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Building a W17 or buying used, ..... what might it be worth ?

Question: If I build a W17, what would its value be in todays dollars and what could raise or lower that figure? "                                                                          ….  Alan R, Bromont, PQ  

Answer:   Ok Alan, I will give you my best shot at this and try to justify my evaluation so it can be interpreted in a useful manner.  All figures based on US$ (2023).


NOTE:   Although what follows is specifically to answer the question re a W17, the same approach of starting with some basic logical value and then adjusting with plus and minuses, plus a calculated allowance for cost to finish, will apply to most homebuilt multihulls.

First of all, as the country source can vary the price a lot, I can only offer figures for North America at this time … but it’s a start.   As you will see, even within one country, the value can vary enormously.

Today (2023) it’s hard to buy the base materials for the W17 at less than $7000, so I would say a very base value would start at around $10K.  But before going farther, we need to try and define actual build quality here, because a boat built with poor skills could easily be worth even less than the original cost of materials …. and if the work is not complete, then the cost of completing the boat will need to be deducted from the final value we arrive at, based on the additions that I will give below.

The base value will apply for good, sound, acceptable workmanship that someone with previous woodworking or boat building experience can achieve.  Professional quality is a clear grade higher but can also be achieved by ‘so-called amateurs’ who are often retired professionals from other occupations … frequently retired engineers or others who have developed fine hand skills from other trades or professions .. a couple of dentists come to mind ;)    Typically, their W17 is not the first boat they have built and the thought put into the W17 design detail, has a way of inspiring the builder to do a really good job!

So for this upgrade in workmanship, we can certainly add ~$2,000.

We then have things like a trailer.  Even though its a pretty simple one .. the 2nd hand value of which could still vary from $500 to $1500.   

The rig will also be implicated, with the Race Rig adding at least $2000 to the basic Cruising Rig, not just because of the cost of materials, but that the market value for a boat with the Race Rig is likely to stay higher.

The actual mast used can have a good influence also as a well built CF Race Wingmast is the top-of-the-line and worth at least $2500 used, whereas a recycled Hobie mast for the Cruise Rig, might be just $500, giving a $2000 difference,

Sail costs and rigging will add ~$500 for the basic Race rig over the Cruise rig, but that’s just for the basic mainsail, jib and genny,.   Adding other sails will add say $200 per sail (used) and the Storm mainsail will add another $200.

Any new parts (like tramps or spray nets, mainsheet etc) should be added in at say 75% of their new cost.    Anything hi-tech, like custom made foils etc or other devices designed to give top performance, would also add value and I again suggest 75% of the original cost if in near new condition.

Other options for the design, like fiberglass hinges and latches compared to S/S ones, could imply a deduction for the latter as they weigh more, bond with more difficulty and look less attractive.  Though this would be a relatively small item, it could be important for some.

Overall, if the boat is overweight, this is clearly not ideal and will be penalized in its value if say over 40 lbs.   On the contrary, if the weight is lower without sacrificing strength and resistance, then a value premium could be added with as much as $2000 for a light, competitive boat.  Whether overweight concerns you may depend on your own weight and that of any added crew.  If you are lightweight it will not be so much of an issue, as unlike a monohull, most of the stability comes from the beam and buoyancy of the amas, not from crew weight on the rail.

Age of the boat will be less of a factor than how the boat was maintained (or neglected).   For age alone, I would only deduct ~2% per year if well maintained because there are still wood & ply boats around that have been very well protected and maintained that are still competing .. in fact I know one of mine that I built as a teenager that is now Vintage Racing at nearly 70 years old!. (see footnote below).  And its worth noting that older, stiff, plywood hulls retain their performance edge over all-fiberglass ones.   Many classic racing classes have proven that.

But again, any repairs required to bring a boat back to a good, looking, fully operational and safe condition, are expenses that will need to be deducted from the total. 

If a boat is REALLY overweight, this could at least half its value, but it should not be totally forgotten that the main hull of the W17 can accept an added layer over the bottom of from 2” - 4” of foam plus a thin plywood and glass … and this will add significant buoyancy to compensate for the weight, bringing back some of the normally expected performance – at least upwind.  I know of two overweight W17’s that were improved like this.  As all is not lost, buying a somewhat overweight boat for a deep discount, could still be an attractive purchase.

So what does this all mean?       Prepare to draw up a detailed balance sheet of + and - .

This will show that the base value of US$10K could be chopped due to unfinished work, below average workmanship, boat condition or overweight to be worth as little as say $3K, but also that added perks of a Race rig with a CF wingmast and other additions, to an already decent, well maintained boat, could push it up to $20K.  That’s still a bargain when you see what a production WETA 4.4 or Astus 16 sell for, that do not come close to the comfort, features and overall capability of the W17.

Cost and Value could go even higher in say Scandinavian countries where costs exceed those of the US, and also if the boat has some very special feature or attribute .. such as having won a major race or accomplished a notable cruise …. so proving its uniqueness.   Being complete with camping gear, cockpit tent etc would also add value.   Sometimes these items are great, but sometimes just add weight and clutter ... so need to be evaluated with care.    A boat might also have a unique feature that no other boat has, that improves either its performance or its utility. 

In the latter case, this might be say a swing-arm folding system that permits the boat to be launched folded.  If you really need this, you can expect to pay extra for it as it’s more costly to build, but do not go shopping for it as an always desirable perk, as its weight and complexity actually deducts from the performance of the regular gull-wing W17.  So, for a few, it’s absolutely worth the premium, but for others without the same launching need, it’s absolutely not.

So in FINAL SUMMARY to find current boat value, from something incomplete.

1) Assess a reasonable value for the boat once completed, compared to the extremes noted above ... taking into account where it stands re its overall build quality and weight potential.

2) Then deduct the cost of items still needed to finish the boat.  Doubling this material cost to allow for your time would not be unreasonable.

3) The difference is the maximum you might pay for any partially completed boat, BUT .., there is then one more influencing factor.  How badly you want the boat and how many others are available?   That can add more to its value just for YOU  ;) 

Hope this guides your evaluation and also helps you when deciding what options are likely to help hold up your boat value over time.          

Mike 2023

Footnote:  Back in the 50’s, epoxy was not commercially available so boats were well built with tight joints, using Aerolite 300 (a casein/urea glue developed for planes) and then, well painted …. that was it!

But excellent mahogany was then still very available and the plywood made using it was of high quality, so this was the 1950’s compensation for no epoxy or FG sheathing.



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