How to Build a Custom Boat (Plus the Pros and Cons)

Building a custom boat is a unique boat-buying experience. Whether you love motor yachts, center consoles, fishing boats, or sailboats, you may want to consider having a custom boat built.

So, what constitutes a custom boat versus a semi-custom or production boat? Overall, it's open to interpretation because some boat builders offer stock boats with little leeway. In comparison, some provide a long list of optional features, while others start fresh with every hull.

Before starting the customization process, let's examine the pros and cons of building a boat from scratch.

Custom-Boat

The Pros of Custom Boats

  • You can select every item and accessory that you want on your boat.

  • You may be able to choose the layout and interior design.

  • Most custom boats can be powered to match your tastes to provide desired performance.

  • You may be able to define design parameters like length, beam, draft, or displacement. Doing this allows you to meet specific needs like fitting at your dock or navigating specific waterways.
  • You don't have to invest in unnecessary features that you might not want, which could be included on stock boats.

The Cons of Custom Boats

  • Customizing a boat is significantly more expensive than buying a production boat.
  • There's often a lengthy build-time, which may be extended if there's a wait for available build slots. It can take a year or more to build larger boats and yachts.
  • Highly personalized boats may be more difficult to resell than standard models
  • There are fewer custom builders than production builders, so your choices may be limited.

How to Build a Custom Boat


Building a custom boat can involve much more than simply visiting a dealership and selecting a boat. The process length varies based on different builders and what options they may or may not provide.

Sometimes, you can visit a manufacturer or dealer website and use a "boatbuilder" tool. Then, you'll check boxes for the options and accessories you want to be added to your custom boat.

Similarly, you could visit a boat dealership in-person to look at stock boats and select additions on an order sheet.

In comparison, you may be presented with a blank paper sheet and asked what you want. This level of customization is usually reserved for educated boaters with specific boat preferences. In addition, these boaters will have the budget to support their choices.

More commonly, a builder will have the basic framework of a particular model set up, and you can customize the rest. Because designing specific hulls one at a time is expensive, the hull design will typically be pre-designed.

In many cases, there will also be structural components that need to be maintained from boat to boat.

For example, you may choose whether you want a queen berth or a pair of single berths in a stateroom. However, that stateroom's bulkheads may have to remain where the original design placed them. Similar issues can arise with critical components like plumbing, wiring, and major systems' location(s), like AC units or generators.


Again, one must realize there are all different levels of customization. However, if you're willing to pay, a custom boatbuilder can usually find a way to make it happen.


The Custom Boat Building Process

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Generally speaking, a custom build will move through several stages, consisting of:

  • Commissioning the build and paying a deposit to reserve the build slot.
  • Working with the builder and designer to detail exactly what you want.
  • Visiting the build while it's underway (either in-person or virtually). Inspecting progress and determining if you want to make any changes can be beneficial.
  • Making periodic payments at major build stages (depending on the custom builder's payment preferences).
  • Inspecting the boat upon completion to ensure it's up to expectations.
  • Taking the boat out for a sea trial to ensure it performs as promised.
  • Planning the delivery of the boat and making the final payment.

Conclusion


Ordering a semi-custom boat is pretty standard for most interested buyers. However, building a custom creation from scratch is rare except for yachts and cold-molded boats. If you have a flexible budget, purchasing a custom boat that fits your needs may be worthwhile.