Buying a used boat has one big advantage over buying a new one: all that expensive equipment a new owner purchases to outfit his boat comes standard on most used ones. One item that is rarely included with new boats is canvas: dodgers, biminis, cockpit covers, spray hoods, enclosures, lee cloths, sail covers…the list is nearly inexhaustible. Canvas protects both your boat and the people onboard from the extremes of sun and weather, and it can also help extend the boating season in colder climes. Its custom colors and designs give your boat a unique personality, and it also tells the boating public that this is a well cared for and functional vessel.
Many times when you’re looking at a used boat, especially if it is ashore, the canvas is off or stowed. And owners often fail to list canvas in the general equipment list. So ask about the canvas package onboard—and by all means inspect it or have a canvas professional evaluate it.
To get some answers about the value of canvas I went to a local sail and custom canvas maker, Graham Quinn of Harding Sails in Marion, MA. “We have buyers who may ask us to service and inspect canvas, after they’ve bought the boat,” says Quinn, “We’ll go through the inventory and make recommendations. And occasionally we’ll get potential buyers calling us about canvas we’ve maintained and serviced for the current owner. The buyer wants to know how old it is and in what shape. Very rarely does a marine surveyor get involved in evaluating canvas.”
I asked Quinn to give me some ballpark pricing for canvas products found on a hypothetical thirty foot boat. Please note, there are plenty of options on canvas products ranging from design complexity to the material used. One example would be opting for a high quality thread such as gore-tex, which will often outlast the canvas. Pricing in your region or sized to your boat may vary, too, but here is a rough value of the canvas on the boat you are about to buy.
- Dodgers (Sunbrella fabric): $2,400 to $2,800, including the frame. A simple frame may cost $400 so if you have an existing dodger in tough shape you could simply replace the canvas on the old frame. More expensive upgrades may include straps for the frame, welded-on handles, gore-tex thread, and vinyl strataglass windows, which are more scratch resistant.
- Biminis (canvas only): $1,200 to $1,600. For a 3 bow frame w/strap add $800. Design upgrades include zippers to go around stays, vinyl windows, etc.
- Wheel covers (2 varieties): One piece cover for wheel and binnacle, $550. Separate wheel & binnacle covers (recommended): $700
- Tiller covers: $90
- Cockpit covers: $800
- Spray hoods (for launch or power boat w/2 bow frame): $1,600
- Enclosures (flybridge): $6,500 to $12,000. Add more for hard acrylic like EZ2CY.
- Sail covers: $30 per running foot (approx $300). Numbers or relief for lazy jacks will cost more.
Canvas packages can add tens of thousands of dollars to the value of a boat, so why wouldn’t you look for a used boat with an existing top-flight canvas package? Pictures on sites like Boattrader.com show the added value of canvas. When in doubt, ask the broker or owner specifically about existing canvas packages, and consult your local canvas pro for an evaluation.