Insider Tips for Buying Your Ideal Catamaran

For more than a decade, I've been keeping a close eye on new catamarans on the market, as well as development and mass-produced boat quality from France to the Bahamas. And as we move closer to our circumnavigation, we’ve come across one question over and over: “What’s the right catamaran for us?”

Manufacturers love to brag about what they’ve created, but the truth is there’s no “perfect” catamaran. There’s no one size fits all. Just like a house, there are trade-offs. But you can make an educated decision and avoid common mistakes by reading our points below.

Buying a catamaran

Step 1: What do you want? 

Sailing Around the World, Or Not?

If you're thinking of sailing, it's important to be realistic about what you want to do. Do you want to live on board, do mostly coastal cruises and spend most of the time in a marina or anchor, or do you want to do more long-distance crossings and maybe even go all the way round the world? 

A big charter-ready boat like a Lagoon 50 or Leopard 50 might be great if you want all the bells and whistles, but it might slow you down and make you regret it if you're going long distances. If you're just sailing on weekends or on short trips, a tough blue water cruiser like a Catana or Discovery with big rigs and sails might be too much. So make sure you know exactly what you're going to do with your catamaran and focus on what's important to you now. Why buy and maintain a fancy, expensive catamaran when you can get a smaller, pre-owned one instead? What are the points I have to have in mind when I buy a boat? 

Comfort or Performance? Or Both?

When it comes to buying a catamaran, one of the biggest decisions you'll have to make is how to balance comfort with performance. Think of setting sail on a luxury boat - plush interiors, big living spaces, fancy appliances, and top-of-the-line finishes - it's like living in a floating paradise. But with every amenity, the boat adds weight, which can really affect its speed and agility. On the flip side, performance-minded boats often stick to minimalism to make sure they can cut through the waves with ease and speed. They might have thinner hulls, use lighter materials, and focus more on aerodynamic and hydrodynamical features, sometimes to the detriment of luxury. They are fast, but also spartan and mostly affected by wave pounding.

The tricky part is figuring out what type of sailor you are! If you're the kind who dreams of long voyages, ocean crossings, and adrenaline-filled days at sea, then performance might be your North Star. But if you prefer to anchor in calm bays, soak up the sun, and spend your days lounging, then comfort is your North Star.

Step 2: Get Your Dream Catamaran

When those both questions are more or less (trust me, it's always more less) answered and a plan starts to form, here are our tips to make the process not a nightmare. 

Try Before You Buy

Some companies offer programs like “try before you buy”. This is a great way to try out a Catamaran and sail it for a short period of time, usually a week. This payment will be refunded when you buy the Catamaran. If you don’t buy, you’ve had a great week.

Living on the Catamaran gives you a better idea of what they like and don’t like about the catamaran and if the things they do not like will stop them from buying the catamaran.

Charter Management

Charter management presents a compelling avenue for catamaran owners, especially those unable to sail frequently. We decided against chartering because the damage is far greater than the profit, and you have to have a bigger yacht to draw in clients. Smaller yachts like the 40’ Lagoon, or even the “Nautitecs” aren’t great for chartering. They’re too small. The initial setup isn’t like an owners’ version. That means that when you get out of the chartering contract you may end up retrofitting, such as a watermaker, solar panels, new electronics, etc. This can add up quickly. If you’re only going to use your cat as an investment, sail a little, and sell after 5 years then this is the best option for you.


For one, it offers a potential income stream. Enrolling your boat in a program lets others rent it, covering some upkeep expenses or even turning a profit. Chartering can also maintain your boat's active status, preventing long-term stagnation damages. Some programs even provide 'try before you buy' options, allowing potential buyers to experience the catamaran firsthand, which can be a selling point.


However, there are downsides. Charter use might induce wear and tear faster than personal usage, potentially shortening the boat's lifespan or diminishing its resale value. Additionally, there's an inherent risk in letting strangers sail your vessel – even with deposits and insurance, potential damages or misuse can occur. Plus, spontaneous personal use becomes trickier when your catamaran's availability is committed to charter dates. In sum, while charter management can be financially beneficial and keep your boat active, it's vital to weigh the potential income against the accelerated wear and restricted personal access.

Boat restoration

When it comes to boat restoration, there’s a lot to love and a lot to worry about. From my point of view, reviving a vintage or neglected boat has a certain charm, whether it’s bringing back old stories or bringing back memories of old sails.

However, it’s important to note that the process comes with its own set of challenges. A restoration project can uncover hidden issues that weren’t intended to be discovered in the first place. Whether it’s deteriorated woodwork, structural integrity, or obsolete electronics, the level of work can quickly escalate beyond what you initially anticipated.

Financial forecasts can also get out of whack, with expenses increasing with each new challenge. The time required for restoration can also be long, requiring patience and sometimes even extended periods of downtime for your boat.

It’s also important to note that while you may put your heart, soul and resources into a restoration project, the boat’s market value may not reflect your investment post-restoration. Simply spoken, a project boat can easily break the bank if you don't have knowledge or the time to work permanently until seaworthiness is reached.

Custom Build Catamarans 

In our experience, custom builds tend to take longer and be more costly than initially anticipated. This is largely due to the high cost of building molds and the fact that if the molds are only used once for the boat, the cost of customization must be borne by the owner. 

Additionally, due to the custom nature of the build, owners often make multiple modifications throughout the project, which consumes both time and money. We recommend that owners of custom boats add a minimum of 20% additional time and cost to their project. Furthermore, the owner should be aware that they are unlikely to receive back what they invested in the project when it is time to sell the boat due to the lack of familiarity with the product.

Step 3: Inspect, Research and Investigate

Get Pre-owned Boats Out Of the Water

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of pre-owned boating, it’s important to remember the first step: getting the boat off the water. From my perspective, once you’ve removed the boat from the water, an independent survey becomes essential. Think of an independent boating inspector as your marine home inspector. You may be entranced by the boat’s look or history, but an independent boat inspector provides an objective and technical health assessment of the boat. 

They assess its structural integrity, mechanics, and safety procedures, looking for hidden problems. Their comprehensive report can identify potential repair areas, recommend maintenance plans, and help you negotiate the final price. Investing in an independent boat inspection isn’t just a cost; it’s a smart investment to protect your interests and make sure your maritime endeavors run smoothly and safely. Passion may drive many to buy a boat, but an independent boating inspection ensures that passion is combined with caution, protecting against unexpected issues.

Test-Sail Pre-owned Catamarans

When you're in the market for a pre-owned catamaran, I always advise taking it for a test sail. Just like you wouldn't buy a car without a test drive, the same principle applies to boats. During a test sail, you can genuinely feel the vessel's behavior in different conditions. It provides insight into its performance, maneuverability, and potential quirks. Beyond the boat's specs and the broker's description, there's an intangible "feel" to each catamaran that can only be understood once you're at the helm. Whether it's the ease of handling, the responsiveness of the steering, or the comfort of the deck layout, these subtle nuances can significantly influence your decision. Remember, this could be your home on the water for years to come. So, take the time, experience it firsthand, and ensure it aligns with your sailing desires and expectations.

Consider Your Abilities and Skills

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking bigger is better, especially for a Catamaran. The bigger the boat, the heavier it is, the more wind it needs to push it forward. For a Catamaran that’s 50ft+, you’ll need 15 knots of wind to get it moving around 8 knots. For a performance catamaran, it’s 10 knots of wind with 10 knots of wind downwind. The 37ft catamaran doesn’t have as much space as the 50ft catamaran, of course, but the 37ft moves faster and is cheaper in marinas than the 50ft.

Cruising Catamarans, on the other hand, are far more luxurious, move slower and are much easier to manoeuvre. A performance catamaran can flip in rough sea, and a smaller boat might have some issues with higher waves making it slightly more uncomfortable.

All boats cost the same, at the end

When it comes to buying a catamaran, you have two options. You can go for a brand new shiny boat with all the bells and whistles, or you can go for a perfectly maintained, pre-owned boat with all the options. You can also go for a fixer upper boat at a knock-down, drag-down price, and have the improvements done by contractors. However, when you bring the boat back to life, it will likely cost the same as the well-maintained or new shiny boat.

The only exception to this rule is if you have technical skills and can do the improvements yourself. In that case, you might be able to reduce the cost significantly.

In conclusion, while these ten tips are a great starting point, remember that buying a cruising yacht is as much an emotional decision as it is logical. Equip yourself with the best information, but also listen to your gut. After all, it's one of the biggest investments you'll make, and it should resonate with your dreams and aspirations.