Do I Need a Qualification to Buy a Boat?

Can I buy a boat without qualifications?

A commonly asked question by first-time buyers of boats is what, if any qualifications you need to buy a vessel. Read our explanation to find out the answer, and our advice to make the most of your boat and keep it best protected under your boat insurance.

The short answer is yes: in the UK, you do not have to hold a boating qualification in order to be able to buy a boat as a private boat owner, or to start using it.

However, while it is not a legal requirement to have a boating qualification simply to purchase a vessel, it is important to remember that there are significant advantages to having one; and indeed in some cases you may not be able to use your boat without having a qualification. It is therefore highly recommended that you acquire one.

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What do I need a boat qualification for?

In simple terms, if you are planning on using your boat to visit other areas, it is wise to consider a qualification. As a first-time boat owner, if you do not have a boat qualification, you may find it difficult to gain insurance, or to moor your boat anywhere except your own land. For example, should you wish to join a boat or yacht club, and moor your boat there, or if you are sailing in your vessel and want to visit or stay at another marina, you are likely to need both boat insurance and a boating qualification for their liability purposes.

Having a boating qualification can also help lower your boat insurance premiums.

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Do I need a qualification to use my boat outside the UK?

If you wish to use your boat outside UK waters you are in many cases required by law to have a minimum level of competence: the International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft (ICC) being the most common requirement throughout most of Europe, for example.  

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Insurance benefits of holding a boating qualification

Insurance companies will often require a level of experience for a boat owner, dependent on the size and nature of the vessel. For example, some boat insurance policies require a qualification if you have less than a year’s experience of owning a boat. However, if you hold a full boating qualification form the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), including both the Theory and Practical aspects, you will be qualified for a discount on your boat insurance premium with Towergate.

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What boating qualifications are available?

The most well-known qualifications are those available from the RYA, which is the UK’s national organisation for all types of boating. This includes dinghy and yacht racing, motor and sail cruising, RIBs and sports boats, powerboat racing, windsurfing, canal and river boat cruising, and personal watercraft.

RYA qualifications are available for all ages and all aspects, from sailing dinghies to yachts, small fishing boats to speed boats. Qualifications can be offered in levels starting from 1 for beginner up to level 4 for experienced, and both Theory and Practical courses and qualifications are available.

A good starting qualification for a first-time private boat owner is the RYA Day Skipper qualification. As you grow more experienced, the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore is worth considering to develop your skills. 

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Boat insurance from Towergate

Boat insurance from Towergate is available for different vessels and levels of cover depending on what you use your boat for, from third party cover to weather events and personal accident. For more information visit our boat insurance page or call us on 0344 892 1987.

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About the author

Adam Summersby is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.