classic wooden boatPlenty has been written on purchasing classic cars to restore, but today we’ll cover the topic of finding classic boats to purchase and restore. There are a few key ways to tell if a boat is a classic which are discussed below. We also cover some ways to tell if your classic boat has been restored good enough to make sure she’s safe on the water.

Insurance agents and boat value professionals are the first people you should speak with. They’ve seen plenty of boats in their time and can tell you if yours fits the “classic” label. For example, an insurance company might consider a fiberglass runabout a classic depending on the decade it was built. Fiberglass runabouts from the 1950’s and 60’s are generally popular. In fact, “age is implied” when discussing classic boats and water vehicles. Any boat built prior to the 70’s might automatically be considered classic based on age alone. However, the design itself is often the biggest determining factor. Here’s a general guide for spotting classics:

Wooden boats are often considered classics partly because of their material. Contemporary boat owners still love handcrafted wooden vessels, as well as the easy upgrades that can be made to them. For example, setting a classic wooden boat up with an on-board computer and V-drive ensures owners won’t get lost on the water and can potentially avoid rough weather. The combination of new technology and classic features makes wooden boats irresistible.

Remember, however, that your boat need not be wooden to be considered a classic. While “classic” implies timeless quality, the definition itself is extremely subjective. For example, the British Classic Yacht Club (BCYC), once again, considers steel or iron boats classics only if they were built in 1970 or before. However, if an older boat doesn’t sail well or is constructed with flimsy materials, it can and usually does lose the “classic” distinction. According to Antigua Classic Regatta, a truly classic boat should be restored using modern materials if necessary.

No matter how nice a boat is on the outside, having authentic (or as near-authentic as possible) upholstery sets apart a true classic. Damage from the sea, sun, and wind can diminish a classic’s value, especially if it’s decades old. Preserving the original upholstery and protecting it from these elements captures the spirit of the vessel.

No matter what makes your boat a classic, you’ll want to be sure it’s always ready to sail, particularly during this season. Many boat owners recommend storing your vessel indoors if possible to avoid weather damage and other wear and tear. Make sure you have a boat insurer who has worked with classic boats before, as many of today’s water craft insurance agencies cater to newer models.

In general, make sure your bilge pump is in good working order at all times. This protects your boat from stagnant water and the damage that can result, such as rot and mildew. Thoroughly soak your wooden boats before launching, as this ensures the hull will be water-tight. Invest in a cover for your upholstery to protect it from the sun, and work with a qualified restorer to guarantee you’re using the right cleaners and techniques to preserve every inch of your vessel. If your classic boat is motorized, check the battery charger before launching.