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Buying a Project Boat…is it Really Worth it?

There is something so alluring about the idea of bringing an old, tired second hand boat back to its former glory. The price tag is certainly appealing, but there is also that sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes from the hard work and dedication of returning a boat to the seas looking as good as new.

Project boats, or refit boats, are essentially those that can’t be used in their current state, and will need a programme of maintenance and restoration to make them seaworthy. Like houses and cars, project boats come in various guises, from those which need a full overhaul and replacement of everything from the engine upwards, to those whose imperfections are more cosmetic. Taking on a project boat is not a small consideration, and you need to be prepared to dedicate both time and money, but is it ultimately worth it? Will you bag a bargain and get your dream boat through hard work and a dollop of love?

The Benefits of Buying a Project


Boat Buying a project boat is a major undertaking, and you need to be prepared for months of hard work (with some blood, sweat and tears thrown in for good measure), as well as the expense of the parts and storage. And that’s all before you can even launch and enjoy your boat. So what are the benefits of taking on a refit boat? Buy a Dutch Canal Barge for Sale or Buy a Butler Barge for Sale


  1. You can get your dream boat for less. There are some incredible boats deals to be found on project vessels, and the prices can seem very appealing. There is certainly good scope to find a very cheap boat, fix her up and make money when selling it on, either straight away or after you’ve had a few years of enjoyment in her. Indeed, many people fund their increasingly larger boats this way, taking on ever bigger challenges each time.
  2. It’s a good way to get to know a boat. You’ll spend hundreds of hours getting familiar with every nook and cranny of your new refit boat in a way you never would if it was shipshape and ready to be cruised. Whether you’re going to refit the boat yourself or contract people to do it for you, you’ll find yourself pouring over electrics plans and discussing the minutiae of parts you didn’t even know existed before.
  3. Sheer satisfaction. There are few things more satisfying than watching all your hard work come to fruition as your boat is launched. There will be days when you wish you hadn’t started it at all, when the magnitude of the project seems overwhelming and everything is going wrong. But the days when you take a step back and feel a sense of achievement and pride will far outweigh them.

Why Buying a Project Boat Might Not be for you?


  1.  If it’s your first boat. Owning a boat is a big learning curve, so you might be best advised buying something ready to go rather than a fixer upper for your first purchase. The price will be higher of course, but even if it means buying something smaller than you had hoped for it is probably a good idea to spend your time out on the water, learning all there is to learn about boat ownership and deciding what works for you before embarking on a refit project. Even with a sound boat there will always be maintenance and repair projects that need doing, so cut your teeth with them and gain that valuable experience first.
  2. If you’re in a rush. There will always be more to do on a boat than you planned for when buying it. And everything takes twice as long as it feels it should do. If you’re chomping at the bit to get cruising then a refit boat will only leave you feeling frustrated and cutting corners. You need to have the time, patience and energy to dedicate months, or even years, to your project.
  3. You want to make money. While, with the right boat purchase, it is possible to make money on your refit, there is no guarantee. Boat parts are expensive, and unforeseen problems can make a big dent in your budget and overall profit. Refitting a boat to make quick money is never a good plan, so think carefully about your reasons for wanting to go down this route before committing to anything. Buying a boat that can be used immediately and updating the equipment and electronics is likely to be a safer bet.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Project Boat


If you have your heart set on restoring a boat, then the hard work truly begins. And the first step is to choose the right boat. While it might seem obvious, keep in mind that the bigger the boat the more it will cost in repairs and storage, but it will also take longer to finish. How long are you willing to wait for that launch date? Take your time choosing a refit boat and don’t get lured by the rock-bottom sale price.


  1. Don’t choose a boat which has no salvageable equipment and is little more than a shell. The cost of replacing everything on board can be far higher than the value of the boat could ever be, and it’ll cost you more than if you simply bought a similar, ready-to-go boat.
  2. Choose your boat carefully, and preferably opt for a quasi-classic model which has plenty of spares available and has a good reputation and plenty of fans so it will sell well when the time comes. Look for features such as design pedigree and proven hull. A boat in this category will also mean you can find good advice and help from others who have the same boat. Check the market and know what models are selling for when they’re in good condition.
  3. Avoid boats with major structural defects as these are difficult and costly to repair (if they are repairable at all). There are plenty of boats out there which only need some TLC.
  4. Create a list of everything that needs doing to a potential project boat, budget it, and then double it. While you might want to tackle a project over time, allowing you to manage your budget better, keep in mind that long-term refits will incur monthly storage costs throughout that time.
  5. If it’s your first refit choose a model which is well-built, simple and without a lot of systems to maintain. A boat which is more straightforward to return to its former glory will give you confidence, a sense of satisfaction and you’ll learn invaluable lessons ready for your next, and perhaps more complicated, refit. Look for tasks which involve cleaning, painting, gelcoat repair, stripping and varnishing which are both cheap to do and only require elbow grease and time.

Ultimately, buying a project boat could be one of the most rewarding things you ever do, and create a lifelong hobby of restoration. You might put everything you have into one, well-loved boat which is everything you have dreamed of (even if it puts you off DIY forever). Perhaps your budget doesn’t allow you to buy a ready-to-go boat and you can fulfil a lifelong goal to own, and restore, your very own boat. Whatever your reasons for taking on a project such as this, do your homework, conduct a marine survey, and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for. Always take on less rather than more and your story will be one of success and not frustration and financial burden. For a tantalising selection of boats for sale to choose from check out Rightboat.com where you can ask the owners and brokers questions and start your boat-owning journey.  Need advice in regard to buying a boat →   https://www.rightboat.com/blog/category/buying-a-boat-advice. Visit here for more project boats for sale 


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Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

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