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older vs. newer fiberglass boats

Oct 9, 2019
3
hunter 36 portland, oregon
I apologize in advance if this is dumb question... Thank you in advance for your help!

Assuming equal motor/drive train hours, no detectable hull or deck water damage and equivalent hardware/rigging/sails and electronics, what is the difference between a $70k 15 year old fiberglass boat and a $30K 30 year old boat? It seems either are in need of a major restoration of systems (electrical, plumbing, thru-hulls, re-bedding hardware, seals, hatches, etc...). Do older fiberglass hulls have a finite life? Or are they more prone to failure or blisters? What are the advantages to a newer fiberglass hull? I am most concerned with functionality and not aesthetics.

PS I'm the guy that drives 20 year old government trucks purchased at auction that are forest service green with manual transmissions, vinyl floors and seats, and hand crank windows!
 
May 27, 2004
1,202
Hunter 30_74-83 Ponce Inlet FL
Yeah, somebody chime in with the answer...
I'm hoping my 40 year old bottom doesn't fall off !
But seriously, I think it's more a matter of how thick the laminate is, how well it was laid up, how well the hull to deck joint was done AND what kind of treatment and maintenance the older boat got during it's long life. :dancing:
 
Jan 11, 2014
4,261
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
I apologize in advance if this is dumb question... Thank you in advance for your help!

Assuming equal motor/drive train hours, no detectable hull or deck water damage and equivalent hardware/rigging/sails and electronics, what is the difference between a $70k 15 year old fiberglass boat and a $30K 30 year old boat? It seems either are in need of a major restoration of systems (electrical, plumbing, thru-hulls, re-bedding hardware, seals, hatches, etc...). Do older fiberglass hulls have a finite life? Or are they more prone to failure or blisters? What are the advantages to a newer fiberglass hull? I am most concerned with functionality and not aesthetics.

PS I'm the guy that drives 20 year old government trucks purchased at auction that are forest service green with manual transmissions, vinyl floors and seats, and hand crank windows!
There will be design differences which may or may not be a concern. The bigger issue is this:

equivalent hardware/rigging/sails and electronics,
If all of the hardware, rigging sails, electronics etc are in deed equivalent, then there will not be a $40K price difference.

The hull is only one part of the equation. Winches wear, rigging wears, engines wear, etc. etc. Unless the older boat has had significant expensive upgrades, they won't be equivalent.

Just like diamonds, a well maintained fiberglass hull is forever. The rest of the boat, not so much.
 
Oct 22, 2014
10,380
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Depending on boat age, you may have hull blisters you may not. More often it is dependent on the type of resin used. Blisters may be superficial or they may extend into the hull core. This is a factor ast to the type of layup done and the procedure known as soaking the glass. If the procedure was shortcutted air pockets could form and these lead to water intrusion. Water intrusion into the hull leads to a breakdown of the glass resin. Such developments often indicate cost of repair greater than the value of the boat. So... one must be careful in examining a potential boat and reject those that show hull damage. You will not be able to identify this with the boat in the water. You need to inspect the boat on the hard. Preferably while the hull is still wet. If a hull has been out of the water for an extended period of time the moisture can dissipate from the hull. The blisters will disappear only to return when the boat is again floated.
 
Sep 30, 2019
1
Hunter 26 I launched my boat at sudan
You need to keep in mind how the keel is attached. However, Fiberglass hulls can be restored.
 
Jun 19, 2013
865
Oday 28 Traverse City
Methods and materials have changed over the years: vinylester resins to prevent osmotic blistering, vacuum infusion to assure better resin ratios and penetration. But for a 15yr old and 30yr old, I suspect the main difference is in thickness of the layup as builders 30yrs ago overbuilt and over those 15 years began to lighten up.

The missing piece is the builder and original intent of a hull - some builders were better at laying the glass (think radii, resin starved areas, air bubbles, voids etc.) as it still very much is a manual process. Some built heavier layups for ocean .vs. costal cruising or cored for racing. GGrizzard hit on some of the finer boat building details as well like hull to deck joint type.

All of that builds up to how well the hull stands the test of time. Not to mention the life a boat led those 15 or 30yrs.
 
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Jun 3, 2012
588
Hunter 33 Bay Pointe, Quincy
One of the major design changes in sailboats during this era came with the introduction of roller furling. Many older boats built before roller furling typically had a deep sail locker in the cockpit to hold all of the required headsails. After roller furling was introduced this sail locker was often eliminated to make space under the cockpit for an aft cabin. Older boats tended to be narrower than newer boats, the latter providing greater and more luxurious cabin space. Still newer boats gave up entirely on exterior appearance in exchange for increased hull speed by extending waterline length. This last design change led to square sterns and straight drops to the waterline at the stem and stern instead of graceful eye appealing curves throughout. So, in addition to age related wear, damage and corrosion consider the overall aesthetics and comfort. Good luck!
 
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Oct 9, 2019
3
hunter 36 portland, oregon
Thanks all for your comments!
To summarize:
-Fiberglass boats can be long lived, like tools and guns (since I don't have any need for diamonds except on cutting tools!)
-Keel attachment, deck joint, blistering and overall layup are areas to evaluate
-Some older boats may even be made heavier (thicker fiberglass)
-Hardware (e.g., winches), etc.. may be in better overall shape on a newer boats
-Design elements have changed: sail lockers eliminated, winged keels, beam width, waterline length and overall design. It seems engine access may have also improved in some of the newer designs?
-How the boat was cared for (proactively fixing deck leaks, hull blistering, etc..) is important to long life
 
Jun 2, 2007
356
Beneteau First 375 Slidell, LA
You may have missed one important point Dlochner was making regarding mechanical issues (it wasn't emphasized) - the condition of the engine. All things being equal, the older engine is closer to the end of its life, and the engine is probably the single most expensive item to replace. In fact, if the engine craters it might be a hard choice whether to replace it or just total the boat.

That being said, I own a 33 year old boat with the original engine, and it's been fine so far. Proper upkeep by the previous owners, such as regular oil changes, is critical.
 
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Feb 11, 2017
440
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
The most important factor in older fiberglass boats is maintenance. If the boat has been well cared for it will likely outlast us. The hull is a part of this as well although there isn't too much maintenance to do with fiberglass. Some boats blistered but this is a result of materials used and the environment the boat is used in. My 45 year old C&C is used 6 months a year in coldish water. I had 1 blister in the 20 years I have owned the boat. Kind of strange but there must have been a pocket of uncured resin or some impurity in that one location. It was an easy fix but if left unattended could lead to more problems. In warmer climes where boats don't leave the water seasonally a barrier coat is often necessary. All the other systems and bits that make up a boat take a lot more maintenance.
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,877
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
I apologize in advance if this is dumb question... Thank you in advance for your help!

Assuming equal motor/drive train hours, no detectable hull or deck water damage and equivalent hardware/rigging/sails and electronics, what is the difference between a $70k 15 year old fiberglass boat and a $30K 30 year old boat? It seems either are in need of a major restoration of systems (electrical, plumbing, thru-hulls, re-bedding hardware, seals, hatches, etc...). Do older fiberglass hulls have a finite life? Or are they more prone to failure or blisters? What are the advantages to a newer fiberglass hull? I am most concerned with functionality and not aesthetics.

PS I'm the guy that drives 20 year old government trucks purchased at auction that are forest service green with manual transmissions, vinyl floors and seats, and hand crank windows!
An interesting question when you strip away the variables. 15 year vs 30 years old, in the same condition. Some great boats were produced in both those era's and some not so great. Materials and condition being equal, it's the design that continues to make some boats popular long after they have been built.

First, as you show, new boats depreciate pretty rapidly, like cars.

Unlike rusting autos, we haven't even established the half way point in the life of a well built fiberglass hull. But we're seeing a growing number of - and growing length over all - sound fiberglass hulls, headed to landfills.

The market decides the fate of these old boats. Trust that market, I guess, at least for a start. If you find a boat design you like, go for the newest and likely the most expensive listing, that you can afford, to get the best value for your $.

I just bought a 'new' truck. Roll down windows, manual trans, 5K.
 
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Oct 29, 2016
1,405
Hunter 41 DS Port Huron
I will just add this, when looking at a hull on the hard one cannot tell moisture intrusion by merely looking, you must evaluate with either a small hammer performing a tap test (need a trained ear for this) or using a moisture meter to measure intrusion (need a high end meter to get reliable results). Many boats of the era you have mentioned have cored hulls below the water line and often suffer from moisture intrusion, not thru the hull but rather from leaky deck fittings and port lights, this kind of intrusion is very difficult to evaluate without experience and a good meter, and should there be intrusion of moisture you could be looking the need to strip a section of the boats interior and cutting out the inner liner to access the core, not an easy task at all.
This why it is always the boats weight in gold to hire an experienced surveyor to evaluate the condition of the boat, once you think you have selected the prize you would like to look at further.
 

dLj

Mar 23, 2017
598
Hunter 30 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain
what is the difference between a 15 year old and a 30 year old fiberglass boat? Do older fiberglass hulls have a finite life? Or are they more prone to failure or blisters? What are the advantages to a newer fiberglass hull?
So I think the above were your specific questions.

Difference between a 15 and 30 year old hull? = 15 years. There has been no end of life that's been determined for fiberglass hulls. Others have talked about design changes and quality of build. It applies to both age groups. Some things you can easily inspect for, others can be more difficult to detect. But unless a boat has been really abused, you can pretty much tell if it's got problems or not. One thing that can be difficult is if it had osmosis at some point and was repaired, hard to tell if it was repaired well or if it even occurred - e.g. hidden damage.

The rest of your assumptions - all other things equal - just never happens.

dj
 
Oct 9, 2019
3
hunter 36 portland, oregon
Thanks all for your help!
Sandy - Yes, I hear you about the motor. I figure that is something I'll pay quite a bit of attention to. Oil analysis, check exhaust temps of each cylinder (you can tell if there is a weaker cylinder from valve burn, etc...), how smoothly it runs, cold start, smoke, etc.. I figure any older motor will likely need a heat exchanger, raw water pump, hoses, exhaust work (the marine environment is really hard on stuff). The goal would be to come away with a good block, head and injector pump.
DArcy - Wow, I thought nearly everything blistered some! Amazing how well your hull has held-up. Probably helps to be in cold water.
Tony - What "new" truck did you find with roll -up windows?
Day Dreamer - Yes, I plan on using a surveyor and I will buy a moisture meter to do my own pre-inspection (and a mallet although I won't know what I am listening for immediately).
Tom Y - "go for the newest and likely the most expensive listing, that you can afford, to get the best value for your $." This is kind of the essence of my question. Does the newer more expensive boat give me the best value? Or is the older less expensive boat a better value? Since I am likely going to need to inspect ,rebed, refurbish and/or replace nearly all the systems in any boat 15+ years old, what will I ultimately get for the extra say $40K? Will I save that much (time and money) on repair and replacement? Don't tell my wife, but we could "afford" to purchase a new boat but I just don't see the value in doing that. Too extreme a depreciation curve and being the guy with the "green" trucks, I probably wouldn't appreciate all the fancy-schmancy stuff as much as others. I'd be the guy that wants manual foot pumps for water, no head liner, no TV, vinyl not leather cushions, extra cabins turned into tool and spare storage.

dLj and all - Are there certain brands or years to avoid to reduce the chance of a blistering hull? I've mostly been looking at the "production" boats Hunter, Catalina, Beneteau, Jeannue, etc... as they were probably manufactured in the highest numbers.
 
Jan 11, 2014
4,261
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Since I am likely going to need to inspect ,rebed, refurbish and/or replace nearly all the systems in any boat 15+ years old, what will I ultimately get for the extra say $40K? Will I save that much (time and money) on repair and replacement? Don't tell my wife, but we could "afford" to purchase a new boat but I just don't see the value in doing that. Too extreme a depreciation curve and being the guy with the "green" trucks, I probably wouldn't appreciate all the fancy-schmancy stuff as much as others. I'd be the guy that wants manual foot pumps for water, no head liner, no TV, vinyl not leather cushions, extra cabins turned into tool and spare storage.
I once heard sage advice, "Never buy a new boat or a used car." New boats always have issues to fix and so do used cars.

One of the big differences in the needed maintenance and upgrade issues is newer boats will have a longer timeline for those repairs/modifications than older boats, especially older boats that have not been maintained well. A simple example is all the critical hoses (those that go below the water line or are necessary for engine operation) on the boat. A 15 year old boat probably has original hoses and most of those hoses have another 5 to 10 years of life in them before needing replacement. On the older boat, how old are the hoses? Do they need to be replaced now? or in the next year?

It's the same with the rest of the gear on board, running rigging, electronics, batteries, chargers, head etc. etc. An older boat may require more rapid replacement than a newer boat. Sometime being able to spread the cost out a few years for these upgrades is helpful.
 
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Jun 25, 2004
604
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
If all of the hardware, rigging sails, electronics etc are in deed equivalent, then there will not be a $40K price difference.

The hull is only one part of the equation. Winches wear, rigging wears, engines wear, etc. etc. Unless the older boat has had significant expensive upgrades, they won't be equivalent.
:plus:
 
Jan 4, 2009
407
Ketch 55 Bristol, RI
A 15 year old boat rarely needs major system replacements. It’s a time for new sails, running/standing rigging, hoses, amd select engine parts. At 30 years you face end-of-life for many things - tanks, engine, chainplates, seacocks, ports/hatches (plexiglass and bedding), deck hardware bedding, shaft/rudder/steering hardware, keelbolts just to name some.
 
Oct 29, 2018
4
Hunter MH37 Mississauga
It sounds like your ready to jump in with a major refit of an older boat and your not afraid of getting your hands a little dirty. Also sounds like your pretty handy with electrical and mechanical.

Given than you’re ready for a refit, my recommendation is to go with the best older boat hull and deck you can find. Older fibreglass hulls were laid up thinker and by hand and most (30-40+ years ago) are solid glass and not laminates all the way to the deck hull joint.

As previously mentioned, take good care to inspect the hull deck joint, the hull for blisters and precious damage, the keel joint and keel for damage and the take good care of the following:
  • Rudder for previous repairs and moisture ingress. Most rudders are a sandwich construction and if moisture has gotten in the structure may be severely weakened. Also check the rudder stock and bearings, both the rudders and the boat hull’s structure that hold the bearings. No water ingress or history of water should be here.
  • Decks: these are almost always cores. Either plywood or balsa. This is where most damage will occur on an older boat where deck fittings have leaked and water has seeped into the core around bolts. A well maintained boat will have reset its fitting every 10 years but few boat owners do this. So, check carefully around all the intrusions on the deck (winches, handles, dodgers rails, blocks, etc that are secured to or through the deck). If you can get under the head liner or the boat doesn’t have one you should be able to get a good idea of where water has been coming in over time for those fittings that are through the deck. If you see water stains there, expect that all the fittings that are simply screwed to the deck to be leaking water into the core as well
  • Hull and osmosis: for most boats this is a fairly simple repair. It’s more a question of extent of the damage
  • Sails: older boats that haven’t been maintained have old bagged out sails that will need replacing. Inspect these carefully as the replacement cost is significant
  • Motors: a good diesel can last 3000+ hours. You’ll need to replace everything attached to it as you’ve pointed out. Look for obvious signs of abuse and neglect.

The point here is that an older boat in good structural condition can be bought for a huge savings and the savings can be put into new equipment and upgrades.

I would go with the older 30 year and set everything up the way you want as long as you’re patient and have the time to do the work yourself.

Good luck.