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To Buy? And What To Buy?

That is the question, and it vexes all trawler lovers—especially at boat-show time.
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With boat shows back in full force again, cruising enthusiasts are out en masse to see the fresh crop of new and previously owned trawlers. I never tire of wandering from dock to dock. If you’re anything like me, you use these shows as an opportunity to get aboard as many boats as you can. The starboard side of the brain admires the styles, while the port side collects feature ideas for the future.

Shopping for a new boat is, of course, as much about your cruising plans as it is about the boat. Do you simply want something fresh and new? Have you decided to travel to distant waters and explore different horizons? Perhaps the family has outgrown your current boat? Has a bucket list of destinations become the new objective?

No matter your vision, you need the right trawler to make it a reality. Here’s how to get it.

Love It or List It

First, there’s the question of what to do about your current trawler.

Maybe after touring the docks, you have decided that your trawler is fine for all of your cruising and liveaboard needs. The accommodations are comfortable, although it has always bothered your wife that without an extra stateroom, guests have to sleep on the convertible dinette. The boat is seaworthy with a reliable engine, but the hour meter hasn’t worked all season. The generator and battery charger work—usually.

Looking ahead, however, the age of the boat is becoming more apparent. It’s not just that the air conditioning and other systems are more than a decade old; so is the whole boat and everything on it. Although you have maintained the boat, a trip to the yard is now more likely sooner than later.

The adage “pay me now or pay me later” comes to mind. Maybe it’s time to do another stroll on the dock and ask a broker about available listings.

The process starts with shopping and making countless decisions, ranging from hull colors to engine selection to everything else you could possibly want.

The process starts with shopping and making countless decisions, ranging from hull colors to engine selection to everything else you could possibly want.

Reality Bites

No matter whether you are buying a new boat for 2022 or a boat that’s only new to you, the trawler should be in a condition that’s as good as, or better than, the boat you are replacing. Ensuring quality, though, comes at a price. If you have ignored new-boat prices for more than a few years, you might be surprised when you hear the number.

Like real estate, trucks and medical costs, boat prices have escalated relentlessly. The builders are factoring in every increase in raw materials, labor, transportation, insurance and other manufacturing costs.

There is good news, though. New boats have also improved exponentially in quality, performance and accommodations, helping to justify their pricing. And, the general trend of rising costs can often boost the resale value of the boat you currently own.

A good way to estimate the market value of your present boat is to find an identical or similar model that is evenly equipped, of the same age, and in the same condition. The asking price is only a starting point; true market value will be revealed when you learn what that comparable boat actually sells for, and how long it was on the market. Good used boats don’t last long in the marketplace.

A common thread among all boat buyers is they want to pay for their next boat at a wholesale price, yet they expect to receive full retail price for the boat they are trading in or selling. They calculate all the money that they put into the boat over the years of ownership, and simply ignore the age of the boat. The math rarely works out this way; if you are trading in your boat, then the value will be determined after a sea trial and, maybe, a survey. More than a few boat sales have gone sideways because the owner’s nine was more like a five in the eyes of the broker or buyer.

Of course, a well-maintained, clean and seaworthy vessel will have more appeal, and thus a higher value among the competition. Clean means that everything sparkles from the bottom to the bridge.

I know owners who, after being unable to get a price for their boat, spent a sizable amount in the boatyard and then decided to keep the boat. They realized that they could make it look great with cash and sweat equity, and fall back in love with it. And, a professionally run yard can be a major friend to help you get the most out of owning, maintaining, buying or selling a boat.

Just don’t spend too much money on an older boat and expect to get that money back. No matter how much is spent, it does not change the boat’s age. Do all the improvements for yourself and your boat, and enjoy the result.

Lower-traffic venues such as Trawlerfests or smaller local boat shows provide a relaxed setting for trawler shoppers to dive deeper into the boats on display and obtain as much information as possible prior to making an offer.

Lower-traffic venues such as Trawlerfests or smaller local boat shows provide a relaxed setting for trawler shoppers to dive deeper into the boats on display and obtain as much information as possible prior to making an offer.

New-Boat Itch

If your enjoyment is anchored in buying something totally new, there is no comparison. Buying an all-new boat is exciting.

The process starts with shopping and making countless decisions, ranging from hull colors to engine selection to everything else you could possibly want. When you light up the engine, it sounds different from your old boat’s power plant. Pulling the new boat out of the slip or backing it in the first few times can make your knees shake.

This is good. This is fun. This is exhilarating—but having a new boat also challenges you to relearn so much of what you already know. You have new systems, new electronics, new power and new noises.

To appreciate your new trawler, push the throttle up to the speed you used to cruise at, and sense the difference between this boat and your previous one. Apply more power. Cut across a few wakes. Live in the moment.

Your heart will settle down, and your confidence will rise like the tide. Look at the compass and decide what direction you want to go, because your new ride is ready to take you there.

This story originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Passagemaker magazine. 


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