The Simple Rule Of Thumb About Buying A Classic Boat!

Dora watson1

Photo Alex Watson – Lake Dora

Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Gary Visser for sending in this thought he read. It all seems so simple, but I had never thought of it in these simple terms. Now, mind you, we are huge barn find fans. But Gary has a great point. Take it away Gary.

I just read something in an antique car auction magazine that should be tattooed on the inside the eyelids of every wooden boat collector and thought it might be food for your daily installments.

woods Hacker reg

Tess out in a Hacker-Craft Gull Lake Courtesy Freedom Boat Service

The discussion was about a very rough Italian sports car, Maserati or Ferrari or whatever (but why not Chris Craft, Hacker or Riva)?  They were comparing the example that was coming up for auction (which was a very rough barn find) and it’s anticipated auction price to the current auction values seen for good restored “driver” cars or 100 point trailer queens.  The point was, the barn find sucks us all in with the promise, the romance and the ability to tinker and restore something we all admire.  And “cheap enough” is never going to happen unless you’re willing to donate your labor hours and relinquish several seasons of enjoyment while you work on the car/boat instead of spending the day on the twisty road or lake with your family.


Cost  twice the price I sold it for. It would have been better to buy a restored one.

The important point was about “value” and how a barn find can suck you into the story and how, if truth was known, it’s a story that could have been told when it was rolled into the barn for storage: someone’s dream was delayed.  The point about value?  “If you can’t afford a good example, you probably can’t afford to restore a bad one.”

Oh man, call the tattoo parlor……..

Gary Visser

Sullivan’s Island SC

26 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    When I was having American Beauty surveyed at the time of purchase the surveyor made the comment that to buy a boat like this I had better have a lot of money or a lot of time. I told him that I had some of each, and so far it has worked out.

    Though I agree with the premise of Gary’s statement, we can not ignore “Sweat Equity”. It is used in house, car, boat, and just about any other type of renovation or restoration.

    For many of us “hands on types” the time spent in the barn/shop can be just as rewarding and therapeutic as being on the water.

  2. Miles Kapper
    Miles Kapper says:

    It’s a great point and one that probably we all know on some level except…. (as rough as it is) when you’re looking at that boat and you can feel yourself starting to drool – well it’s amazing how we can rationalize hooking it up to our vehicle and calling it your own!

  3. Pappy
    Pappy says:

    Right on Troy. This isn’t only about money. If that were the case, there would be no hobbies at all. I am a hobbyist and not a collector, and the time I spend working on my boats is priceless

  4. Joe otte
    Joe otte says:

    Wise reflections, but the reward for me is the restoration, its therapy, bringing something discarded back to life, car, boat or airplane. Forcing my 14 year son to help (forced family fun). How many 14 year old boys can display some restoration skills for a boat or car. I hope he will remember them well many years from now. The wife enjoys the time on the water and the fact that we can do that in something I restored. What ever your means, enjoy the ride!

  5. tparsons56
    tparsons56 says:

    Having worked on old houses, cars and boats over the years one of the biggest satisfactions is standing back at the end of the day, cold beer in hand, and admiring what you were able to accomplish with your own two hands. Hard to put a price on that.

  6. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    All I can say is a barn find in 1980 is what got me involved in he hobby in the first place. Had I not run across that boat, I’d probably have never known there was a Chris Craft Antique Boat Club or Woody Boater.

  7. Dana W.
    Dana W. says:

    I’ve done five boats with one total restoration on my hacker, and will do another when I can one, im so glad I was introduced to the hobby when I was young, I love it.

  8. Scott M
    Scott M says:

    The creating part is all the fun. Otherwise, just adopt your kid after it’s reached puberty.

  9. Royce A. Humphreys
    Royce A. Humphreys says:

    Great points from everyone as we all have similar thoughts and takes on what this hobby does for each of us. Aside from the financial part, the fun of the chase, the actual find and the historical significance are what thrill me. Knowing who owned the boat, how it was used, where it was used and then seeing it get put back into action. Mr. Visser failed to mention the fact that he has done many boat projects over his lifetime, so maybe he’s having an awakening moment to the realities of our hobby! He’s also my brother and I guarantee that when we communicate (which is almost daily), the subject of boats is usually our primary discussion!

  10. Tim Robinson
    Tim Robinson says:

    Son Brian and I have been restoring boats for over 25 years. We turned our hoby into a small buisness. If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.

  11. JFKarlson
    JFKarlson says:

    This hobby (affliction?) is not really about how to spend the least to get the best boat. The journey of finding, imagining what could be and shepherding a once great boat back into action is where most of the fun is—at least for me. The fact that you actually get to use your resurrected treasure at the end of the process is a bonus.

  12. Steve Bunda
    Steve Bunda says:

    Pessimism , no thank you. Why should a woody barn find be held up to a ridicules standard? Do your due diligence before jumping into the hobby and lifestyle and then make the decision.
    New cars, trucks , and boats all depreciate way faster than a barn find left as is , or restored. This is a fact of life and goes without question.
    In this shop the glass is half full.

  13. Mike W
    Mike W says:

    It started with a 10′ Glen L Squirt when I was a kid. Then didn’t own a boat until I was 46. Why when my parents had them and lived in Algonac on the water? Then jumped into the deep end thinking I knew how to swim with a 35 Commander. Followed by a 19 SS Commander followed by jumping into the ocean with a 47 Commander. Paddling like heck to keep up financially and with time but love the challenge. The 35 is for sale. Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

  14. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    I know that restoration of a barn find boat will never make financial sense. However, saving such a boat from the fate of a bonfire or chain saw is another aspect of a restoration that makes it a noble cause. That should also be considered in the decision.

  15. Dean
    Dean says:

    When I bought my boat 9 years ago I couldn’t afford a shiny boat. I thought that all the boat I was buying needed was some TLC and a little varnish and I would be zipping around the lake in no time. I was wrong.
    Even though I am aware that this is not a wise financial decision, over these many years of walking past this boat as I head off to work we have developed a relationship. My thinking is if I don’t get this boat back on the water then who will. The thought of the boat eventually ending up in the woods rotting under a tarp with a tree growing through it is unthinkable. So she is finally at a shop getting a new lease on life. My tattoo reads “Never buy a boat online without a competent marine survey”.

  16. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    “Buying a boat makes total financial sense” said no one ever, unless it was Tony Beets owner of a gold dredge in the Yukon yanking $1 million in gold each summer of operation.

    Like a woman, how much “maintenance” is she going to cost you. Some more than others. Are you going to buy a “barn find” Melania??? or find a cheaper catch.

  17. Ed A aka 1Boatnut
    Ed A aka 1Boatnut says:

    Just saw the posts for “Rule of Thumb” Since my first boat purchase in 1968 I have had 28 of all different sizes, wood, plastic, gas and diesel. My long suffering wife gave me the plaque that reads “A boat is a hole in the water you fill with money” Truer words were never written. All woody boaters could have that tattooed onto their foreheads. Its like the old saying “If you have to ask what it costs, you probably can’t afford it” But its still cheaper than psychotherapy.

  18. Craig Stanfield
    Craig Stanfield says:

    Sometimes, the journey is worth it.
    67 Arabian
    71 Nova24vDrive
    Basketcase Coronado Express

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