Based on worldwide-fleet size, there are large, medium, and small sailboat charter companies; good companies exist in all three categories. If you’ve ever used a travel guide to help you select a hotel, you can employ the same basic guidelines to help choose the charter company that’s right for you.

When considering a company, decide what kind of vacation you want. Then be realistic about what you can afford. If you decide on deluxe, you should probably consider one of the large, full-service companies. Look at what “extras” are offered—some base locations, for instance, are mini-resorts unto themselves. Some have full-service hotels at the base, with a pool, grocery/liquor stores, and shops. Decide how important these before-and-after-charter amenities are to you. If your budget is limited to one of the least expensive companies, you’ll likely still have a grand time, but it’s important to alter your expectations accordingly.

One way to know what you can expect is to look at the age of a company’s fleet at the base where you intend to charter. Chartering rule: Older boats are less expensive. Chartering corollary: Many companies offer impeccably maintained boats that are 5 years old or more. Older boats that are well taken care of can provide an excellent charter experience, but go into the charter knowing what you’re getting so you won’t be disappointed on arrival.

Another option to help you choose the right company for your needs is to use a sailboat charter broker. These professionals visit company fleets and individual yachts worldwide and are familiar with what each has to offer. They can match your budget, sailing area, and desired boat and you’ll be pleased. Even more pleasing is that there’s no extra charge to the client for broker fees, so feel free to shop around.