How much does it cost to build a custom one off catamaran? Really? It's a bit like asking "how much does a house cost?" It depends. We don't buy anything at the hardware store or from a motor dealer without an accurate statement of the price. Well if you're shopping for a new boat and you need to know the price exactly you should probably buy a production boat with a fully itemized specification and contract attached. But if there is nothing in the range of production boats that ticks all the boxes, and for many of our customers that is the case, then the only answer is to build yourself, with or without professional assistance, or order a custom build from an established yard.
The cost of building custom boats varies depending on the country (labour rates and infrastructure costs), constantly moving exchange rates, the quality and reputation of the yard you're dealing with, and of course the extent and quality of the fit-out, rig and sails.
If you already have a realistic grasp of boat prices there's no need to be scared of the final figure. Production builders have many ways of saving money to offer you a competitive price. But many of the ways they use to save building costs, like production tooling for example, add to the weight. And to be competitive they need to display their products at boat shows, produce videos and other marketing material, and offer attractive incentives to brokers and dealerships.
All of these costs can be put to good use to produce a well equipped one off with considerably less weight and less marketing overheads than a comparable production boat.
So how to nail down the cost of a one off? The accounting staff at the production company puts in a lot of work to determine the build cost and the appropriate selling price. There's no short cut. Someone has to do the footwork and there are many items on the list.
But it's handy to have a realistic idea of what the final price might be before you start digging into the details. We've taken on the job of unpacking the too hard basket, at least as much as is practically possible and presented some information here that will provide a realistic started point.
Unless you are are working with a particular owner who has a good understanding of his or her requirements, drawing up a specification is not so simple because you have to make a lot of assumptions about the prospective boat owner's preferences. Drawing up the specification and pricing all of the items included is as much about personal philosophy as it is about arithmetic.
Boats are a complicated to price because not only are there are so many different technologies and specialist skills involved, there are many different levels of expectation and priorities. One yachtsman's carbon mast and sail wardrobe is another yachtsman's top brand kitchen appliances, carbon toilet bowl or air conditioning systems. One skipper might prioritize the safety equipment while another is more focused on the weight of the rig and the cut of the sails.
But to get to the numbers:
We keep a large spreadsheet of the numbers we have on hand from various quotes and estimates. For each of the five Raku cats (not including the Raku 32 production cat) there are 6 columns (including the weight calculation) and 225 rows of itemized components.
There are sub categories that feed into this spreadsheet. For example there are different prices for the kits depending who makes them, what resin system is used, what's included (temporary mould frames, cradles, interior furniture etc) and where the customer is based. Some kits are priced differently in Europe to the rest of the world.
We update the spreadsheet approximately once a year. We don't make the full spreadsheet available to our customers but we do produce a summary spreadsheet which we make available to customers who purchase plans of a Project Package. This spreadsheet comprises sixteen different categories. The first ten categories include summaries of figures from quotes for kits, rigs, sails, engine room, sail controls and winches, hatches and port lights, anchors and docking, plumbing and fuel, deck equipment and helm and steering.
The remaining six categories are a bit more subjective and dependent on "what you're having." These categories include galley and refrigeration, electrical and lighting, electronics, accommodation, floor covering and decks, and cabin windows and doors.
This spreadsheet is further summarized to produce the table "Benchmarking Build Costs" you see presented on this page.
The fact is there are just so many variables it's simply not realistic to produce a figure that will be accurate in every case. The boat that has the carbon rig and the carbon toilet bowl will be more expensive than the boat that has neither, and the boat that only has one or the other will be somewhere in between.
Not sure where to start? My advice is to work backwards. Decide how much you're prepared to spend, look at the pricing table and decide what you can afford to build, knowing that you can probably save a little bit by being selective what you buy and where you buy it, and you can certainly spend a lot more if you're willing.
One advantage of building under your own management, with or without professional help, is that you don't have to put down the full price in a given time frame. Maybe it doesn't matter so much if the project pans out a little longer than you would have liked.
To round up the article I come back to the introductory paragraph; "if you need to know the price exactly you need to buy a production boat".
A Personal Philosophy
Like most sailors I get great pleasure in seeing boats that are well designed, well built, selectively fitted and maintained with pride. It's difficult to achieve this if you're stretching the budget to its limits or making compromises to get into a certain size range.
Focus on quality rather than size. Build what is realistically affordable for you and you will achieve a high level of satisfaction from your time with the boat, and almost certainly get a higher return on your investment when its time to sell.
Pricing Check List for Cruising Catamarans. It's a free PDF download
6 Pages from a Spreadsheet in three columns under 19 categories of materials and equipment.
Like a free copy in spreadsheet format so you can customize the list and punch in the prices.? Send us an email and give us a couple of lines about your proposed project including where you're based.
We can supply the spreadsheet in excel, CSV, TSV and numbers.