Buying a Used Boat: Accessories Count

sabre 36

This Sabre 36 with a simple icebox instead of refrigeration may be less expensive and easier to maintain for the right buyer.

I know a couple who own a Sabre 36 sailboat. It is a well-maintained boat they’ve owned for five years. They’re trying to sell it and downsize to a daysailor, as over-nighting is no longer part of their boating future. They’re also trying to lessen overall maintenance. In a nutshell, they are focusing on use as they right size their ride .

One of the potential buyers for their current boat commented that the Sabre didn’t have the autopilot or refrigeration system he was hoping for, and he wanted the current owners to lower their price because he would have to invest more money to outfit the boat the way he wanted it.

My response to this was that if they had fairly priced the boat for the market, based on the equipment onboard, maybe the prospective owner wasn’t looking at the right boat for him. He should probably be looking at boats that already had his desirable features. Maybe in this buyer’s market he could drive some desperate sellers into this concession, but I cautioned the sellers to be patient.

isotherm refrigeration

Marine refrigeration systems like this Isotherm unit are expensive to buy, install, and power.

Buying a boat, without all the items on your wish list like refrigeration or autopilots, will cost you more money eventually. Refrigeration on a boat this size would start at about $1,600 retail for a simple system, and the cost could escalate way beyond that for an engine-driven system. One could buy a lot of ice for that. On the flip side, buying this boat and investing more money in additional luxury items may not allow a return on your investment, especially if these are not something the next owner is willing to pay for.

When identifying your dream boat to buy, list all the must have and wish list items along with the type of boat. Then think of the work you are willing to do or the money you have left to invest in these items. This should give you a clear indication of whether you are willing to buy a fixer-upper, a boat with serious maintenance concerns like tired engines, or a boat without all the luxury items. That will help you focus on the right boat, with the right accessories.

One of the advantages of buying a used boat  is that the previous owners have already invested in equipment that is not included in a new boat. Luxury accessories may not be necessary for you to enjoy the boat, but they may add to your comfort and ease of use.

Accessories on your list may include:

  • Davits
  • Anchor windlass
  • Electronics
  • Fixed heads & plumbing
  • Internal water tanks and water heating systems
  • Ovens
  • Refrigeration
  • Auto-pilots
  • Bow thrusters
  • Sail furling systems
  • Cabin heaters
  • Wash down systems

It is one thing to envision the size boat you desire and the way you intend to use it, as well as where you will keep and maintain it; it is quite another level altogether to decide how to equip it with the accessories that will contribute to your boating pleasure. Accessories matter, as they’re costly to install and maintain.  Focus on what you want, can afford, and are willing to wait for. It will make your used boat buying quicker and result in a better boating experience.



  1. Steve Hall says:

    Hi Peter.

    Great article. I think buying a boat is all about what kind of lifestyle that you want to create around and in your boat and then getting the right boat with the right accessories to match up with that. Sometimes you might have to compromise a little to meet your budget.