Buying a second-hand boat

Top tips and advice to help you make the best purchase. As autumn comes many of us start to think about whether to change our boat or take the plunge with a first purchase and with a number of used boat shows taking place in the coming month it’s a good time to be looking.

Top tips and advice to help you make the best purchase.

Buying a secondhand boat

As autumn comes many of us start to think about whether to change our boat or take the plunge with a first purchase. However, like any purchase, and in particular with large investments such as buying a boat, it is always advisable to ensure that you know what you are getting for your money.

Rarely a week goes by without the RYA’s legal team receiving a query from a member wanting advice on buying a second-hand boat.

Gus Lewis Head of Legal and Government Affairs: “The queries we receive are very wide-ranging, varying from what documents should cover the boat, VAT and whether the Recreational Craft Directive applies or not to Bills of Sale and advice on surveys, insurance, registration, finance and syndicate agreements”.

Buying a secondhand boatWhere do you start?

So, the picture may look great on the website, the ad in the magazine may be glowing but how can you really get to the bottom of what whether it is a sound investment?

“Although the law does offer some limited protection to buyers of second-hand boats sold privately the general rule of thumb is ‘caveat emptor – buyer beware’” comments Gus.

So, as a buyer you need to know what questions to ask and what paperwork to look for.

Top 10 Things to Think About When Buying a Second-hand Boat:

1) Is your offer subject to survey or sea trial?

2) Has the deposit been agreed?

3) Has the seller been established as the owner and provided ownership documents?

4) Does the seller guarantee clear title?

5) Have you agreed and seen all the equipment included in the sale?

6) Have you found a suitable marine surveyor to check the boat, its engine and equipment included in the sale?

7) Have you arranged insurance?

8) Is the boat currently mortgaged and if so how will that be paid off before completion?

9) Are you using an appropriate contract?

10) If a sale sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Buying a secondhand boat

Have a written contract

It is advisable that a written contract is used in any purchase or sale. The RYA provides a model Agreement for the Sale and Purchase of Second-hand Boats that lays down the common terms and conditions relating to the sale and purchase of a boat.

For the majority of private boat sales of a British registered or unregistered boat, this model Agreement, which presupposes the buyer will be having a survey carried out, should be sufficient.

If a survey isn’t planned, has already been conducted, or if the boat is particularly expensive or the sale complex, then it may be necessary to make amendments to the agreement, possibly with legal help RYA members can download a comprehensive RYA Sale and Purchase Pack, including a step-by-step guide to buying and selling a boat, from the RYA website, as well as a Buyer Beware leaflet running through the normal pattern of a sale and covering common problems and pitfalls that arise like checking if the seller is the owner and establishing whether or not there is a marine mortgage or lien on the boat.

Buying a secondhand boat

They also have access to free legal advice, whether it is speaking to someone directly about a specific query or taking advantage of the extensive RYA website content tackling every step of boat buying.

The RYA legal team has equally extensive resources and experience to assist with selling, buying a new boat, buying or selling through a broker or buying or selling abroad.

To find out more about how RYA membership could benefit you in buying or selling a boat visit