I know every boater has their dream boats. That handful of boats that they know one day they may have to be able to fulfill their cruising aspirations. I'm not talking about those fantasy boats, the boats that most of us will never own, those 100'+ mega yachts. For us budget minded people, the ones who would be deeply impacted by a major purchase mistake, I'm going to show you how to truly dial in to that one boat that you will be most happy with. The one boat out of all others that will be most suited to your lifestyle, values, and priorities. In the end I will share a worksheet with you so you can start analyzing your dream boats, ending up with boats rated so that it is easy to see which boat is the best match for you.

Anyone who has shopped for and bought a boat knows every boat is a compromise in some way, shape or form. But how do you weigh which compromises you can live with and which ones will get annoying really quickly, maybe making you regret the purchase altogether? It was this problem that prompted me to dive into my "day job" toolbox and borrow some techniques for prioritizing and weighing software requirements. I call this the Weighted Quad Method for making major purchases. Here is how it works.

Start with 4 categories:

  • Must Have
  • Should Have
  • Could Have
  • Won't Have

 Must Haves are features of the boat that you cannot live without. Things like size, # of bedrooms, and even your budget limit. The full list of must haves constitutes your

Minimum Viable Boat

 or MVB. You really shouldn't even consider a boat at all if it does not meet at least these conditions. The MVB list is great to initially pass onto a broker if you have one that is aiding in your boat search. Here are some examples of possible must haves.

  • <= $180,000 (if that is the absolute maximum limit on your budget)
  • >= 40 feet long
  • <= 50 feet long
  • 2 bedrooms
  • Walk around Master berth
  • 2 heads
  • Flybridge
  • Lower Inside Helm

Should Haves are attributes of the boat that you hold in very high regard. Items that are boarder line must haves and if the boat doesn't have this attribute it better have a lot of other things going for it. Above and beyond your MVB, this list will provide the heaviest weight in turning you to one boat over another. Here are some possible examples of should haves.

  • <= $150,000 (in contrast to your must have price, this is your preferred budget)
  • >= 1 Nautical Mile Per Gallon at cruise speed
  • Twin Engines
  • Large Galley for cooking
  • Late model chartplotter/radar
  • >= 150 gallon fresh water capacity
  • >= 50 gallons of waste capacity

Could Haves are items that would be a real bonus if the boat had them, so much so that if the boat lacked some important should haves, and it had a lot of could haves, it might offset what the boat is lacking from your should list. 

  • Dingy, motor and davit
  • Autopilot

Won't Haves are features that the boat probably won't have but in the slim chance that the boat does, you want to highlight them. This list will be small, if there is anything on it at all. It may contain things like the following examples.

  • Trash Compactor
  • Dishwasher

Weighting the Categories
The next step in the Weighted Quad Method is to weight each of the 4 categories. This is done by assigning the following numbers to each category.

  • Must Have = 4
  • Should Have = 3
  • Could Have = 2
  • Won't Have = 1

What this does is provide a score for every item that falls into that category.  So take the 7 Should Haves listed above, for a boat to have a perfect Should Have score it would have 21 points (7x3). To complete the scoring based on the examples above a perfect boat would look like this and have a score of 59.

Category Weight # of items Total
Must Have 4 8 32
Should Have 3 7 21
Could Have 2 2 4
Won't Have 1 2 2
Perfect Score 59

To fully see how this works lets take a pretend boat that fails to have one item in each category. That boat would have a score of 49, which is a 83% match to your perfect boat.

Category Weight items for Boat 1 Total
Must Have 4 7 28
Should Have 3 6 18
Could Have 2 1 2
Won't Have 1 1 1
Boat 1 Score 49
Match to the Perfect Boat 83%

Obviously the higher the score and percentage match the better, but what is more important when comparing multiple boats is which boat is higher in score and percentage compared to the others.  The more criteria you have in each category the lower the overall scores are going to be for every boat, simply because the likelihood to matching more is less. For example in my own personal experience with this method, the sweet spot was boats at about 75% and above, and very rarely would a boat breach an 80% match. Your mileage may vary.

So now that you have an overview of the method its time to try it out on your own boat list. Take this worksheet, fill it out with your criteria and the exact boats you are looking for. If you have a Google Drive account then you can make a copy under the File menu. If you don't have a Google Drive account then you can download it as an Excel file under the File menu.

I'd be interested to get your comments and feedback on how useful this has been to you or if you have any ideas on how to make this method better. In my next post I'll show you some of my criteria and how it helped me choose the boat that could very soon be mine.

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