Sailing Yacht Buyer’s Guide - Part 2

The second part of our sailing yacht buyer’s guide takes you through the steps involved in buying either a new or second hand yacht and how to properly inspect the boat before buying.

It is advisable to decide early on whether you are going to buy a used or new yacht, as the buying process differs a little. If you buy new, then there is much more scope to have the yacht customised to suit your needs, which might include the cabin layouts, choice of finish and equipment specification. While a new yacht will cost more, it should prove easier to arrange good finance terms as repayments can be spread over longer periods.

If you buy a pre-owned boat, say four or five years old, it should be a lot less than the cost when it was new and the depreciation will be less as it gets older, provided you maintain it at a good condition. You will need to have the boat inspected by a surveyor but you may end up with an excellent boat at a very good price.

Should I buy a new or used yacht? The pros and cons

New boat - prosNew boat - cons Used boat - prosUsed boat - cons
Good financing options Rapid depreciation early on Purchase cost is less than new Financing options not as good as for new
Warranty protection Purchase cost Usually much better equipped than new Warranty may not be included
Choose the specification to suit your needs Equipment will be extra Less depreciation Specification as seen

What should I consider in my budget when buying a yacht?

It is important to consider all the costs you are likely to incur on an annual basis, not just the capital costs. You may have already thought about a purchase price but your budget should factor in all the expenses that you are likely to incur on an annual basis. Here is a checklist of budget items:

  • Yacht surveys - essential if you buy a used boat

  • Marina fees - costs vary according to location in the UK, it is worth shopping around

  • Mooring fees - usually less than marina costs

  • Harbour dues - if you are based in a harbour, expect to pay annual fees

  • Engine servicing - get quotes from service engineers before you buy

  • Maintenance - anti-fouling, hull cleaning and polishing, rig, sails

  • Haul out and launch fees - needed for annual maintenance / storage ashore

  • Tender - plus outboard

  • Equipment and spares - this will vary according to how well the boat is equipped when you buy. Don’t forget clothing, life jackets, safety equipment

  • Visitor mooring / berthing fees - factor in costs for trips and cruises

  • Fuel - make a generous allowance for fuel, based on expected annual usage

  • Repairs - wise to factor this in, even if an unknown

  • Yacht Insurance – read our guide to buying yacht insurance

You have narrowed down your search and found a number of yachts you are interested in. They suit your budget and you want to arrange viewings. Where do you go from here?

Tips when buying a new yacht

If you are buying new you have the option of buying direct from the manufacturer or via an authorised dealer or an agent. If the manufacturer is in the UK then making direct contact with them is probably the best place to start, but if they are an overseas manufacturer then it is likely that they will have a UK agent you can contact.

Tips when buying a used yacht

When buying through a broker, make sure the broker is a member of an industry approved organisation such as the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents (ABYA) or the Boat Retailers and Broker Association (BRBA).

Buying a yacht through a broker

While it is in the interest of a broker to make a sale, being a professional they will also want to build a good reputation with both buyers and sellers for being helpful, reliable and for acting fairly. A broker will know the state of the market and the prices paid for similar boats. They will arrange viewings and also put you in touch with local surveyors and can help with arranging finance. They will also ensure that any outstanding marine mortgage is paid off on completion of the sale.

Buying a yacht privately

When buying privately you will need to be more careful with your checks as a broker will not be on hand to do this. However, if you and the vendor have experience of buying and selling boats then the process can run smoothly and you will have the added benefit of being shown over the boat by someone who knows it thoroughly.

Boat Inspection

A second viewing and careful inspection of the yacht you are interested in is advisable as checking it over with a more critical eye will help you decide whether to go for it or not. Here are some things to look out for:

What should I heck when buying a yacht?

Towergate and Safe Skipper, boat inspections
  • Check there no visible distortions in any parts of the hull

  • Are the hull surfaces smooth - are there any indentations?

  • Are the decks sound and firm? Flexing can indicate the laminate in the hull is breaking down

  • Check the prop and rudder for any obvious damage

  • Are there any signs of oil leaks in the engine compartment?

  • Are engine hoses and connections all good?

  • Check for leaks in the interior - especially around hatches and any through hull fittings

  • Bad smells in the interior warn of potential problems - e.g. rot, damp and leaks

  • Are there any signs of corrosion on metal hulls inside or out?

  • Are the electrics corrosion free? Check the batteries and wiring are in good condition

  • Check that damp has not affected wooden veneers below decks

For a more thorough boat inspection checklist and some excellent advice from one of the world’s most experienced power boating experts, check out “Dag Pike’s Boat Inspection App”


Toweragte and Safe Skipper, sea trial your yacht before you buy

Taking the yacht for a sea trial

A sea trial is always advisable because until you get the feel of the boat out on the water you cannot know for sure whether this is the yacht for you. You should expect to pay the launching costs if the yacht is out of the water. To make the trial as thorough as possible, consider taking along a surveyor or someone with plenty of boat buying experience to give you an unbiased second opinion.

Making an offer on your yacht

If you decide to make an offer, make sure it is subject to survey.

Once you have agreed the price with the vendor, then it is normal for the buyer to pay the broker a 10% deposit which they then hold in a Client Account.

The contract

The next step is for the broker to prepare a standard agreement for the sale of a vessel that fully sets out the obligations of both parties. Once approved by both parties this is then signed with witnesses by the vendor and buyer. The broker then prepares a Bill of Sale which is then recorded with the British Register of Shipping.

If it is a private purchase then there are standard agreements which can be downloaded from the British Marine Federation (BMF) or Royal Yachting Association (RYA) websites.

The survey

However honest and trustworthy the broker may be, you will still need to instruct a qualified marine surveyor to carry out a survey of the vessel and produce a written report. Not only is this important for you as the buyer but you will also need a survey for insurance purposes.

It is normal practice for the buyer to pay the costs of a lift out in order that the surveyor can inspect the hull.

The surveyor’s report will include a list of recommendations of any work that needs to be carried out. This is where your negotiating skills are important, because if the vendor or broker have not already advised you of any problems highlighted by the survey, then you can either insist the work is done and paid for by the vendor, or the price is reduced accordingly, or you can withdraw from the sale and have your deposit returned.

Getting finance for a yacht

The good news is that if they are well looked after, most boats hold their value pretty well, certainly much better than cars of the same age.

If you are buying your boat outright there are a limited number of finance providers in the UK specialising in marine mortgages or hire purchase agreements. Most require a deposit of at least 30% with typical repayments spread over 10 years, but these figures can vary up and down.


Towergate Insurance have teamed up with Safe Skipper Apps to create a free to download boating app with invaluable tips and practical advice for on boat preparation, checklists, equipment, communications and emergency procedures. Check out the app at Safe Skipper.

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