Want to know how much a restoration might cost you? Read on.....

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by missinginaction, Apr 7, 2019.

  1. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    Most of you know I did a restoration on a small cruiser from 2007 until 2014. I'm actually still at it, even though I've been using the boat since 2014. I make improvements every year, some big, some small. Keep in mind that this 1973 Silverton sedan is only 25.5 LOA with a 10.5' beam.

    I'm writing this because I see so many people wanting to do repair work or a restoration and I usually see the same word used over and over. Cheap. They might say inexpensive, or "I'm on a tight budget" or something similar. I see guys down at the boat club with these huge cruisers that are just used up. They tell me they're going to restore them and some cosmetic work might get done. But usually that's the extent of it as they get overwhelmed, run out of money or their attention span is limited.

    As I moved through the long process of restoring my little boat I kept almost all of my receipts. Just kept stuffing them into this big manila envelope. I've looked at that envelope for years, always being afraid to add up those receipts. A week ago I took a deep breath and poured them out on the dining room table. It was a two/three hour job just organizing and adding.

    Here's where I'm going with this and it's not bragging, it's a cautionary tale.

    Doing a good, first class restoration on a small cruiser has cost well over $40,000.00 in materials alone. There are no labor charges, as I did 99% of the work myself. The hours spent planning, fabricating and installing are in the thousands, easily. I'm out there now but for seven years I spent my summers in the yard while the rest of the boat club was out at the docks having fun. I enjoyed the build and got a lot of satisfaction out of it but I'll be the first to say it's not something most people would choose to do.

    I'm going to Florida in the fall of 2020. I'll either have the existing engine rebuilt or install a fresh engine over the next 12 months or so. Transmission and V-drive will be checked. Walters makes a great v-drive but they don't work cheap. They shouldn't, they make a quality product that I depend on. That will add another $5,000 or more to the tab as long as I do the installation myself. I'm a single. Thinking of buying a twin engine boat? I don't have to tell you that two is greater than one, do I?

    Since I certainly lost some receipts along the way and didn't include 7 years of yard charges while I was doing the work let's round off the total cost at $52,000.00.
    That's a little better than $2 grand a foot, and it is conservative.

    So, if you think that you're going to buy an old boat, fix a little dry rot or do a little painting and upholstery and have a new boat to impress your friends think again.

    OK, that is my Sunday morning rant! I'm glad I did my boat but just wanted to post this as a public service. Before you buy an old boat, think. Just think.


    Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
  2. JamesG123
    Joined: Mar 2015
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    Location: Columbus, GA

    JamesG123 Senior Member

    What do you call the amount you spend on a "free" or cheap old boat?

    The down payment.

    Great cautionary bit of reality.

    But OTOH:
    You have to consider the multiples of what the OP has paid, that a new boat of the same class costs. And even a boat fresh from the factory rarely has zero problems, or doesn't quickly develop them. Or even what a house on dry land costs and costs to maintain.
  3. Tiny Turnip
    Joined: Mar 2008
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    Location: Huddersfield, UK

    Tiny Turnip Senior Member

    Great thread starter - many thanks MIA. I would add - especially if anyone is contemplating a restoration or build at the same time as a full time job, raising a family, studying or similar, the ability to keep working at it evening after evening for perhaps several years is a HUGE ask - keeping the morale going. I've fought shy of major boat projects so far (OK I have an ongoing church restoration - I'm an architect and living in it - taken me 19 years so far and I'm not done) because I know I just don't have the emotional/psychological resource that it would demand. At the moment ;)
  4. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    When I restored my 1972 18 foot Sea Ray SRV190, I stopped adding up the cost at around $6000.00. I never did track my labor, but it took about 6 mos, working almost every day, just to get it where I could put it in the water, and then the engine needed a lot of work. Now 10 years later I am having an engine installed (by professionals) and the cost is going to top $3k But I got the engine cheap! LOL Last summer I had to buy a new trailer (the old one collapsed) which cost just under $3k. I am a member paid in full of the hole in the water club.
  5. grady
    Joined: Oct 2006
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    Location: Scituate, Ma

    grady Novice

    So....If I may. I'm in a slightly different "Boat", I've always purchased boats that were in the best condition i could afford. Which has always been just above average.
    My problems start when I go in for upgrades and improvements. For whatever reason one system leads my to another...next thing you know I'm doing a complete restoration of engines, fuel tanks, paint, electronics etc etc....
    I own a 1986 24' Grady White that I restored over a 3 year period with a price tag in excess of $45,0000.00 (including a complete hull side and topside awlgrip paint job that I sprayed myself) that boat freshly finished wasn't worth a nickel more than $15.000.00
    also own a 1994 33' Blackfin Combi w/twin Cat 3208 TA's @375 hp.......what started as a oil pan leak has turned into a complete rebuild of the Cats at a cost of $60,000.00. and a full refit of the engine compartment all new hoses, battery cables, and batteries, water heater, new paint imron industrial coatings , raw and fresh water pumps, hose clamps, reverso oil exchanger, new Racor fuel filter system complete restored gen set.....etc...etc. the worst part is I olny budgeted $5,000.00 for this job.......Kicked My bank account's ***.

    Moral of the story is......take your estimated restoration budget and multiply by 4 then take your estimated elapsed time frame and triple that......and you will still by off by 10%.

    LOL.......labor of love you just have to be prepared...or do what I do lie to my wife.

    Tony G.
  6. tpenfield
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    Location: Cape Cod, MA

    tpenfield Senior Member


    Your restoration might be on the high end of the cost scale. :cool: I totally get your comments about folks asking guidance on doing restoration on the cheap. . . it doesn't happen . . . and they end up spending the amount of money necessary or abandoning the project.

    The cost depends on how much a particular boat needs and the owner's desire for the level of materials and craftsmanship. . . but if you have to do deck, hull structure, engine, and interior restoration, on a 25 foot-ish boat, at least $15,000 - $20,000 would certainly be expected. Of course someone who picks up an old hull for $1,000 with the dreams of making it a boat again for a few $K doesn't really want to hear that :rolleyes:
  7. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    As I read these replies a few things cone to mind. First, Tiny Turnip is a wise man. I could never have done what I did had I been working. I poked and planned a little but waited until I was done working before starting in earnest. It's also a good idea to consider your family. I see a lot of divorced boaters and I wonder...... I promised my wife when I started that I wouldn't let the boat effect the family financially. I kept my promise. Kids need attention as do spouses. The house needs maintenance and he property needs to be kept up. I took two long cross country road trips with my son, putting the boat on the back burner. Best thing I ever did, we have a lot of great memories and those days are now gone forever. Because I've been a boater I kept a log of our road trip journey. He doesn't realize it but someday perhaps he'll look at the log and retrace the trip he took with his old man with his own son or daughter. Maybe I could have done the whole boat in four years instead of seven. I'd probably be divorced and I'd probably not have the relationship with my son that I do now.

    As for costs being on the higher end......that's true. The boat had a horribly uncomfortable flybridge arrangement that cost a lot of time effort and money to redesign. I added an auxiliary outboard, and autopilot and chart plotter. The modifications to the transom, a new larger, stronger swim platform to support the outboard and the electronics to control it cost right about $10,000.00. Could I have skipped that and still had a nice boat? Yes sir. But it wouldn't have been nearly the boat that it's turned out to be. Since I run single handed most of the time it wouldn't be nearly as safe. Thanks to Garmin, I've learned to do things with that TR-1 autopilot and the little outboard that I never considered when I decided to install them.

    I don't have "two foot'itis". I see so many people down at the boat club who are trading boats every couple of years. They usually end up in something approaching 40 feet at exactly the time that their bodies start failing them. So many of these boats never seem to leave the dock. So while it's true that restorations are very expensive, I'd argue that because this is the last boat I will ever own it is money well spent. Everything that's been installed is still there and working correctly. I had one problem with an electronic component in the past 5 years. I called Blue Sea Systems, we went through a diagnostic procedure and the man said "Well, it seems to have failed. I'll ship you out a new one. Could you please send me the old ACR after you swap it out? We want to take a look at it." No charge. Guaranteed for life. Who can argue with that? But.....you pay for it.

    I guess the reason for my original post is that I see so many people wasting time and money thinking they can do a restoration. They don't realize the amount of time, money and study involved. When people ask me who made my boat I tell then "I did". If they show some interest I'll talk to them a little about what it involved. Then I almost always say the same thing. "Don't".
    chowdan, JamesG123 and Barry like this.

  8. chowdan
    Joined: Jul 2008
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    Location: Seattle WA

    chowdan 1980 PAC41 Liveaboard

    After getting your advice on my stringer post, I came across this thread. I wanted to say that I have been living on my 42ft sailboat for 9 months now. I work a "normal" day job as a software engineer. I can completely understand this post. I believe in spending the extra money to do it right. When I fix something, I want to know its fixed. My portlights were custom designed by the previous owner. They were small, and had an inherent flaw in the design for offshore cruising. I wouldn't feel safe with them in place if I was in bad weather. I also wanted opening portlights, so I decided to replace them with quality units, which I currently am undergoing. That being said I've got 4 smaller ones and 4 larger sized ones, the 4 small ones alone costed me a whole $1350 while the larger sized ones will cost me atleast $2400.

    Sure I could go out and spend $100k on a lovely yacht, but that yacht will still have problems which I'll have to battle. I am not doing nearly the same rebuild that you did on your yacht - which turned out amazing, but the work I am doing right now is to solve the problems that the previous owners failed to solve. My goal is to go sail back to Fiji where I was raised in 2021. That means she needs to be in a state where rot does not exist, portlights dont take on water, electrical is sound and safe

    That being said, I would rather spend the extra $80,000 that I saved on the purchase price on the rebuild of the issues that my boat has.

    So far in the last 12 months of owning my boat and 9 months of living aboard, I have spend a grand total of $16,000 with another projected $20,000 or so to go(or so = more). This will get her into a state that I feel comfortable taking her to the South Pacific. She wont be new. She wont be perfect, but she'll be sound enough for my risk tolerance. This projection does NOT include new standing rigging OR new sails.
    missinginaction likes this.
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