Tips for buying a used boat

Tips for buying a used boat

Usually, people picture a beautiful beauty with a sail attached aft, proudly furrowing the ocean. In this century, the sail is already ceding the right to steer to a powerful engine that allows you to travel without returning to the home expanse. An amateur can be trained to steer a motor or sailing yacht. It is quite difficult to recommend which tourist yacht one should buy – a sailing one or a motor one. Tips for buying a used boat.

Fans of sailing yachts do not recognize motor yachts. It is generally believed that the sails are chosen by romantics, partly so because what can be more beautiful than the scarlet sails in the sunset? Both motor and sailing yachts have their admirers because of the advantages and disadvantages of both constructions.

But the main advantage of motor yachts is considered to be comfort and the ability to develop a high speed. Such yachts have more space, which is why they are chosen for luxurious parties. Motor yachts can be compared to five-star hotels for interior decoration, they are for those who like driving and who do not mind either the smell of burning fuel or motor roar during planning. Even though a motor yacht is more expensive than a sailing boat, it is more economical in exploitation.

Buying a used boat tip 1:

Involve the family

Make sure to include everyone involved in the buying process, such as your family, partner, and potential crew, in the buying plan when you view and select your boat. This will save you a lot of time, as you can immediately assess the reactions of your companions. In this way, you can very quickly learn the key features and functions that are important to each of you and should be present on your yacht.

Try spending a few days on your chosen yacht to make sure it’s exactly right for you. Most owners cite the organization of the interior and cabin appointments as the most essential factors in their decision to purchase a boat, and only after that are the sailing and seaworthiness features that interest them.

Buy used boat tip 2:

Determine the price

When buying a boat, it is a mistake to think the money is limited to buying the boat. Like a car, motorcycle, or other personal belongings, a boat needs a lot of maintenance and, therefore, investment. At the very least, you cannot avoid expenses for repairs and passing technical inspections. And after all, every trip to the sea involves technical preparation of the vessel and its full equipment. If you do not have an equipped boathouse for yacht storage, you will have to pay for a guarded yacht anchorage.

Buying a yacht on the secondary market, it is important to be aware of all the pros and cons of such a purchase. An informed purchase of a second-hand boat can be a bargain, but sometimes unscrupulous dealers hide serious technical defects under the glossy exterior. If defects are not detected before purchase, in a short time, they will appear, and this will lead to serious expenses and other troubles. Only careful inspection and technical expertise, together with the dealer’s good reputation, can insure you against buying a potentially illiquid or even dangerous boat.

If you have enough money – buy a new boat with the maximum configuration. The advantages of buying a boat from the shipyard are a good investment for many years, the use of the most modern materials and innovative technologies, an individual approach, and reflection of your preferences. The boat will be yours alone and unique.

Used boat buying tip 3:

A thorough inspection of your boat

To convince yourself of the condition of the boat, it is not enough to quietly inspect the boat lying on the deck and below the deck in its box in the harbor and then spontaneously make a buying decision.

What to look for:

  • The condition of the gelcoat. Lack of hull osmosis. Gelcoat should be free of bubbles and small cracks.
  • No large cracks or other signs of knocks or damage, especially in the bow and in the area of the midship.
  • Outside – the condition of the bulwark and its attachment to the hull.

Inside, open all the floorboards and look at the hull for leaks, defects, and rot. Particular attention should be paid to the bulwark attachment point on the inside, as well as the presence of flora defects (delaminations, deformations, bulging) – this may indicate a history of strikes and groundings. It is very important to get an idea of the condition of the underwater part of the hull, the keel, and the rudder.

In addition, studying the history of the ship helps to get a realistic picture of its condition:

  1.     The documented number of former owners of the yacht.
  2.     Availability of hull drawings, deck construction, and electrical schematics.
  3.     A current measurement certificate.

When a yacht is not purchased from the first owner, it is advisable to check the history of ownership retrospectively back to the manufacturer. This can be done by obtaining copies of previous bills of sale from the seller and, ideally, obtaining the original building certificate. By checking the ownership transition history, it is also possible to trace where the yacht was registered and if it was previously properly removed from previous ship registries.

Unfortunately, not all sellers are conscientious about the maintenance of documentation for yachts, and taking advantage of procedural loopholes in some ship registries contrive to register the yacht in a new registry without excluding the yacht from the previous registry, which is a violation of international conventions. The essential terms of contracts, based on which a yacht was previously purchased, could have consequences for the future owner, therefore, must also be carefully studied.

Buying a used boat tip 4:

Preparing the contract

If an authorized appraiser approves the purchase of a used boat, it is necessary to prepare a contract. Note that the person negotiating and signing the transaction documents must have a power of attorney with proper authorization for each of the legal actions he/she performs. It is desirable to protect yourself by checking all available sources and determining whether there are any open lawsuits, enforcement proceedings, and penalties against the company.

To protect oneself from possible yacht debts, one should separately check the fact of absence of debts for mooring the yacht in the marina by asking directly to the marina and getting their written confirmation, as well as the fact of absence of wage arrears to the crew by getting written confirmation from the crew.

Particular attention should be paid to the tax aspects – to determine whether VAT has or has not been paid on the yacht (at the place of anchorage and subsequent transfer) and whether the proper documentation exists.

If the boat has been cleared at the place of anchorage under the customs regime of temporary importation and VAT has not been paid – always ask the seller for a valid transit log, confirming the date and place of clearance and that it has not exceeded the time limit set by the temporary importation regime.

Used boat purchase tip 5:

Signatures, Payment, Insurance

Yachts built before 1985 are considered to have paid VAT if found in the EU at midnight on December 31, 1992. The owner of such a yacht needs to have documents confirming both dates on hand. Often the problem with such yachts is that documents from far back in 1992 can be lost, boat logs are not preserved, and data from marinas have long been discarded or fallen into disrepair due to improper storage.

When buying a used yacht, one should make sure that the VAT on the yacht was paid by the previous owner. This is an issue that must be handled with great care since often the VAT documents are not in proper condition, and an extensive check needs to be done to ensure that the tax has been paid. If a boat with paid European VAT is exported from the EU, the boat can benefit from a VAT exemption if it is imported back to the EU within 3 years from the date of export

Take advantage of a lawyer. Especially for expensive purchases. In such a case, the involvement of a lawyer as a proxy is unavoidable. 

Another important point is to obtain insurance coverage for the boat. Insurance is essential to protect the boat, its passengers, and crew in case of an accident or damage. It is also important to remember that insurance is the first document requested in European marinas.

After the sale is complete, the new owner must take care of the insurance for the yacht. 


Mistakes in steering are often due to ignorance or lack of experience in handling the vessel. Only with regular use of the boat will you know how to operate it and what to pay attention to when opening the sea valves and how much fuel the engine consumes.  


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