, being 60-something, remaining time is limited. If I was 10 year younger I would unhesitatingly simply wait. But I'm within sight of aging out of boating. And that's the really frustrating part.
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Old 05-14-2021, 10:20 PM   #6
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Hello Nick 14,

My thought would be go with the smaller/newer choice. They both make nice boats and have great reputations. Resale will be strong.

Moorage options may be greater with smaller, and maintenance time might be less with a newer boat. Less maintenance may mean more enjoyment and more years cruising. You’ll also have things the way you want, as you indicated.

Order now and cruise in the spring. What I mean is, don’t wait...execute now. Our remaining “get ups” are limited.

Good Luck
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Old 05-15-2021, 05:07 AM   #7
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Think there’s another variable. Many of recent purchases were by folks new to boating. They are now being struck with the reality of how much work is involved, how much time +/or money, how it conflicts with time they may wish to spend on other activities, how the weather may impede their plans, the need for both members of a couple and all members of a family to want to do it. Boating is a major commitment. It isn’t just cocktails in the cockpit watching a gorgeous sunset. Even if the economic holds when that reality hits I think inventory will improve. Due to age I’m willing to pay a premium but think it’s nearly always a bad idea to lower your standards unless you’re willing to spend the time and money to bring a vessel back up to Bristol.
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Old 05-15-2021, 05:39 AM   #8
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Don't know if you've considered it already, but a new Diesel Duck 382 might meet your needs, altho I wouldn't consider it adaptable to large groups of people for socializing. 382 Diesel Duck


These DDs have steel hulls, good for the conditions you've described. Only downer might be that you have to take delivery in China (Seahorse Marine) in order to pay in 500K range. Don't know cost of transport to the States. It's at least worth a look. Good luck in your searches!


PS: Check out the walk-in engine room, rare for this size vessel.
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Old 05-15-2021, 05:49 AM   #9
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Not All, But a lot of the newer boats are "throw aways" just not built to last. They don't build them with one inch thick hulls, bullet proof engines and quality craftsmanship.

I would go with an older boat every time.

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Old 05-15-2021, 06:40 AM   #10
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With your lengthy boat ownership experience, I would have to say you have figured this out a lot more times than I ever have and that you will again. Personally, I'd bow out of the market for about two years.
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Old 05-15-2021, 06:58 AM   #11
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With your lengthy boat ownership experience, I would have to say you have figured this out a lot more times than I ever have and that you will again. Personally, I'd bow out of the market for about two years.
Perhaps, bow out or buy a boat that will 'do' until the world (we) figure out what's next.
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Old 05-15-2021, 08:01 AM   #12
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Not All, But a lot of the newer boats are "throw aways" just not built to last. They don't build them with one inch thick hulls, bullet proof engines and quality craftsmanship.

I would go with an older boat every time.

pete
So much of what we buy today is throw away stuff. But I know what you mean. We run a 48-year-old Bertram motor yacht. I don't think we're going to be seeing a lot of the boats being made today, still being run 48 years from now.
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Old 05-15-2021, 08:06 AM   #13
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I say buy the smaller boat and customize it the way you want it, especially if the wait is only a year.

I sincerely ask this question, do 'book' prices on new boats ever go down after a seller's market? Are 38' + boats ever discounted from the 'book' price? If not, what would be the advantage in waiting?

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Old 05-15-2021, 08:31 AM   #14
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Thank you everyone for your thoughts!

@IRENE, thanks! Your thoughts mirror those of my wife. I've become particularly sensitive to the reality of limited 'get ups' remaining for me.

@Hippocampus, I've seen this too. So many brokers have commented that the majority of their sales are going to first-time buyers, even for 40-50 ft boats. Brokers have also commented that they expect a lot of those boats to come back onto the market in 2-3 years as newbies get a taste of the reality of boat ownership. As you wisely said, 'boat ownership isn't just cocktails in the cockpit enjoying a sunset' - though a lot of these people seem to think it is.

I've salivated just a little bit at the thought of what might be a torrent of boats coming onto the market in a few years, and inverting the current situation to a buyer's market where all these first-time owners might be desperate to get out of their boats at any price. One problem is the 'might' part. Another problem is what naive first-time owners could do to their boats in that time. It doesn't take long to ruin a boat. I've seen people do it in a single season. I can imagine the less than wonderful condition a lot of these boats will end up in after being in the unknowing hands of first-time owners, and the toll the lack of maintenance and docking incidents will take.

Then there's the ultimate problem to which there is no solution. I'm not getting any younger.

@ddw36, thanks! The Ducks are great boats. I'm looking for the ability to reach semi-planing/semi-displacement speeds, which they can't. I've looked at the Seahorse Coot, love the looks and layout. Seahorse offers a semi-displacement version they call the 'Scoot' that will supposedly be capable of 12-14 knots. But there's the not-so-little problem of the 25% tariff on Chinese-built boats. The established builders (like Helmsman) have finessed this to be applicable only on the actual Chinese value-added portions, reducing the net tariff substantially. Buying directly from Seahorse I'd have to deal with this on my own. I suspect the customs authorities would require the entire 25% from me, which makes it financially untenable.

@Pete_Meisinger, I agree when it comes to hull and glass quality of some of the 1960's tanks, like the first fiberglass Chris-Crafts. Talk about over-built! But most of the 15-25 year old boats I've seen have been in appalling structural condition because of moisture penetration into balsa core. It's been the most common deal killer at survey. I don't mean a few square inches of elevated moisture around fittings, which is to be expected - but entire panels and decks where the meter pins across the entire surface. There's a whole generation of boats out there rotting from the inside out and top down. Maybe a lot of buyers don't notice or care, but I won't go out to sea in a structurally compromised boat.

With older boats, there's also the question of old systems - electrical, plumbing, A/C, etc. - which are rarely updated. But the bigger issue for me are so many boats I've looked at whose engines have hours that put them in the 'senior years' of their lives. It's hard for me to justify spending six figures on something like that, especially with repower costs being what they are.

@rgano, I might have been boating for a long time. But sometimes, you get too close to a situation. It becomes emotional, and you lose some objectivity. I value and respect the perspectives of others, who can bring an objective, outside view and a fresh pair of eyes to a situation that one might be personally too caught up in.

@OldDan1943, I've thought about an 'interim' boat, but they're almost as expensive and as much work as the 'real thing'. At this point, I'm oscillating between ordering new, or waiting out the current market craziness - but my own 'biological clock' is ticking away too.

@Group9, if I could find a 1960's/1970's fiberglass tank that has been properly restored (new engines, systems, etc.) I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I'm too old to take on this kind of project myself, and if there are any old beauties out there, the owners aren't selling.

@JLD, I don't think prices for new boats would go down except in a true recession/financial crisis. The point of waiting would be for the used boat market to return to normalcy, with increased supply and lower prices.

Thanks again everyone!
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Old 05-15-2021, 08:40 AM   #15
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But there's the not-so-little problem of the 25% tariff on Chinese-built boats...

I suspect the customs authorities would require the entire 25% from me, which makes it financially untenable.

I wonder if you could easily avoid this by taking delivery in Canada, as an export boat, immediately leaving the country. Then just clear into the US via phone and no one is the wiser.
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Old 05-15-2021, 08:41 AM   #16
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At this point in my life, being 60-something, remaining time is limited. If I was 10 year younger I would unhesitatingly simply wait. But I'm within sight of aging out of boating. And that's the really frustrating part.
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@IRENE, thanks! Your thoughts mirror those of my wife. I've become particularly sensitive to the reality of limited 'get ups' remaining for me.

Then there's the ultimate problem to which there is no solution. I'm not getting any younger.

@OldDan1943, I've thought about an 'interim' boat, but they're almost as expensive and as much work as the 'real thing'. At this point, I'm oscillating between ordering new, or waiting out the current market craziness - but my own 'biological clock' is ticking away too.

For gawsh sakes, Nick, 60-something doesn't mean one foot in the grave!

To hear you speak (type), you'd think your older than "Olderboater" or some such (OK, you are; he's a young whippersnapper) but just guessing, that only makes you older than maybe 35% of folks here... and considerably younger than many.



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Old 05-15-2021, 08:53 AM   #17
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@Mako, I looked into various possibilities, and haven't found any ways to avoid the tariff. US Customs is very diligent. If I tried to document the boat or register it in any US state, proof of origin and tax/duty/tariff history would come up since the boat is built in China. Payment would be required then, plus possible fines. Additionally, as a US citizen I can't get into Canada right now (COVID restrictions). I also couldn't take title to the boat there, since I don't own property there. If there are ways around it, neither I nor a law firm that deals in customs and tariffs could find a way around it.

@ranger42c, there are biological issues (genetics and health status/medical history) specific to me that likely make my remaining time limited. We all need to appreciate time. It's the one thing you can never get more of, no matter how much money a person might have. There are no 'do overs', and when time is up, it's up. I hope to continue boating for as long as I can, but there are some things that are absolute.
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Old 05-15-2021, 08:59 AM   #18
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@ranger42c, there are biological issues (genetics and health status/medical history) specific to me that likely make my remaining time limited. We all need to appreciate time. It's the one thing you can never get more of, no matter how much money a person might have. There are no 'do overs', and when time is up, it's up. I hope to continue boating for as long as I can, but there are some things that are absolute.

Ah, OK, fair enough. Good luck on your search!

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Old 05-15-2021, 11:05 AM   #19
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Hi Nick14,

There's only one entity on earth that money (or perseverance, or analysis, or diligence, or any other cognitive ability) won't buy. TIME. And your attempt to crowdsource a solution to that reality is, with all due respect, a fool's errand.

Your time on earth, your money, your choice. My answer to your original question would be moot and irrelevant.

Regards,

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Old 05-15-2021, 11:29 AM   #20
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Good luck! One thing to consider thinking of timelines is how long it might take to get an older boat up to your standards. I recently bought a really well cared for daysailer (Alerion 28) for my parents and had it trucked down from ID. It took 3 months just to get the mast painted and standing rigging done. It's amazing how backed up the yards are right now, so the calendar delta between a new boat and a light retrofit is pretty small.

I think if I were in your shoes I'd continue to look at everything that comes on the market while pursuing a new build in parallel, keeping options open for as long as possible before putting down a non-refundable deposit. I don't like the idea of sitting around and waiting for something to happen for 2 years at all.

The first place I'd "lower my standards" is on the boat age - you could find a real gem from the 70's or 80's that could meet your other standards. But it is amazing how little is out there right now!
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