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Old 25-09-2008, 09:14   #1
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steel hull boat prices?

I have been looking for several weeks at different boats in the 40-50 foot range and their prices. I am kinda shocked to be constantly seeing steel hull boats going for a lot less than fiberglass ones. They seem to hold their value a bit better with age but still, I would think they were worth a lot more especially with the current price of scrap steel.

Can anyone give me a clue as to why they are so relatively cheap right now?

There are several I looked at this morning. One that really catches my eye is a custom rig, no builder specified. It was built in 99 and is a 45 foot motor sailer. Only 99,000.

The other is a 66 model 46 foot sailer. It's under 70,000. Maybe all the ones currently online are just hiding things. It seems pretty cheap to me though for steel.
If they aren't hiding something then is there a reason steel boats are cheaper generally then fiberglass? Are they harder to sell maybe?
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Old 25-09-2008, 10:40   #2
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I would think they were worth a lot more especially with the current price of scrap steel.
Well here in Hampton Roads we have what is known as the Ghost fleet. These are old large commercial ships that have been given up rafted together on the James River. They are now moving away fast as scrap prices rise. I'm not so sure a 50 ft sail boat with a steel hull is worth much just for the steel. They may command a slightly higher price new but as they age they lose value in terms of the hull and gain in terms of the rust. Without regular maintenance they rust exceptionally fast.

The equipment attached to the boat is worth more than the hull is and it's age, wear, and condition matter more than the hull does on any boat. In a market heavily dominated by fiberglass boats it can be harder to sell them depending on the basic boat issues and the competition of other boats.

Boats are not a huge market like cars where there are many thousands of a single model and color car with an almost unlimited number of buyers. It's more accurate to say the boat market is in all ways opposite that of cars. A larger 50 ft boat might on average take more than a year to sell.

The details of any boat will tell you more than what the hull is made out of. Most boats are priced close to what they are worth. There are not a lot of similar boats for sale so it becomes hard to compare.
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Old 25-09-2008, 10:43   #3
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Rust never sleeps. I think thats what it boils down to. Also, and to a lesser degree relating to price, plastic has a better strength to weight ratio....meaning you can carry more stuff.
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Old 25-09-2008, 11:58   #4
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I think there are other factors in play here. I own a steel boat (Amazon 44 pilothouse cutter) and it certainly wasn't cheap 1 year ago. But boats from unknown builders, or homebuilts from known-good plans implemented with unknown levels of skill, are definitely worth less and are much harder to sell than those with "comps" -- even if in good condition and well-outfitted. Insurance companies look a bit more closely, and savvy surveyors are harder to find.

Rust indeed never sleeps, though - sheesh! A ding through the Awlgrip thanks to a bobbing dinghy gudgeon took on a patina within a couple days, then heavy rust within a month. Ospho, Bag Balm, and Tie Coat primer have drifted to the top of the maintenance goo-bin.

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Old 25-09-2008, 13:34   #5
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One nice thing I remember about the Navy.... whenever we would pull into places like Subic, honk kong and Tailand, we had no shortage of small boats coming alonside with paint brushes ready to go. All we had to do was hand over the paint and some old scrap brass for payment and off they went. We just had to make sure they chipped the rust out good before slapping on the paint. We had so much paint built up over 50+ years of steaming on one ship that the last time it sailed through the Panama canal we kept getting hung up in the locks and scraping huge layers of paint off. That boat was designed to just barely squeak through in the 40's with 2 inches to spare I think on each side.

I hope between my inspection and a surveyor noone will be able to get anything past us. It sucks finding rust holes in the hull the hard way.
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Old 25-09-2008, 15:58   #6
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One of the nice things about the Navy is they have unlimited funds and thousands of deck hands to do all the work. The biggest boat you can sail is far too big for you to maintain all on your own. If you choose a large 50 ft boat, you have a whole lot of work ahead of you and that assumes the boat is in great shape when you get it. Just like the US Navy, boats are going bad while you sleep. This isn't a hull material issue at all. It's all the stuff attached. The biggest boat you can maintain is a lot smaller than the one you might be looking at. The 2nd week after you buy it has plenty of work for you.

I've tried to compute the workload per foot but it's not as easy as linear but it's not as bad as exponential. I've gone 33 to 36 (42 LOA) and I wouldn't go up again. At least as far as I can think about. At 54 I'm not looking for more work. They all take a lot of work so don't be fooled into thinking there are free lunches. I will say it is a lot easier if you pick a boat you like.

When it comes to picking boats you can narrow the list but your wife picks the boat. It would be good to educate her about boats in a way she can understand. This is called defensive boat shopping. As you will soon learn (you already know):

The rule of Admiralty: You are the Captain of any ship you own and the Admiral is always right. From there is gets much easier.
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Old 25-09-2008, 16:28   #7
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Could be more that boats are cheap in general...

As a generalisation it could be more that boats are cheap in general at the moment - there are a lot for sale and times are not good.

Fibreglass boats look and sail better than steel boats and a factory fitout is going to look way better than a custom job.

While $100k for a steelie may look cheap I have seen a similarly sized 10 yr old, top quality, immaculately maintained, fibreglass boat listed for $240k. That looked a seriously nice boat, probably cost more than $800k to replace these days.

I would sugest that your question might turn more on how well suited a steel boat might be to your plans and long term budget. If you could give us more information we could make better suggestions.

I do know that a minor mistake in docking Boracay with my wife is not a cause of marital disharmony.
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Old 25-09-2008, 17:03   #8
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There are steel boats…… And then there are boats that are a steal….

I love it when steel gets a bad rap because rust shows itself so quickly and people assume that is a big problem.

A lot of people don‘t realize that the life expectancy of a steel boat is determined by the quality of it’s coatings from the inside. Places you don’t normally see.

After 30 years our bilges are as dry as a bone and the scantlings like knew. Sure I will get some surface rust (Cortin steel boat) if the anchor is brought home too hard or a ding happens, but it is cosmetic and like anything else, good preparation pays dividends over a quick fix.

So here is to those that fear steel……it makes for a good deal! (I’m feeling kinda poetic today..lol )
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