It's an exciting time when you decide to buy a boat.... 

... but it's not something you do everyday. Our guide to buying a boat helps to explain the process and includes advice from some of the top Boat Brokers in the UK.


Finding the Right Boat

Buying a new or used boat usually begins with searching for boats for sale online. From sailing yachts and power boats to RIBs and river cruisers, there are so many different types of boats to choose from, so do you really know what boat is right for you..?


1. Consider how active you want your new boating lifestyle to be. Are you looking for relaxed "turn-key" boating, or would you prefer exhilarating voyages which see you reefing sails or crashing through the waves..?

2. A little research at this point into what's involved, such as the level of physicality required for different classes of boats along with any training requirements, should help steer you in the right direction. There are skippered charters and training courses throughout the UK which allow you to trial various styles of boating. It's a great way for you to start the buying journey, confident in the knowledge that you'll be buying a boat that will suit how you like to spend time on the water, and also a boat that you are comfortable handling.

3. The amount of time you intend to spend on-board can help determine the best size and layout of boat. If you're planning to share the experience with friends or family, it's worth considering whether the layout and space will provide them with a safe and comfortable environment.

4. Some boats are great for coastal regions, while other boats are more suited to inland waterways - usually that's down to the shape and design of the hull. If you know where you'll be keeping your boat or have definite plans on where you want your boating adventures to take you, speak to a Boat Broker as they will advise on which types of boat are best suited to your preferred environment.

If you consider all of the above, you'll know what style, size and type of boat you should be looking for - but there are few other things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.


Things to Consider Before You Buy a Boat


1. Mooring - There are various mooring options for different classes of boats such as permanent marina berths, swing moorings and dry stack, so it's worth investigating all of your options and exploring the pricing and availability. The cost of a mooring usually reflects the size of your boat - the bigger it is, the more you'll pay.

2. Budget and Financing - Fixing the parameters of your purchasing budget will make it easier to narrow down your search based on price, but do allow a little flexibility for newer boats, or boats that have been well maintained as these tend to incur fewer repair costs in the future and may well be worth a little financial stretch. There are marine finance companies who can assist you with the financing of your boat and they will provide you with repayment quotes prior to purchase. Marine Finance companies should always be FSA authorised. Having your finance in place and deposit funds readily available will help you secure your chosen boat. It also proves to the seller that you're a serious and qualified buyer.

3. Insurance - All boats should be insured, and it's easy to investigate the cost of insurance for the type and size of boat you are considering. Insurance should be in place as soon as ownership is transferred, especially if you are having the boat relocated or transported from another location.

4. Ownership Costs - The cost of maintaining and owning a boat can vary depending on the size, condition, type and location of the boat. As a general rule, annual running costs such as maintenance, mooring, repairs and insurance are widely considered to average about 10% of the value of the boat. There are ways to reduce the cost, such as shared ownership where you own a percentage of the boat. This allows you to reduce the costs in-line with the percentage of the boat you own. You can also carry out some of the maintenance works yourself.

5. Training - There are training instructors and qualified skippers throughout the UK who will be able to guide you through boat handling, manoeuvring, sailing techniques, also safety, navigation and communication procedures. Professional training and handling proficiency not only increase the safety of boating in the UK, they will enhance your enjoyment and overall experience of owning a boat. It wouldn't be much fun driving a new car if you hadn't passed your test..!

6. Safety Equipment - Some boats will be sold with safety equipment already on-board whilst others may have none. It goes without saying that safety equipment is of paramount importance and a boat should have every necessary item, from flares to lifejackets and fire extinguishers. If the boat you are purchasing includes the existing safety equipment you will need to check it has been serviced, is in date, and complies to safety standards. From the moment you collect or take delivery of your new boat, you are responsible for the safety of everyone on-board - which is why you should have all the equipment in place prior to completing a boat purchase.

7. Licences and Dues - Boat licences or harbour dues may be payable in various locations throughout the UK. Leisure craft on inland waterways require a boat licence, and these are issued by different navigation authorities' dependant on area. To buy a boat licence you will need insurance and a Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) Certificate or a Recreational Craft Directive (issued on new boats). It's worth checking with your preferred marina on which authority governs the area or whether there are harbour dues payable in that area to the local Harbour Commissioners.


The Buying Process and Legalities

When you've found the right boat a professional Boat Broker will be able to guide you through all the contractural paperwork. We've outlined below some of the key stages of the process.


1. The first stage is for you to submit your offer to the Boat Broker. They will then negotiate on your behalf with the seller until a mutually acceptable price is reached.

2. Once the price is agreed a 10% deposit is usually payable and a contract is then drafted by the Boat Broker between yourself and the seller. The contract will detail all of the conditions of the purchase and reference milestones such as the boat demonstration, survey and/or engine report and acceptance of finance (if applicable).

3. All deposits paid to a professional Boat Broker should be held in a client account which is separate to their trading account. The deposit is usually returned if any of the pre-stated milestones are not to your satisfaction, but we advise you always check the terms and conditions of the sales contract regarding your deposit.

4. The boat demonstration is either a sea or waterway trial, where the boat is manoeuvred and all features are demonstrated. If this is successful you can progress to the next stage which is to instruct a marine surveyor.

5. The marine surveyor should be professionally qualified and hold Professional Indemnity Insurance. Their survey will tell you about the current condition of the boat along with any future works that may be required. Ask your surveyor what they will be reporting on for your type of boat, also the level of detail that you can expect from their report. You may wish to commission further reports of a more detailed nature from specialist trades based on their response.

6. The contractual paperwork must have the title for the boat and show the seller(s) hold complete ownership and the right to sell. 

7. Your Boat Broker will also provide confirmation on whether the VAT has been paid on the boat. This should clearly show the most recent transaction where VAT was payable along with the VAT number. If VAT has not been paid, your Boat Broker will be able to advise on the next steps.

8. A professional Boat Broker will provide all the necessary paperwork along with an inventory. They will also organise the transfer of the title on completion, but you may find it useful to know about some of the documentation below you'll see within the paperwork.


From June 1998, all new boats being sold in the UK have been required to hold a Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) which shows the boat was constructed to the required standards at the time of build. You will also see the bill of sale which effectively is the paper trail of ownership. It should start with the builder's certificate which is issued on the first sale following construction and then show all subsequent bills of sale.

Boats on inland waterways (which are not open and have engines) including houseboats, must have a valid Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) Certificate, which is similar to the MOT on a car. If you are buying a new constructed boat (fully fitted) for use on inland waterways, you will be issued with an RCD and will not be required to obtain a BSS Certificate for four years. If you are buying a new sail away (a boat you will be fitting out yourself) you are required to obtain a BSS Certificate after one year, regardless whether the fit out has been completed.


4. A Few Last Things to Consider 


Further to the necessary legal paperwork, it's wise to enquire whether any further documents are available such as: manuals for the on-board equipment and/or servicing records for the safety equipment or engines. Many boat owners will keep a "boat file" with receipts, manuals and a schedule of works which you'll find incredibly useful as you get to know your new boat. If warranties are provided for previous works, it's never guaranteed that they will extend to you as the new owner of the boat so it could be worth checking.

If you wish to use your boat at sea, you will have to register it with the UK Ship Register. Full details of the requirements and type of registration you will need are shown on the link here>>

If your boat has an existing VHF radio or you plan to install one, you will need to register this on the Ofcom Amateur and Ships Radio Licensing Portal which you can do on the link here>>