Home » News and Articles » Blog Post » Buying and Selling » How to Buy a Boat: A step by step guide for first-time buyers

How to Buy a Boat: A step by step guide for first-time buyers

It's an interesting time in the market now and boats are hot property. High demand and short supply leads to inflated prices, here's what you need to know.
palm beach motoryachts

Shopping for your next boat?

It’s an interesting time in the market now and boats are hot property. High demand and short supply leads to inflated prices, here’s what you need to know.

The basic steps are:

  1. Choose your boat type

  2. Decide whether to buy new or used

  3. Browse listings, work with a broker, or attend a boat shows to find suitable vessels

  4. Make a shortlist

  5. Inspect the boats on your list and choose

  6. Close the deal

How do you Envisage Spending time on the Water?

The first question to ask is: “What kind of boating would I like to do?” Getting clear on the reasons you want a boat will make it much easier to choose one.

Boats are specialised for different purposes, so do some research. You wouldn’t buy a hatchback to drive across the desert – and you shouldn’t buy a 14ft tinny to host a family of 5.

So… Does Size Matter?

  • Do you want a boat you can transport on a trailer or are you considering keeping a launch or yacht in a berth or at a marina?

  • Are you game fishing? Sailing? Maybe you want to tow your kids around a lake on a sea biscuit. Pick for purpose.

  • Will you ever sleep on the boat?

  • Do you plan on going offshore and on long passages?
How you answer these questions along with your budget will determine the type of boats you should consider.

Remember that each boat type will require different amounts of time and money to enjoy properly. For example, a trailerable boat saves you money on dockage and winter storage, but you’ll need a suitable tow vehicle. By contrast, a boat waiting on the water allows for quick getaways however you can’t nip over to the other coast for a hot martin bite.

Should I Buy New or Used?

There are lots of used boats out there, and you can save a lot of money buying second hand. Fibreglass and aluminium don’t rot the way wood does, so modern boats last a long time. If you don’t know your way around caring for an old timber boat – it may not be the best choice.

But, just like buying a used car, there are risks to buying a second-hand boat. Check out Should You Buy a New or Second Hand Boat to avoid some common issues.

Get the right advice. There’s trusted advisors like Yacht Consultants who can act as a buyers rep and assist you through a purchase.

Get online. Read reviews. Ask “that boat guy” in your friends group.

Ready to got boat shopping? The best place to start these days is online. You can compare models, prices, and even take virtual tours of vessels – all without getting out of your chair.

Try not to buy “sight unseen”. Make sure you do your due diligence, ask for service history. It’s a good idea to ring the service agents as they can often give insight to a vessels history.

Get a second opinion from an unbiased owners rep. Have the correct paperwork, sale and purchase agreement, agreed inventory lists and any related registration documents. If the seller says “make an offer” it means they’re motivated, it’s not on invitation to offend them with a low offer.

Read: Thinking about Buying a Second Hand Boat? A Comprehensive New Zealand Guide

How to Inspect a Boat

It’s essential you do a thorough inspection of any boat before making a purchase —especially if the price seems too good to be true. Start by doing a thorough visual inspection, including a walkthrough to see the state of the cabin and controls.

Next, go for a sea trial to see how the boat handles on the water. Pay close attention to everything from launching the boat to how she steers at speed, and be careful not to get swept up in the excitement. Rose-tinted glasses are not your friend when making a big purchase so consider bringing along a ‘boatie’ friend to help assess things with a cool head.

After the sea trial, it’s best if you have the boat hauled out of the water and checked closely by yourself a surveyor before buying. If the boat was afloat during the first parts of your inspection, the water may have hidden crucial issues.

It’s generally best to hire a surveyor, and essential if the boat is 30 feet or longer. Most insurance companies require a recent survey, and you’ll quickly learn whether you’re looking at the boat of your dreams or a floating nightmare.

Find Out What’s Included With the Boat

Make sure you know exactly what’s included with your purchase. You don’t want to shell out only to find a feature you loved was an added extra!

Reputable sellers should provide an equipment list that tells you exactly what you’re getting.

You may be able to get a package deal, or select amenities yourself. Even if you choose the package, it’s unlikely you’ll have everything needed to start sailing – make sure you’ve budgeted for things like a trailer or GPS system.

Closing the Deal

Buying a boat is like buying anything else: the more smitten you seem with a vessel, the higher the price will rise.

We get that buying a boat is a thrill, but it’s important to set emotion aside while negotiating.

Do price comparisons and don’t appear too keen to sign on the dotted line – take your time to check the paperwork, make sure any faults found during the inspection are taken into account, and think about your budget.

For private sales, you also need to see proof of ownership – people do sell stolen boats, after all – and make sure there aren’t any outstanding bills or liens against the vessel.

Need assistance? Get in touch.

marine directory

Sign up to receive exclusive industry offers!