Sailboat Buying Guide: 7 Performance Features To Consider When Shopping

All Posts
Sailboat Buying Guide: 7 Performance Features To Consider When Shopping

So you’re looking for a guide to buying a small sailboat. After all, this is a big purchase and you want to get it right. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve meticulously crafted this sailboat buying guide to help you along your journey to picking the perfect sailboat. You can say goodbye to any stress you feel around making this purchase, as we’re going to cover the most important things those interested in buying a sailboat need to know!

We’ll first explain why buying a recreational sailboat is such a better choice than the alternative boat options out there. Then, we’ll walk you through a few important considerations to start off with. Of course, we’ll also cover the 7 most important performance features to consider as you shop for sailboats. 

Armed with this guide to buying a sailboat, you’ll feel confident in your next steps once we’re done. We’ve got a lot to cover today, and we know you’re excited to start the shopping journey - so let’s not waste any more time!

Why Buy An Inflatable Recreational Sailboat Over The Alternatives?

In this article, we’re going to steer you towards inflatable recreational sailboats. Why? Simple - they are the best choice for most people. Here are a few reasons why:

  • They’re far more affordable than a hardshell boat.
  • You’ll have a much easier time transporting the boat to and from the water and storing it when not in use.
  • Less maintenance is required with these - and because you put the boat together/disassemble it with each use, you catch issues before they have a chance to snowball.
  • Lightweight boats are great for beginners and easier to handle - especially when launching into the surf.
  • The simplicity of operation allows you to truly enjoy sailing - rather than focusing on the headaches of managing multiple systems at once.

Make no mistake, there are definitely use cases for other types of boats. But for most people, an inflatable recreational sailboat is the way to go. And now that you’re in agreeance, let’s get into the main topic at hand - helping you pick the right boat for your budget, preferences, and experience level.

7 Performance Features To Consider When Shopping: Beginners Guide To Buying A Sailboat

Are you ready to go out on the water and experience the feeling of freedom that sailing creates? Trust us when we say there is nothing quite like it…but you have to get the right boat first!

guide to buying a sailboat

You’re going to spend a hefty chunk of change on your watercraft, even when you go with some of the more affordable options. So, pay close attention as we break down the 7 performance features you need to consider when shopping. Let’s get into our beginner's guide to buying a sailboat - starting with minimizing maintenance.

Limiting Maintenance

While all boats will require some degree of maintenance, you can do your future self a huge favor by seeking a boat with minimal maintenance. This is a factor that draws many sailors toward the inflatable recreational boat in the first place, in fact. As we mentioned earlier, you’re putting an inflatable, portable boat together and then tearing it down after each use. Because you do this, you will become very familiar with the boat itself and stay on top of any minor problems that you come across. This prevents a small issue from snowballing into a bigger problem down the road.

While the simplicity that these boats provide may be mistaken as “boring”, you will never have to worry about multi-day or extended repairs. Compared to fiberglass boats, just about any issue you experience can be remedied fast with an inflatable boat. Furthermore, when you go with an inflatable boat you will typically store it indoors, in the garage, or in a shed. This means it will be out of the elements - experiencing less wear and tear over time. If you go with a fiberglass boat you’ll likely have to store it outside on its trailer. It will get beaten on by the sun, become home to bugs, birds, & other varmints, and fall victim to storm damage. 

Rigging Time

When determining whether you want to go with an inflatable boat or a fiberglass boat, you should also consider rigging time. Think about it like this - when you finally get to the water, the last thing you want to do is spend precious daylight putting the boat together. 

And while you may assume an inflatable sailboat will slow you down in getting out on the water, this is actually not the case. You’ll experience similar rigging times compared to most quick-to-rig trailer boats. In fact, many sailboats - such as the XCAT, Minicat, and the Guppy - are incredibly fast to rig. You’ll be out on the water before a trailer boat even has its mast up! This helps you make the most out of your days on the water, spending more time sailing and less time preparing.

The Boat’s Weight

The weight of your boat is another important consideration - and again, this is why we recommend people get an inflatable recreational sailboat. The lightweight nature of these boats lends itself to easier launching into the water. Not only that, but these types of boats are much safer to launch through the surf. While larger, heavier boats can knock back into you and cause harm, these lighter boats carry less risk of injury. Plus, the lighter the boat, the better the light wind performance!

Portability & Storage

This is a huge factor that you need to consider when buying a recreational sailboat. How will you get it to and from the water? And, how will you store it when not in use? 

When you buy a fiberglass sailboat, you also have to factor a new trailer into your budget. And, you need to consider whether your car is even capable of towing a boat in the first place. With an inflatable boat, though, you don’t need a trailer. Any car can fit an inflatable sailboat with ease! These boats are awesome because you can easily launch from beaches and small craft areas, docks, bulkheads, and more - you don’t need to be limited by places that offer a boat launch.

Better yet, you can travel with some of the smaller-scale inflatable boats on airplanes. Just check the boat as luggage. They even make a great accessory for RVs and trailers. Because they don’t take up much space, you can still fit all the essentials and have room for the toys.

Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have a shop you’re not doing anything with, a trailer port on the side of your home, or even a spare spot in your garage. If so, you won’t be as concerned with storage. But most of us can’t afford to waste the little storage space we do have - and this is yet another reason to stick with inflatable boats.


When it comes to performance, you may have your doubts about inflatable sailboats - especially compared to trailered sailboats. But hear us out - you can achieve very similar speeds on these lightweight boats! Because they’re so lightweight, the sail area needed to get up to speed and remain stable is lower. This is important for new sailors in particular.


Chances are you’ve already developed a budget for this purchase. If not, that will be an important consideration to ponder. You typically get what you pay for when it comes to recreational sailboats. But with that said, you can stretch your budget even further by going with an inflatable sailboat.

Let’s face it - boats, in general, are expensive. The main reason for the hefty price tag is actually not even the cost of building the boat itself - it’s shipping and logistics. That’s why inflatable sailboats are so much more affordable. They’re still built with durable, quality materials and offer the very same experience - but because they’re lightweight and portable, shipping is about 10% of the total cost of your purchase. Meanwhile, 40-60% of the price you pay for trailered sailboats is associated with shipping and logistics. It’s much easier for companies to get an inflatable sailboat to your door than a hardshell sailboat, and thus, you will pay much less for the former! Better yet, many boats we offer at Red Beard Sailing come equipped with accidental protection plans for three years - we’re one of the only companies that offer this.


When first learning about sailing, you want to keep things simple. It’s tricky enough as it is - why not make life a bit easier on yourself with a simple boat? Inflatable boats are great because you don’t have to mess with a daggerboard or center boat. You’re just going to focus your attention on the control lines and a single rudder. 

Because there is less thought, fewer systems, and no headaches of juggling too much, you will actually be able to focus on the sailing itself. Many of us start sailing because we love the way we feel cutting through the water. But if you’re too busy managing the boat and stuck in your own head, an entire day will pass and you won’t have been present for any of it. Don’t get so caught up in running your boat that you forget to have fun - stick with the simplicity an inflatable sailboat offers!

Additional Tips To Help You Buy A Sailboat You Love For Years To Come

As you can see, there is so much to love about inflatable recreational sailboats.

guide to buying a small sailboat

But to help you make the right choice for you, we’re going to finish up our sailboat buying guide with a few more tips. Let’s start with considering how you’ll be sailing.

Consider How You’ll Be Sailing

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a sailboat is how you’ll use it. Are you going to be headed out to a small local lake every once in a while, or are you looking to dive into the world of coastal sailing? Will you be sailing solo, or do you want to build a crew with your friends and family? Envision yourself using the boat - and let your shopping follow suit.

Factor In Your Budget

We touched on it a bit earlier, but the first step to buying a sailboat is figuring out how much you are willing to spend. 

In our guide to buying a sailboat we recommended going inflatable for a few reasons - but two of them, in particular, are related to the budget. Because they’re inflatable, you don’t have to pay for a trailer on top of the boat itself. And, because companies can ship them with ease, you pay far less in shipping costs. If you’re trying to make the most of your budget, stick with an inflatable boat. 

Some aspiring sailors try and stretch their budget as far as possible by buying a used sailboat. Because fiberglass sailboats depreciate far quicker than inflatable boats, you can pick up a second-hand boat pretty cheap. This sounds good, in theory, but it’s important to set your expectations. We’ve seen people spend their whole budget on a used boat, only to be stuck storing it - as they didn’t factor in the cost of repairs and upgrades to get the boat up and running. Some experts suggest allocating just 50% of your budget to the boat itself - saving the other 50% for a refit. 

Stick With A Reliable, Trusted Retailer

One of the final pieces of advice we want to offer in our sailboat buying guide is to stick with a reliable, trusted retailer. In order to enjoy peace of mind, you want to make sure you’re buying a sailboat from a company that stands behind its products. And at Red Beard Sailing, that’s exactly what we do. 

We’re here to help you experience true sailing freedom with our handpicked selection of small inflatable boats. As the independently owned, exclusive distributor of Minicat boats, Takacat boats, XCAT, Guppy sailboats, and more, you can trust that you’re in good hands when you shop with us. And if you still need help buying a sailboat that fits your goals and preferences, don’t hesitate to reach out. Or, take our sailboat finder quiz on our home page and see what we recommend based on your priorities!

Final Thoughts On Our Sailboat Buying Guide

At this point, you’re ready to think over the factors we’ve discussed in our guide to buying a small sailboat and take action. Remember - inflatable boats offer unique advantages that fiberglass boats are simply unable to compete with. As such, these are becoming the go-to choice for recreational sailors. So, shop the collection of boats we offer and experience the ultimate sailing experience - getting from the car to the waves in just minutes!

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Receive exclusive offers, and be the first to know about upcoming events, demos, sales, and discounts.