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  • Steven Foy

Buying a Used Boat

Updated: Feb 13, 2018

The purchase process and the importance of a survey


The Importance of a Survey

Boats are fun, beautiful and elegant, but they are expensive and complicated too. It is easy fall in love and buy with the heart instead of the head, and that can lead to unforeseen expenses, dissatisfaction and regret.


Boats are generally either bought direct from the vendor or through a yacht broker. Either way the purchaser has sole responsibility for checking the quality and condition of the boat. Although most brokers are association accredited and highly reputable, it is a simple fact that they primarily represent the vendor. Besides, a broker can only present the boat as it has been presented to them by the vendor.


A marine surveyor’s only responsibility is to his client, the purchaser, and he will provide a report detailing the actual condition of the boat. All good survey reports will be complete, clear and concise, well laid out with prioritised findings, sharp images and practical remedies.


If the vessel is found to be as advertised and expected, then all is well and the purchase can be completed with confidence. If not, then the purchaser has a tool to assist with either price renegotiation or to request repairs before completion.


From time-to-time a boat is found to be so bad that the whole purchase is abandoned. A detailed survey report means that there should be no contractual problems or difficulties reclaiming a deposit.


The Purchase Process

There are no hard and fast rules to buying a boat but the following process, as used by many brokers, makes good sense. Following it should help to minimise mistakes, purchase costs and unexpected post-purchase expenses:

  1. Use your experience and plenty of online research to decide on the type and size of the boat you’re after. Your budget should be carefully considered, not forgetting the ongoing costs of boat ownership. Mooring alone can run to many thousands per year.

  2. Long list some models and see what’s for sale – brokers of-course put their listings online, but some marina visits can be helpful. There are quite a few popular websites where direct sellers advertise their boats (ybw.com, boatsandoutboards.co.uk, apolloduck.co.uk, boatshop24.co.uk and many more).

  3. Short list a few boats and make appointments to view them. We offer an accompanied viewing service if you’re new to boat ownership and would like to have an expert with you.

  4. Start to make enquiries about finance, insurance, mooring and delivery if required.

  5. Pick one of your short list or keep looking. If one seems to be right for you, arrange a sea trial - though that’s not always possible, particularly if the boat’s ashore. Again, we offer an accompanied sea trial service if you’re new to boat ownership and would like an expert with you.

  6. Make an offer and negotiate until you come to an agreed price, subject to survey.

  7. All parties sign a purchase agreement that clearly sets out the price and what that price includes. If you’re buying through a broker, then they will be steering you through the process and will have their own contracts and paperwork. If you’re buying direct from a vendor, an agreement proforma can be downloaded for free from the RYA website (rya.org.uk). All agreements should be subject to survey.

  8. At this stage, most brokers and some private vendors will ask for a deposit of about 10% of the agreed purchase price. Deposits should only be paid if they are to be held in a dedicated and protected client account.

  9. Arrange a survey - call us on +44 (0)1590 673803 or drop us an email. The boat will have to be out of the water for the inspection. If the boat is afloat, most marinas offer a fairly inexpensive lift-and-hold service which can arranged at short notice. Under normal circumstances, the purchaser pays all the costs relating to the survey, including lifting the boat.

  10. Complete the purchase if the boat proves to be as expected, renegotiate the price or even abandon the purchase if she doesn’t.

As a rule of thumb, if the survey identifies necessary or unexpected repairs that are going to cost thousands of pounds to put right then some price renegotiation is reasonable. If repairs are going to cost more than 10% of the agreed purchase price, then a purchaser can either renegotiate the price or abandon the purchase altogether without loss of deposit.


And if all’s gone well, that’s that, she's all yours. Don’t forget that you’ll need to arrange mooring and insurance before you take possession.


Happy boating.

Allcraft Marine Surveys Ltd.

2 Silvretta Court, New Street, Lymington, SO41 9BQ, UK

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Registered in England   Company No. 10208136