What To Look For When Buying A Used Sailboat

What To Look For When Buying A Used Sailboat

BAD Sailboats: What NOT to Buy

Navigating the vast seas of sailboat options can be exhilarating, yet daunting. Choosing the wrong sailboat can lead to costly repairs, safety issues, and an overall unpleasant sailing experience. In this article, we'll delve into the characteristics of sailboats you should steer clear of to ensure your sailing adventures remain smooth and enjoyable.

1. Poor Build Quality

A sailboat's build quality is paramount for safety and durability. Sailboats constructed with inferior materials or shoddy craftsmanship can quickly become a sailor's nightmare. Look out for boats with:

  • Delaminated Hulls: Delamination occurs when the layers of the hull start to separate, compromising the boat's structural integrity. This is a red flag for potential water ingress and weakened stability.
  • Rusty Fittings: Corrosion on metal parts such as chainplates, rigging, and fittings indicates poor maintenance and can lead to critical failures during sailing.
  • Warped Decks: A warped deck suggests underlying structural problems, which can be costly and difficult to repair.

2. Outdated Designs

While vintage sailboats may have charm, outdated designs often lack modern safety features and efficient sailing capabilities. Avoid sailboats with:

  • Inefficient Hull Shapes: Older hull designs may not be as hydrodynamically efficient as modern counterparts, leading to slower speeds and less enjoyable sailing experiences.
  • Outdated Rigging: Antiquated rigging systems can be more challenging to handle and maintain, increasing the risk of equipment failure and accidents.

3. Poor Maintenance History

A sailboat's history of maintenance is a clear indicator of its current and future condition. Sailboats that have been neglected or poorly maintained can be a significant financial drain. Be wary of boats with:

  • Incomplete Service Records: A lack of detailed maintenance records suggests that the boat may not have received the care it needed, leading to hidden issues.
  • Visible Wear and Tear: Excessive wear on sails, rigging, and the hull points to neglect. Look for signs of regular upkeep, such as well-maintained varnish and clean, functional equipment.

4. Inadequate Safety Features

Safety should always be a priority when selecting a sailboat. Steer clear of boats lacking essential safety features, including:

  • Insufficient Lifelines and Handrails: Robust lifelines and handrails are crucial for preventing falls overboard, especially in rough seas.
  • Outdated Navigation Equipment: Modern navigation tools enhance safety by providing accurate information about your surroundings. Avoid sailboats with outdated or non-functional navigation systems.

5. Unreliable Engines

While sailboats primarily rely on wind power, a reliable engine is vital for docking, maneuvering in tight spaces, and emergencies. Avoid sailboats with:

  • Frequent Engine Issues: Recurrent engine problems indicate underlying mechanical issues that could leave you stranded.
  • Old, Inefficient Engines: Older engines are often less fuel-efficient and more prone to breakdowns. Opt for sailboats with newer, well-maintained engines for peace of mind.


Choosing the right sailboat requires careful consideration of build quality, design, maintenance history, safety features, and engine reliability. By avoiding sailboats with these detrimental characteristics, you can ensure a safer, more enjoyable, and financially sound sailing experience. Always perform thorough inspections and consult with experienced sailors or marine surveyors before making your purchase. Happy sailing!