5 Important Tips to Remember When Buying a Catamaran

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sailing catamaran on the ocean

You start your research for buying a catamaran, and it’s easy to want to dive right in and get ready to purchase your boat!

Whether you’re buying a new or used boat, it isn’t all spacious cockpits and dreams of anchoring in crystal blue water (even though it should be). Things like boat insurance and surveys aren’t that sexy, but they sure are important when purchasing a large boat.

Below are five crucial areas to focus on when you are in the process of buying your liveaboard catamaran.

DISCLOSURE: This article is based on our experience purchasing a catamaran. I am not a broker or a life-long catamaran sailor. And I don’t know all the technical aspects of catamaran performance. If you are looking for technical information or reviews of catamaran manufacturers, check out these beneficial articles.

14 Things to Remember When Buying a Catamaran – Sail Magazine
12 Best Catamaran Sailboats – Life of Sailing


1. Performance vs. Space

When you are searching for a catamaran, the trade-off for space is usually performance and vice-versa. The longer and leaner a cat is, the better she’ll perform (as long as she’s well designed).

When shopping in the catamaran market, you’ll find performance and space to be an essential area for finding a balance. You can usually have some form of both – but the more you have of each, the more premium the price.

Since many can’t afford the best of both worlds, many shoppers will lean one way depending on how they want to use the boat.

close up of catamaran under sail

We often hear people talk about the expansive, floating apartments referring to the yacht charter market boats. Those boats are particularly comfortable to live in and make great floating homes on the anchor. However, they aren’t necessarily the best cats in terms of performance. This works well in the Caribbean since charter market boats are spending a large percentage of time anchored around the islands.

Decide what your short-term plans are for the boat and find the best boat to carry out those plans. You’ll hear experienced folks repeat time after time to buy the boat for the cruising you want to do now.

Remember, every boat will have compromises. Our Lagoon catamaran is not known for its speed. We recognize that and plan our cruising accordingly.

No matter the catamaran you purchase, as long as you understand its strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to cruise safely!


2. Understand Layouts and Features

There are a lot of different ways to design a catamaran. All layouts are going to have advantages and disadvantages.

interior and cockpit of catamaran

Here are just a few things you’ll notice when you start looking at cruising catamarans:

  • helm designs, including the fly-bridge (vision and safety are things to look for, and if the boat is set up to be single-handed)
  • galley-up vs. galley-down (also, different galley-up layouts – keep in mind safety and ventilation)
  • maneuverability on the deck and in the cockpit (safety can be a big concern here)
  • engine and system access (how difficult will it be to work in these areas?)

All these design features come with trade-offs. How much do the negatives affect the way you want to cruise on your boat? Ultimately, your choices depend on what is most important to you.

Gaining experience and talking to other catamaran sailors will help you a ton in this area. Chartering cats, going to boat shows, or sailing on a friend’s catamaran will quickly show you the advantages and disadvantages of different features and designs.


3. Research Boat Insurance

Liveaboard boats are becoming increasingly hard to insure. You’ll want to start your research early in the buying process. It’s usually not a matter of expensive (although that is a factor), but of being able to obtain insurance at all.

life ring on a sailboat

Factors that affect boat insurance include:

  • where you are cruising (hurricane season)
  • your location
  • if you are a full-time liveaboard
  • the age of your boat
  • your cruising experience and if it’s on a similar-sized boat
  • previously owned boats and for how long

If you are new to cruising, I would consider getting an agent. Your broker will most likely have some recommendations for you. You can also reach out to the boating community via Facebook groups for suggestions.

PRO TIP: Start with an agent. Here’s why. If you start applying for insurance and get denied coverage from insurers, an agent cannot contact them later on your behalf. This can create a problem since an agent might have more leverage with an insurance company than you as a customer.

Other Resources

The Boat Galley has a couple of great articles on boat insurance including how to go about obtaining it and gaining boating experience to look more attractive to insurance companies.

Insurance If You Live On A Boat: Where to Start The Boat Galley
Gaining Boating Experience to Get InsuranceThe Boat Galley


4. Hire a Reputable Surveyor

Finding a surveyor with a good reputation is vital to your catamaran buying process. As far as the cost of a surveyor, someone who takes the time to investigate a boat thoroughly is worth extra in your budget. (Don’t forget to budget for the haul out.)

sailing catamaran being hauled out for survey

I particularly like the story Riley from La Vagabonde shared in this video about the first boat he ever had surveyed. As they were hauling the boat out, Riley told the surveyor he had never sailed before. The surveyor immediately told the seller he had no business selling that boat to him (clearly, it was not for beginner sailors!) Just another way a good surveyor can be in your corner!

Your broker is a good place to start with recommendations for a surveyor. They will be unable to provide you with a single surveyor but can provide you with a list to begin your research. You will want to make sure the surveyor is accredited and experienced with surveying catamarans.

PRO TIP: You can conduct interviews with potential surveyors over the phone. This will allow you to get an overview of their background, what they will cover in the survey, and provide examples of what you will receive.

5. Know That All Boats Have Issues

It’s the nature of boats that there is always stuff that needs fixing. So it makes sense that when you are purchasing a boat, there will be issues.

woman investigating locker looking at buying a catamaran

There will likely be cosmetic upgrades that are needed, things to replace, and at least a hundred other small issues onboard. Even on new boats, there will be broken things. Especially if it crossed an ocean during delivery.

When buying a used boat, make sure you do pay attention to any big issues and critical areas.

Your surveyor should call attention to:

  • signs of hull damage, general hull condition
  • engine testing during sea trial, oil test results on the engines (including generator) and saildrives
  • condition, problem areas, and age of the rigging

These are areas that could potentially have a significant cost down the road if there are any undisclosed issues.


How to Make Buying a Catamaran Less Overwhelming

Newbie sailors, be ready! It doesn’t matter if you are buying a new or used catamaran – it will be a complicated process. From the enormous amount of paperwork to the survey, registration, and taking ownership of the vessel – it’s a huge undertaking. Think about the effort to buy a house. Buying a catamaran is the same process, but each step is more complex than purchasing a home.

marina at sunset

The best advice I can offer is to take your time. Finding the right boat takes patience. The more knowledge and information you have, the more equipped you’ll be to buy your floating home.

Besides the logistical options, choose a boat that speaks to you. This boat is going to be your home (or vacation home). Even if it looks good on paper, you want something you will love to live and travel in!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: How We Chose the Best Liveaboard Catamaran and 15 Things That Change When You Live on a Catamaran

Want more tips on how to get started cruising on a boat?

For more on finding the right boat, the cost of cruising, and learning how to live on the water, view our complete guide.


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2 Comments

  1. I think it’s so cool that y’all did this! Would love to hear more of your boating journey ☺️

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