Some useful things to know about buying a boat

Buying a boat can be an expensive proposition and there are several things which should be considered carefully before making such an investment. There is an old saying; “The happiest 2 days of yacht ownership is the day you buy it and the day you sell it”. I am happy to say that I have found this not to be true and I hope that by employing some of the suggestions listed below, you too may be able to gain the same enjoyment from yacht ownership that I have.

1. Sail or Power
Many yacht owners are unhappy simply because they have bought the wrong boat. Give some thought to what kind of boat it is that you want. Are you after the challenges of a sailing boat, planning your passages around weather conditions and wind direction, trimming sails and the satisfaction of being at one with the elements. Perhaps you prefer the space and comfort of a powerboat, zipping across the water at 30 kots, wind in your hair and there in time for lunch. Both types of boat, sail and power, have their advantages and disadvantages some of these are listed below.

Advantages of a sailing boat
Lower fuel expenses
Lower environmental impact
More comfortable in rough weather
Able to undertake longer ocean passages
Not reliant on an engine that can go wrong

Disadvantages of a sailing boat
Bound by wind direction to some extent
Less internal volume than a powerboat of comparable size
Often less protected from the elements than a powerboat
Passage times can be considerably longer

Advantages of a powerboat
Fast passage times, there in time for lunch
Wind direction is less of an issue
Larger internal volume than a sailing boat
Often more protected from the elements than a sailing boat

Disadvantages of a powerboat
High fuel expenses
High environmental impact
Less comfortable than a sailing boat under way
Much less comfortable than a sailing boat in rough weather
A limited fuel range excludes extended ocean passages

2. Intended use
Consider what it is you intend to use your boat for. Are you looking to float around the river estuary on a Sunday afternoon, or do you intend to make longer passages up and down the coast or across to France, into the Mediterranean or even across the Atlantic? Is the boat intended for family use or perhaps racing, maybe both? Do you intend to charter your boat to help offset some of the costs of ownership? Do you have children? Does your partner enjoy boating as much as you? What are the facilities at your intended destinations, will you be sticking to marinas, or do you prefer the idea of secluded anchorages or getting lost up rivers? Give some thought to all of the items above as the answers to these questions, to a great extent, will help you to decide on factors such as size, number of berths, quality of build and performance.

3. Budget
Perhaps now it’s time to start thinking about your budget. Sadly we have to operate within the constraints of what we can afford but that doesn’t necessarily mean a small budget will only buy a small boat, if you are happy to consider older second-hand boats you will sometimes be surprised at what you can afford. Of course the larger your budget the greater your options, perhaps you could even consider buying new. Also, give some thought to quality, again the greater your budget the higher the quality you will be able to afford, often we find that higher quality built boats retain their value better than low quality boats.

4. Maintenance
Do you enjoy maintenance? I love it; I can honestly say that I gain as much enjoyment from maintenance and refurbishment as I do from the actual use of my boat. However, not everybody is like me and careful thought should be given to how much time and inclination you have for the maintenance of your boat. At the far end of the scale are wooden boats. To own a wooden boat you have to love maintenance or have very deep pockets to pay someone else to do it for you. Owning a wooden boat is a labour of love and hand on my heart, I can honestly say that I think varnish is beautiful… on someone else’s boat. At the very opposite end of the scale is glass reinforced plastic or GRP.  It is widely considered that GRP is an extremely practical material for yacht construction, low maintenance being among its many advantages. If low maintenance is what you’re looking for, consider not only the overall construction material but what else on the yacht may also require maintenance. Are there many on-board systems? Is there a wooden toe rail, which will require oiling or varnishing? Is there a teak deck that requires maintenance. Consider not only the time this maintenance will require but also the associated cost, if a little yacht maintenance on a Sunday afternoon is what you’re looking for, make sure you build the expense of this maintenance into your budget.

5. Mooring
Where do you want to keep your boat? Mooring fees differ dramatically from place to place and depending on what facilities you’re looking for. I always enjoyed the luxury of keeping boats in well protected marinas for ease of access as well as security, but this comes at a cost and may not suit everybody’s budget. Finding moorings is becoming increasingly difficult in sought after locations but cost is more reasonable and as accessibility and facilities diminish so does the price. Mooring your boat can be a large chunk of your annual budget so do some research and determine where you will keep your boat before you commit to purchase.

6. Begin your search
So now that you’ve identified the type of boat you want, how you want to use it and where to keep it, it’s time to begin your search. The Internet is a fantastic tool for this endeavour and there are a number of websites that I can highly recommend some of which are listed below:

Looking through pictures of boats for sale will begin to give you a more specific idea of the boat you are looking for and what your budget can afford.

If from the photographs you can see that the boat looks untidy, junk strewn about etc, the chances are that the owner’s attitude towards nice presentation photographs probably extends to his/her attitude for maintenance. I rarely survey an untidy boat to find that beneath all the untidiness she has been well maintained. Look for photographs of a nicely presented, tidy yacht.

You can use search filters to narrow down your search for factors such as price, size, number of berths, etc. Ultimately you will find your search has been narrowed down to only a few different makes or models. Now begin your research on these specific makes, again using the Internet to look for forums and discussions. Perhaps there will be owners associations you can get in touch with to learn more about the boat you are researching. Try to find other people who own the same boat and question them to death. Often you will find people are very happy to spend time talking about the boats they own and this information can be invaluable. You can also speak with brokers and other marine professionals such as surveyors like myself, this is our business and we are very happy to help guide you through this process.

Once you have found the boat you would like to view, arrange a viewing through the broker and set aside a decent amount of time to see the boat. Try and arrange to view the boat during good daylight hours when the defects will be more visible. Scratches on the varnish, worn floorboards etc. are much more difficult to see in the early evening when the sun is low, especially during the winter months. Also, the weather on the day of the viewing can make a huge difference to your overall impression, even surveyors will admit that they have to be careful not to undervalue boats they see on rainy days and overvalue those they survey when the sun is out.

If you like what you see don’t be tempted to make an offer there and then. Perhaps there are still more boats you want to see and you can now set what you have already seen as a benchmark. Having viewed some other boats, hopefully by now you will have found a boat you want to buy. If this is the case, contact broker again and arrange a 2nd viewing and a sea trial. If at the end of this 2nd viewing you’re sure this is the right boat then you can proceed to make an offer.

7. Check the documentation
Check the documentation associated with the boat you have chosen to buy. There may be a number of documents certifications and invoices for work done that you should check.

Recreational Craft Directive (RCD)
All recreational vessels placed on the market in the European economic area and built from 15 June 1998 onwards should comply with this legislation and penalties for not doing so are severe. The administrative requirements include marking with a CE plate, which defines the category in which the vessel has been placed. This plate should be located inside the boat somewhere fairly visible. In addition to this marking there should also be a technical file with a certificate confirming the vessel’s compliance.

Boat Safety Scheme (BSS)
If your boat is intended for use on inland waterways it will also have to comply with the boat safety scheme established in 1997 by the environment agency and British waterways to promote safety on the inland waterways in respect of boats, their installations and their components. If this certificate is not present and modifications need to be made to the boat for compliance, this can be a costly process. Remember, the boat safety scheme DOES NOT apply to boats which are not intended for use on inland waterways.

Check with the broker that the VAT has been paid; again there should be a VAT paid document associated with the boat. If you are importing a boat from outside the European economic area, consideration needs to be given to payment of this tax.

Invoices for work claimed to have been done
The broker’s details may well list a number of recent maintenance items or upgrades associated with the boat. Check for documentation that this work has been done and paid for. In the case of osmosis treatment, there will often be a five-year warranty, which may be transferable to a new owner at a small cost payable to the yard that undertook the work. It is often very worthwhile paying to continue this warranty to the end of the 5 year period.

8. To have a survey or not?
Assuming your offer is accepted you will be asked to pay a deposit of 10% of the agreed sum which will be held in the broker’s account and now have the option of proceeding to survey. You are under no obligation to employ a surveyor but given the large sums of money involved in the purchase of a boat, this is often considered a wise precaution. On completion of the sale, should you find a major defect, you will have no comeback on the broker or the vendor unless you’re purchasing new.

A comprehensive survey will be a detailed inspection of the boat out of the water. This survey should give you the confidence to proceed, or to withdraw from the purchase with a full understanding of the boats condition. Often a surveyor will find 1 or 2 items that may be costly to rectify or repair. Under these circumstances where perhaps even the vendor is unaware of the defects, a renegotiation can take place in consideration of the costs involved to rectify the defects found.

Assuming the results of the survey are positive the sale can proceed, and a final date for the completion of the sale can be identified. If however the survey reveals items which are not acceptable to the purchaser, and a renegotiation is not possible or desirable, the survey report can be used to illustrate the issues to the broker and a full refund of the deposit can be sought.

I hope the information above is of use and if there is any way that you feel Ocean Marine Surveys can be of assistance during the purchase of your yacht, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss how we can help. Good luck, fair wind and following seas.

Swan Boat