Understanding Practical Sailor's Ratings System

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 09:51AM - Comments: (3)


The upcoming September 2016 issue of Practical Sailor magazine features our 2016 Gear of the Year roundup. This annual report profiles 10 to 15 products that our editors and staff believe stood out among the dozens and dozens of products we tested during the previous 12 months. As in past years, most of the products earning Gear of the Year designation had previously earned Best Choice designation, meaning that they clearly outperformed every other product in testing.

Most long-time readers are familiar with our ratings categories—Best Choice, Recommended, and Budget Buy—but their significance might not be so obvious to new readers. In fact, we’ve received a number of letters from people asking us to clarify what these ratings mean. So, here it is:

Best Choice: Indicated by a single star on the PS Value Guide table that accompanies most test reports (here's an example); this is a product that meets our highest standards regardless of price. Not only does the product outperform competitors in testing, it has the features and robust construction that make it suitable for offshore sailing. Sailors who are pondering a long-term cruise should consider Best Choice products when provisioning, upgrading, or refitting their boat.

Recommended: Indicated by a checkmark on the PS Value Guide table; this product falls short of the Best Choice product in overall testing, but it excels in one or more evaluation points or has special features that might make it the most desirable for certain types of sailors, or for sailors with certain preferences. An example would be an environmentally friendly bottom paint.

Budget Buy: Indicated by a dollar sign on the PS Value Guide; this is the least expensive product in our test that we would not hesitate to recommend to a reader or friend. The Budget Buy products tend to be a better match for coastal or inland sailors than for offshore sailors, but there have been several cases—particularly in the maintenance category—in which the Budget Buy product is also the Best Choice. Because prices change after each issue goes to press, we encourage readers to compare prices before buying.

If you have any questions about our testing program, ratings system, or have suggestions for future tests, let us know, either by e-mail or in the comment box below.

Comments (3)

In the past, we have favored domestic products over imported products when all other factors were equal. Generally, we've found the increasingly rarer domestic-manufactured products have a higher level of customer support and customer satisfaction (although not always), which we do include as a criteria in all of our tests. Likewise, products made by companies with a long positive track record -- based on our 35-plus years of marine product testing and on feedback from PS readers -- also are given a modest weighting advantage when all other factors are equal.
Regarding price: The only category where price is given a significant weight is in our Budget Buy category, but even in this category, the products must meet or exceed all our test criteria and stand out as exceptional products. Testers do not know the prices of the products until all the testing and rankings are completed. The Budget Buy is selected from among the top performing products based on the "street price" at the time of publication.

Posted by: Darrell | August 19, 2011 11:14 AM    Report this comment

I agree that adding the country where the product is produced would be useful, but I do not think any extra weight should be given for USA made products. Some of the very best sailing equipment comes out of the UK, Germany, France, New Zealand, and Australia, among other places. In today's world of outsourcing, most American manufacturers (and those from other countries) have products they've designed and spec'd manufactured in Taiwan, China, Thailand, India, etc.

Posted by: James W | August 18, 2011 3:12 PM    Report this comment

I think country of manufacture should have some weight, even if the product performs well. I, personally, would pay a premium for a made in USA product if it performed as well, or better, as a made in china product.

After dealing with support for products (from edson, balmar and other local/USA products), it is nice to be able to reach out for support from the company that makes the product. Edson custom made for me, for free, a set of brackets for my cupholder for my 1" tube pedestal..for free..when I contacted the with the problem. If it were an offshore, less espensive, product, who would I call?

Price, to me, is not the deciding factor. Overall quality and product support are the most important

I did notice in some reports that the country of origin is mentioned.. but no weight is given to it. Not saying not to test, or downgrade offshore products.. but give some weight for USA made products (if it makes the grade of course) and historical support from the manufacturer.

Just picked up top rated West marine Tahiti binoculars.. Nice piece. Agree with your ratings (even though it was a few years ago). But the wind was knocked out of me when I saw it was made in china..for a $300 pair of binoclars. Bought them ONLY because they are currently on sale for $120 OFF...and because of West's customer service and warranty.

Posted by: Phantomracer | August 18, 2011 11:23 AM    Report this comment

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In