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(Questions) Newbie Considering a 38 Special

Old 09-23-2023, 04:15 PM
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Default (Questions) Newbie Considering a 38 Special

Hi Everyone,

Iím new to boating and this forum. Although Iíve had jet skis for the past 20 years, I really donít consider that the same as boating. My dad owned a 22í Donzi when I was younger, and Iím really looking at getting into the power boating world. From what Iíve read, it seems these boats are falling out of style in favor of Center Consoles and fancy ski boats. Honestly, for me there is something really cool and sexy about a true Big Block (or two) driven go-fast boat, and really hope to end up in one. I donít need the fastest boat on the lake, but Iíd like something with respectable speed (60 mph is good enough for me), and something that my girlfriend and I can overnight on (needs to have a potty).

Iím really looking at a mid 90ís Baja 38 special as it was always my and my dadís ďdreamĒ boat. It seems to check all of the boxes and is within an acceptable price-range for me. Also on the list a Formula 382 SR-1 and Fountain 35 Lightning (all 90ís year models). My question is, how fussy are these boats on maintenance? If you had to guess, how much does it cost on average to operate these boats? What kind of annual maintenance is required for these boats other than winterization and oil changes? How often (hours) do the engines and drives need to be overhauled? Are these boats overall pretty reliable? I know a lot of this depends, but whatís a realistic maintenance cost number for an average 38 special?

I currently live in Kansas and will probably use the boat on Kaw Lake and Table Rock next year. I will probably have to tow the boat, but I have a ĺ ton diesel truck that I think should be able to do the job. I will probably move to Texas for the 2025 season and will most likely use the boat on either Texoma, Lake Travis, or Canyon Lake depending on where I move. Is a 38í boat ďtoo muchĒ boat for these lakes? Iím not opposed to getting something smaller, but it seems that boats less than 38í donít really have potties and seem more difficult to overnight on.

My other ďtoyĒ is an airplane and on average it costs me about $30k/yr to own in hangar expenses, insurance, annual inspections, AvGas, database and maintenance. I donít know if owning this type of boat will be similar in those expenses. I can secure outdoor storage for $45/mo, I donít know what insurance would run. My fear is just constant (expensive) maintenance headaches. I know a lot of this depends on a good boat appraisal and how the boat was previously maintained. My last question is if there is a good directory for boat appraisers? Before I buy any boat Iíd like to get it appraised. I appreciate you reading this far, I will also be posting on the Formula and Fountain boards. Thanks a ton!




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Old 09-23-2023, 07:45 PM
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I've known two guys with 38 Specials over the years. The boats were great, my gosh they were HUGE...especially sitting on a trailer. Roughly 9,500 pound boat 'dry', so figure what...12,000 on a trailer? So your truck wouldn't have any trouble towing it, not on our flat lands especially, lol!
Other choices from Baja but extremely rare to find that would suit your needs would be a 32 Caliber. Baja also had a 320 in the mid '90s. Easier to find and still 'overnight-able' are 290, 272, and 260 models. I've boated a lot at Kaw, or did in the past and yeah, it would be rare to see a boat that size (38 Special) there. Table Rock is much more home to this size of boat. As for maintenance costs...so hard to calculate, somewhat dependent on the number of hours you run, how you store it, etc. Roughly figure ~$2K per year for a storage unit in this area. I pay $1,080 per year for a 12' X 36' at Table Rock, just off the lake. Insurance around here is cheap, depending on your experience or at least WHAT YOU TELL THE INSURANCE is your experience, probably less than $2K a year. As for the engines, if in good shape and 'black' motors, you might not have to spend a dime other than routine stuff...if 'blue' motors, the maintenance will be a little higher...once again depending on the number of hours on them...top end work every 250 hours or so, from what I have seen the 'guys that know' talk about on this forum.
Texoma and Travis have many boats like that...I don't know anything about Canyon Lake.
A boat is FAR less expensive than an airplane...by factors of 10 type figures. One can do a search for boat surveyors/appraisers...not many in the flatlands here, compared to the coasts.
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Old 10-02-2023, 06:14 AM
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Depends how much you drive it but Id say to run a average twin like that 12,000$ a year in fuel/ minor maintenance /35-40 gph driving easy/ 50 hrs a year. Keep 10 or 15,000 in reserve for a engine or outdrive problem, bigger repairs if possible. Make sure stringers/transom are dry, these big boats get left in water all summer far more often then little boats fwiw.
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Old 10-03-2023, 04:16 PM
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Most importantly you MUST have a structural and mechanical survey done by qualified marine surveyors.

Baja's are production boats and corners were cut. I just replaced the transom and an engine room only (motor mount) stringer in my 1996 302 and found NONE of the cutouts were sealed, yup all raw wood. So when a leak starts so does the rot. The stringer had a cutout at the bottom (IE lowest point where any water would sit) for the bilge pump hose and it too wasn't sealed, just raw wood, naturally it was rotted.

Of course during my restoration all said cutouts were waterproofed.
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Old 11-17-2023, 01:08 PM
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I just wanted to say thank you all for the replies. I apologize for the delay, but this month has been brutal. Lots of really good info here, and thank you for guiding this newbie. I found a Formula 382 that I really like and may move forward on. Of course I plan on getting it looked at by a surveyor before purchasing. Thanks again!
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