Jackie Parry – author


Cruising Clinic – What budget do I have to purchase a boat?

Only you know your financial situation. It’s time to be honest with yourself!

In the first article we wrote:

1) What budget do I have to purchase a boat? Whatever budget you have it is extremely likely that you will find a boat you love just that ‘bit’ over your budget. This amount does NOT include:a) all the unexpected problems found during survey that need to be fixedb) all the things the vendor neglected to tell you that needed to be fixedc) all those things that just pop up at inopportune times that need to be fixed

d) on-going maintenance and repairs

e) additional equipment (your own ideas/wants)

Summary: Keep at least 10% of your budget for those unexpected issues.

What’s the real question?

The more pertinent question is, what do I get for my money? And, what other factors do I have to consider?

What do I get for my money?

What do I get for my money?


The best advice is research, research, research. While sailboats vary dramatically in size, layout, design and price, after some in-depth researching you will create a feel for the value presented. Sorry to harp on, but it is all about research. And to only consider the boat purchase cost on its own is foolhardy.


Researching will expand your know-how. Ask questions, seek advice, you will be amazed how your knowledge grows. We spent two years searching for our second boat, all via internet (we wanted to buy a boat in America to experience the Pacific Ocean for a second time).

$0 – millions

You can spend millions or a few thousand. Actually, a few hundred if you are willing to put in the time/money to make is seaworthy. But then you have to consider whether you want to GO cruising now or WORK for several years on a boat first.

Other considerations

As mentioned previously, it is not just the initial purchase, boats have to be maintained constantly. The marine environment is extremely harsh. Without proper care your boat can quickly become un-seaworthy. The problems will spiral out of control – causing the costs to escalate out of control. Everything that moves wears out and will need replacing eventually, this includes sails. As a guide, everything that moves lasts about ten years, motor, winch, sails etc, then it will need an overhaul or replacing.

Costs to keep in mind: see here for full article on calculating your costs. Your on-going expenditure will depend on:

  • From what point you started, ie condition of boat
  • Equipment on board

A smaller, seaworthy, good condition boat is far better than a large, poorly maintained, vessel that will just become a money pit!

Size matters.

Size matters.

Size matters

The size of the boat will matter. We reckon about ten feet per decade. So:

  • If you are ten years old, you want a sailing dinghy of ten feet.
  • In your twenties you can get by on a twenty-seven footer.
  • When you reach thirty you may want a bit more comfort and so on.

It’s almost like a foot for every year of your life (up to about fifty). However, larger boats can be more expensive (longer length means a longer bill at marina), you may need more gear (longer rigging, larger sails). That said, you can make savings with a bigger boat by stowing more spare parts and stocking up at cheap locations.


Boat material will be a factor. Which material do you like working with best? That may make you a saving if you can work on it rather than employing someone else to do the work.

Our priorities when buying a boat

Watertight integrity


Material/keel setup

Heavy displacement (for crossing oceans)/handling capabilities

Equipment (is it all working? Can you maintain it?)


Can we accept, repair, replace, are familiar with all the things that are not perfect.

When we bought Pyewacket, we had to install solar panels and wind generators.

When we bought Pyewacket, we had to install solar panels and wind generators.

The Answer

The answer as per cost is dependent on:

  1. Where you are buying (USA, Caribbean, UK, Australia, Europe . . .)
  2. Condition of boat
  3. What equipment does it comes with?
  4. What skills do you have?
  5. What is your budget (allowing for additional unseen/planned costs and running costs)?

More reading

The Real Cost of Owning a Boat: here.

Here’s a neat UK link providing an idea of what you’ll get for your money: here.

More help

Next time we’ll talk about WHICH boat.

Our book, Cruisers’ AA contains lots more helpful information.