How to buy a Boat

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How to buy a boat

Few activities offer the same sense of freedom that comes with the decision to buy a boat. The tranquillity of the open water and the destinations available make boat ownership a truly desirable goal.

Yet, it may feel like an unachievable goal – there is so much to consider and a lot of administration to go through to get yourself and your boat on the water.

This simple guide will take you through the basics on how to buy a boat.

What type of boat is right for you?

Everyone has a different reason for buying a boat and different requirements. It is important to map out what you need and do your research before entering into a boat purchase. These as somethings to consider:

  • What type of waterway will you use it on? Different types of waterway require different boats. For example, canals are narrow and with speed restrictions, while open water or sea voyages will require large and powerful vehicles.
  • Different types of boat – same as above. What is right for your needs? The maximum length is particularly important in this.
  • Fixtures and fittings – Is your boat intended for short leisure cruises or are you intending on living on the boat for long periods? Consider what you need in both cases.

Where can I find a boat to purchase?

There are many places to find a boat to purchase both offline and on the internet, and the choice can be overwhelming at times. These are some of the places to look for your new boat:

  • Specialist magazines
  • Specialists websites – there are many different websites the focus on the sale of all types of boats such as Yacht World and Boats.com. Newandusedboat.co.uk specialise in narrowboats in the UK.
  • Second-hand listings sites
  • Marinas and boatyards – there are often boats available for sale directly where they are moored.
  • Brokers – these experts offer advice to boat buyers to ensure a quality purchase and that everything about the boat is safe and water-worthy.

    Brokers that are a member of associations will be bound by a code of practice. For example, if you are looking to buy a yacht look at members of the Boat Retailers and Brokers Association (BRBA) or Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents (ABYA).

Financing a boat purchase

Whatever boat you are buying it will require hefty investment and available funds. It is quite easy to raise finance from your own bank or building society, through to specialist boat financers which are regularly advertised in boating magazines.

You could speak to a finance broker that specialises in Boat and Marine finance and they will guide you through your options and often find you the very best finance deal for your boat purchase.

It is worth considering whether ownership or hiring is the right move for you. Weigh up the costs mentioned below before making a decision.

What are the costs of owning a boat?

The funds you need to own a boat don’t stop when you make the purchase, there are a lot of maintenance and running costs that you need to factor in when considering if and how to buy a boat.

  • On-going maintenance – Upkeep on engines and bodywork, as well as specialist maintenance jobs such as hull blackening can all add up.
  • Mooring costs – look into how much it will cost to park your boat.
  • Boat Insurance – There are specialist insurance companies for boat owners. For example, the Inland Waterways Association has teamed up with both Navigators & General and River Canal Rescue for a unique insurance offering that also supports charitable work.
  • Fuel – the bigger the boat the more it will guzzle.

What paperwork and legal requirements are there for owning a boat?

To be used legally all craft must meet the following requirements:

  • Cruising licence – To use your boat on canals and rivers you must obtain a cruising licence from the navigation authority concerned. Some bodies of water such as reservoirs will also have special licence arrangements. There is a Gold Licence available which enables you to use all Canal & River Trust and Environment agency waterways. Licences usually last for 12 months.
  • Boat Safety Certificate – To get hold of a licence you will need to get a Boat Safety Certificate. Similar to an MOT test for cars, these are handed out after a yearly inspection of the boat by a trained and listed examiner. The test covers the following:
    - Gas
    - Fuel
    - Safety Equipment
    - Electronic systems
    More information can be found at the Boat Safety Certificate and the Boat Safety Scheme.
  • A valid mooring
  • Boat insurance

There are different and further requirements for sea voyaging craft and in different world regions. Always do your research and ensure you have all the legal requirements in place for where you intend to use your boat.

What to check before buying a boat

You’ve done your research and found your dream boat. You’re ready to buy! But it is worth making some final checks before pushing the button on the purchase.

  • Check the boat bodywork
  • Check the electrical systems
  • Check the engine and mechanical systems

It is worth hiring an expert to give the boat a thorough looking over, especially if you are purchasing a second-hand boat. The description on the listing might not cover the boat correctly and the owner may not have done full checks before putting it up for sale. 

  • Check the owner’s paperwork – before making the purchase make sure that the owner can provide you with all the necessary paperwork and details to help you meet the legal requirements for running that boat.

Finally, always take the boat on a test journey before buying. This will help you see it in action and get a feel for the vessel on the water.

These simple tips should help you get the ball rolling on buying a boat.


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