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HSH Yacht Articles

Ugrading your boat


Jeremy R. Hood

See also the article: Preparing to sell your boat

We all do it. Buy a house, car or boat and then want to add extras to it. Part of the reason is to customize it and make it ours. But we also add toys that we just want to have. And in adding these things we figure that we are adding value. Well, as with your house or car, what you add and how you do it will determine whether you do add value or not. In fact it is easy to spend money on a boat only to devalue it, so you need to carefully consider any major ďupgradesĒ before you embark upon them!

What follows is my advice on how to add value when you add equipment to a boat. And because it is possible to add items and decrease the value, I have included my advice on what I have found to decrease the value of a boat.

My advice on how to add equipment and value to your boat

  1. Donít add cheap stuff!

    If you want to add equipment and at the same time, add value, donít pick cheap stuff. It may work fine but it probably wonít last as well as good quality equipment and it certainly wonít make your boat more valuable. When you come to sell, buyers will be more impressed with known brands. For example a Kenwood or Icom Single-sideband radio is more valuable at the time of resale than the cheaper SGC radio. The same applies to other equipment. You may save money by buying less familiar brands but it will come back to bite you when you are ready to sell. Air conditioning is a good example. You can add a Coleman RV unit to get air conditioning but it wonít add to a boats value. Properly installed marine a/c will.

  2. Install it well!

    Even good equipment can devalue a boat if it is installed badly. Any installation should, ideally, appear to have been installed by the manufacturer. Woodwork should match in design, color, and finish. Electrical wiring should be bundled, terminated and routed, if possible, as if it were part of the original boat. If you have to cut holes in the fiberglass or bulkheads make sure they are neatly cut, appropriately level and sealed if necessary. Remember you are on a boat: equipment needs to be ruggedly secured but in undertaking the installation you must not compromise the integrity of the vessels construction. Donít cut large holes in structural items such as bulkheads or stringers. Fit marine grade fittings especially on those below the waterline. Make sure wiring is correctly sized and run to an appropriately sized breaker. And, finally, make sure the installation looks good and in keeping with the rest of the boat.

  3. Add only appropriate equipment

    You will not add value to a boat, and you may decrease the value, by adding the wrong items however high-quality the equipment and however well done the installation. All boats are designed for a particular type of use whether it is for inshore or offshore, fresh water or salt water, for sailing or fishing or going fast. Adding equipment that does not complement the intended use of the vessel will not add value. Donít add stabilizers to a small inshore power boat or a wind-vane steering system to a Catalina 30. Added equipment only adds value when it will be desirable to a future owner. Before you go ahead with adding expensive items check to see if other similar boats have the type of item you are thinking of adding.

  4. Electronics

    Donít expect to increase the value of your boat by adding a bunch of electronic equipment. If the equipment is of good quality and the installation well done and it was fitted in the last year then maybe you will be able to add some value. But only if you have considerably more equipment than other comparable boats. Even when itís good quality equipment fitted in a high quality manner, electronics more than a few years old add very little value to your boat. But beware: even if they add little value, if they are fitted they are expected to work. Non functional equipment will decrease the value of your boat.

  5. Keep your Receipts

    Assuming you installed appropriate, quality equipment in a high quality way, you can use your receipts to justify an increased value for your boat. But donít expect to be able to add what you paid to the value of your boat because it wonít happen. You will value your additional equipment because it was what you wanted but that does not mean that someone else would choose the same way you did. If you do everything right, you may get back 50 cents on the dollar. But thatís better than nothing or, worse still, spending money only to devalue your boat!

My advice on how to spend money on your boat and lose value

While doing the opposite of the points listed above will certainly not add value to your boat, there are certain things that you can spend money on and, in the process, devalue a boat.

  1. Changing the seaworthiness of a vessel

    Any changes made to the design of the hull, superstructure or stability of the vessel will almost certainly lower a value. Such changes can include moving or removing bulkheads or compromising the structure of a hull by cutting through or removing stringers or frames. Even small changes can adversely affect value, particularly if they would be difficult to reverse. I have seen large amounts of material removed from structural bulkheads, rudders significantly modified (and in one case an additional rudder added) and keels modified. Even when these changes are well done they will almost certainly reduce the value of a production boat.

    It is worth noting that this practice was not unusual prior to the days of production boat building. Then a Naval Architect would design a boat but only after it was built would it become clear how well it performed. For custom boats, changes that are designed by a Naval Architect and made by a competent boat yard can often be the exception to my advice here.

  2. Weird changes

    Even when a change does not affect the seaworthiness of a vessel it can devalue a boat particularly when the changes are unconventional on a boat. Adding weird items invariably means removing conventional ones to make space or severely compromising a particular feature. Anything that changes the interior layout of a vessel or significantly changes the designed construction is liable to devalue a boat. Buyers tend to be extremely wary of unconventional items. Items that I have seen that have cost money only to reduce the value of a boat include installing gun cabinets in each cabin, adding a domestic sized washer / dryer or refrigerator and installing a bar and bar stools!

  3. Painting a boat badly

    Almost nothing else will have such a devaluing effect as painting a boat badly. Boats painted well can look stunning and an older boat that has got to the point of needing refinishing can be immensely improved by a quality paint finish. But one that is done poorly will lower the value beyond that of the vessel needing paint. Ironically, using a high quality two-part paint can actually decrease the value more if done badly as the harder two-part paints are more difficult to remove before the job can be done well.

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