Are project boats really a deal?
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Are project boats really a deal?

“Well, well, well… What in the %&$@ is that in my back yard?” is the question alot of us have heard over the years from parents, spouses, or significant others. But for anyone who are the “Rose Colored Glass” wearing types, I thought I would take some time to do a Project 101 “cliff notes” version on boat ownership. Especially those “deals” or “fixer uppers” we like to call projects.  You know the 40′ Bertram listed on Ebay for $3,000.00??  Yeah those…
“Projects” are nothing more than bulding one’s own confidence and enhancing his/her hobby and giving them something productive to show off by saying “I made something of this”

RULE #1 on project boats: If you intend to do a major project with the idea that you can turn a profit off of it. STOP HERE!

Do not go any further.  You cannot make money “flipping” boats.
Sure you bought the boat for a steal, and you can do 90% of the work yourself, and you’ve checked eBay and boat traders to know it’s worth a hell of a lot more, BUT you have to figure your time into the deal. That being said, show me one person who made one clear NET dollar ( including his/her labor) off a major project and I’ll buy dinner for us.
But let’s take this for what it really is. I don’t know many ( but I do a few) that keep track of every hour, and every little or big job they do and figure in their labor as part of it. The main reason is priorities! We do this for love, and enjoyment, not to make money. Thus it could be “seriously hazardous to one’s health and or marriage” to track the cost of a project boat so we don’t!
Before you start this grand journey, lets answer some hard questions about our project.
  1. How much work am I willing to do? When I answered this, I told people that I would look at any 38 Sedan flybridge Chris Craft Commander that was complete ( running or not); not damaged structurally; and had a title/registration that was clear. After that I was game to consider anything.
  2. Is my spouse/family gonna be involved? If the answer is ‘no,’ you might want to stop here unless the divorce is already pending and you’ll need a cheap place to live anyway.
  3. How much am I willing to pay NOW? Keep in mind that the price tag is a misnomer. Car dealers have that quick voice at the end… we do too!. For example:
pricedoesnotincludedisassemblyhauloutwashdowntransitpermitsescortstitlingdocumentationpropertytaxesandbrokersfees… Some assembly required!

RULE #2: Look at the total price.

OK! the boat is a deal at $xxx.xx and I can afford that with no problem. Now what will it REALLY cost me?
Here’s the rundown on one of my projects just to show how it all adds up and quickly. I show this for any prospective “newbies” like I was to enlighten and educate. there are others on the list who may or may not want to share, but they spent ALOT more than I am just to get the boat home. Reiterating….It’s not the price of the boat, it’s the price of the boat and getting it home that is the deal! Here’s my rundown:
  • Trip to see boat and close the deal ( fuel, meals, etc.): $200.00.
  • Now add two days of driving time and work to the bill (despite saving $750.00 on each end for dis-assembly and reassembly by doing it myself).
  • Buy supplies to remove bridge and pack boat for transport: $150.00.
  • Line up person to tow boat to nearest travel lift ( 7 miles), as well as watch her for two weeks keeping the bilge dry etc.: $150.00. (A steal in and of itself, as tow boats generally are $150/hr “real time”.)
  • Line up a transporter to bring the boat long distance over the road. (If it’s oversized it gets real pricey.) Standard rates are around $2.50/mile plus permits and escorts for EACH state. Total including set down at my place: $2010.00. (Yes, I called in some favors from my previous life as a boat hauler.)
  • Line up a marina to haul it out and power-wash bottom then load onto truck: $5.60/ft plus $2.00/ft to wash, for a grand total of $270.00.
  • Phone calls, paperwork, Fedex charges etc. Storage after it arrives. This can run the gambit as you may or may not be able to store her in your driveway. Yards in Western, NC ( inland) for instance run $10/day plus $1.00 a stand per day per stand. To use a storage lot with a “blind owner” that will let you work on her there for $45/a month. If you can go into the water then forget storage and sign that slip lease for a minimum of thousands of dollars a year!
Total NOT counting the price of the boat or storage! $2780.00
So…. Have I scared you yet? If the boat was given to you for free or you “inherited it” in an estate from family (and mine wasn’t), you would still have to come up with several thousand dollars just to get it out of there. In my business, I have done several quotes for people that ranged in the area of $900.00 to lift and move one 40 miles to $6,000.00 to move one several states away. I’d love to know the “ballpark” figures in transport, customs, duties and taxes to ship one overseas. And lots do too!

RULE #3: Consider the question––How long am I willing to take to do this? YEARS?!

Plan on YEARS! But that’s the fun of it. You can do this on a “budget” providing you are not in a hurry. If you want it in the water SOON, just give someone your checkbook and a new pen! Pick your “sub projects” as time and money permits. If money is not available, move to a different project. There is always a “day long” project that you can do aboard for less than 20 bucks and then you’re one step closer. The best boat name I ever read to date was “Mental Floss” (the name speaks for itself). And if you can’t think of any other reason. well it’s all for the love of a damned good boat.
As I said earlier, I can sit here and envision a young’un like me, watching these “deal boats” getting caught up thinking, “Man I can do this,” and get the gumption to jump in with both feet. I can honestly say that I felt that way before. Then a sickening feeling took over that night. How much is this deal gonna cost me to get here before I even start work. Before I learned all of the “ins and outs” of buying and moving boats, I wished someone had shared that knowledge with me, so I wanted to share not just to stop someone who will get a new project, but to look at the whole picture with “open eyes” and not just the price tag with “blinders.”
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