In an ongoing series of taboo topics in the classic boat hobby, today we are talking about the cost of a classic boat restoration. Or as one restorer put it to me years ago..” If I told them what it really cost, they would never restore the boat.” The sad truth is that I have heard this very statement from several sources. But is it true? Yes and no. Like everything in our little world here, it all depends on what you are starting with. The right boat? the right mind set? The right restorer? The right support system? The right information before you start, and the biggest one, the right attitude! As I have stated before and will do it again. WE ARE SWITZERLAND on this topic. We have been burned here bad, and we have had wonderful experiences. We have seen the worst and the best out there. So its not an easy call. We speak from personal experience. I will confess here, in front of the planet…I spent over $150,000 on one restoration job! There I said it. Actually I honestly have no real idea how much, I stopped counting at $150,000 so I would not kill someone, or my self. I thought I was alone. I am sadly not. In fact, I am in a huge crowd. It’s the dirty little secret of the hobby. I wrote it off as the cost of an education into the world. And that has played out true. I changed my attitude, and mind set, and I am OK, in fact I would do it again. The process is priceless, bad use of that word I suppose.. But its a fantastic feeling bringing something back to life. And with the right company, a ton of fun. I am still pals with all the folks that worked on my boat, and to be honest again, would have never done it if i had known what it would cost. So, I suppose they were honest from the start. I was boating on the river denial!
Is it a rich mans game? Absolutely NOT! Is $150K a lot of money. It’s INSANE MONEY! But think for a second, $150K for a new boat is not all that much. Try a new sports car? Actually in the grand scheme of things its not bad for a fun midlife deal. RIGHT MIND SET! A new boat will loose half its value in the first couple years. your classic boat not at all. Surprisingly we found that many folks get into classic boats because of the low cost of entry, and can do much of the work themselves thus saving a ton of cash. IF THEY DO IT RIGHT! I know a ton of folks that have $20K in a cool classic boat that is safe and fun to use, and compared to a 150K new plastic boat, kick its ass! So, what can you do to protect yourself, or make a open decision as to how to move forward.
GET AN ESTIMATE! I did not. I was $5K into the restoration and the boat had not been flipped. Once the boat is disassembled you are all in. No turning back. Your $30K boat is now worth $5K in a bag of parts. So you are screwed at this point without an estimate. The slow death march began. I am not alone here. This is a reoccurring conversation behind the scenes. Some have spent far far far more on less. After all,
Wood is wood, labor is labor. It’s the shape that it goes into that makes the difference. It’s not the restorers fault that many of the big money issues are hidden and can only be found after the disassemble.
Be prepared. ALL CLASSIC BOATS NEED FRAME WORK! All Classic boats need NEW WOOD! Once you fix one thing, it makes everything else look like crap! In my case the one good move I made, was it was a collectable boat. Are these costs crazy? It’s not the restorers fault that my boat needed all new frames, thus the sides had to be taken off. It’s not the restorers fault that then the covering boards needed to be fixed, and while you are at it, a new deck, new leather… it’s a massive can of worms.
Consider all the expenses, my bottom job was not all that bad, it was all the other stuff that killed me. It adds up fast. Super triple carb fast. Leather interior, 8K, Motor $7K wood, 3K trailer 4K chrome $3K and thats just a start.
Talk about it with others. The point of this story is to talk about this in the open. There are some fantastic honest restorers out there. We feature them here on our site. They are good honest folks that follow the simple rule of treat folks the way you would want to be treated. They are long term players that do honest amazing work. They back up what they do. Thats why they have been around a long time. Do your homework, ask around, compare and see who is the right guy to help. It’s well worth the trip to the other side of the country to do the job right, and in the end the money spent of travel, will be less than having to redo a crap job. Go to shows, talk with club members, go up to guys that have nice boats and ask who did there work, ask if they are happy and would do it again, 9 out of 10 will be happy like you should be. We are here to just make sure you are not that 1 guy who is not!
Please understand, this topic is red hot and a bit of a third rail, it can get rather personal rather fast. We are not out to hurt anyone, or anyone’s business. In fact the opposite. If you have a positive experience, tell it here. We are pro restorer here, we are all about doing the job right the first time with honest and fun folks.