Boat buying made easy

Are you thinking of buying a boat? A busy second-hand market gives boat buyers and sellers reason to exercise caution, so here are some top tips to help smooth the process…

Boats for sale dry dock

Beware of any hidden ‘extras’

The picture looks great on the website, the ad in the magazine may be glowing but how can you really know it’s a sound investment? Along with the obvious considerations such as type of boat and budget, you should also consider ongoing running costs. This includes insurance, maintenance, bills and mooring fees, which can be a considerable amount of money each year.

If you’re buying new, any ‘extras’ may increase the cost well above the list price. If you buy second hand either though a broker or privately, we strongly recommend getting the boat surveyed after viewing it and having your offer accepted. The report may identify problems that justify renegotiation of the price.

Ownership of the vessel

There are certain considerations when buying a boat second hand, one of which is establishing the ownership of the vessel.

There’s currently no legal requirement to register boat ownership, meaning many are unregistered. Because of this, proving the person selling the boat has the right to do so can be difficult. People needing a marine mortgage need to register under Part One of the UK Ships Register and include supporting evidence. Registry under Part Three - the Small Ships Registry does not give legal proof of ownership.

Man and woman stood talking on finger pontoon.

Know your rights

If you’re buying and selling a boat privately, members can use the RYA’s ‘Agreement for Sale and Purchase of Second Hand Boat” and template for the Bill of Sale.

If you’re buying a boat through a broker, they should provide their own sale and purchase agreement.

It’s also important to establish the VAT status of the boat either in this country or abroad. This is complicated but we have produced detailed guidance to help.

Sea Trial

Once you’re satisfied with the documentation, you can arrange a sea trial to test the waters with your potential new boat. Always review the Sale and Purchase Agreement carefully to ensure that you can withdraw from the sale. This can save you time and money if the boat does not match your expectations during the sea trial or after the survey.

Does it comply with Recreational Craft Regulations?

Boat for sale dry dock

It’s important to ensure the boat is compliant with the Recreational Craft Regulations (RCR) if the boat is the UK, or the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) if in the EU. The requirements have changed and it’s likely that if you buy a boat in one territory and export it to another, it will need to undergo a post construction assessment.

Information on this is in our RYA RCR and RCD Guide for Boats.

Top things to think about when buying a second-hand boat

  1. Are you using an appropriate written Agreement?
  2. Is your offer subject to survey or sea trial?
  3. Has the deposit been agreed? And in what circumstances is it refundable?
  4. Has the seller been established as the owner and provided ownership documents?
  5. Does the seller guarantee clear title?
  6. Have you agreed and seen all the equipment included in the sale?
  7. Have you found a suitable marine surveyor to check the boat, its engine and equipment included in the sale?
  8. Have you arranged insurance?
  9. Is the boat currently mortgaged and if so, how will that be paid off before completion?

Here to help

The RYA legal team offers expert advice for RYA members in relation to buying and selling a boat privately or through a broker.

For further information and resources on buying and selling a boat visit our knowledge hub or pick up the 'RYA Boat Buyers’ Handbook’ eBook.

Not a member? Find out how an RYA membership could benefit you in buying or selling a boat.