How to Buy a Second Hand Boat

Posted on March 21, 2014 by Lee under Buying A Boat 1 Comment

Owning a boat is a real joy, and the rewards are many – exhilaration, relaxation, experience, romance, and endless incredible memories. But boat ownership requires time, money and patience.  

Your sights – and budget – may be set on a small trailer-able boat, or you may have the time and funds for a traditional narrow boat, or be thinking bigger with a river cruiser or an ocean-going yacht.  Whichever boat type you have in mind, you’ll want every assurance that you are making a good purchase, to get your hobby off to a good start.

To guarantee trouble-free, and cost-effective boating here is a step-by-step guide to finding the perfect second hand boat for you.

second hand boat

What do you really want?

You’ll know what budget you’re dealing with, but before you settle on a particular boat, spend plenty of time considering the exact size, type and age of boat you want to take on.

What you’re going to be doing with the vessel in question? Will you be boating on a lake, a river, or taking to the ocean? Will the boat be for long trips, weekend use, fishing, hunting, cruising, skiing, even racing? Are you happy to tackle DIY and maintenance yourself, or do you have the funds to use qualified engineers, boat builders and cleaning services over the years?

Other questions to ask yourself:

Are you thinking sail or motor? Do you want a fibreglass or aluminum hull? What length of boat will suit your needs? It’s even worth researching the type or brand of engine you’ll need, finding out how powerful, in horsepower, you need it to be. Do you want a hardtop cover, canvas, or none? What are your plans for storage and mooring?

 Where to find second hand boats

When it comes to used boats, you can buy from a Dealer who has taken boats in part exchange and now has them for sale, or you can buy from a Broker, who is selling boats on behalf of private individuals. You can also buy from private individuals who have chosen to sell their boat themselves. Online is a great place to begin searching for your ideal boat, as dealers, brokers and private individuals advertise independently and on specialist boat marketplace websites.

Buying from a Dealer or a Broker provides you with the assurance that all of the necessary paperwork and checks will be carried out, and a dealer may also offer a limited warranty. Buying from a private individual is slightly more complex and they may not necessarily know how to formalise the transaction to help protect yourself and them, so you just need to be a bit more wary.

Inspecting the boat

It is always a good idea to take someone with you to view any boats you’re interested in. On a first visit, ask about the year and make of the engine and boat hull, and what has been replaced or worked on in recent years. Also ask if they are the original owner, why they are selling, if the boat has been in salt water, and when was it last used. Enquire how it has been stored in the winter, and if it has had any major or minor problems fixed  – such as new wiring, crack in hull, replaced engine head – in recent times.

If you’re really interested in a boat, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) strongly recommends you employ a marine surveyor before committing to a purchase, whether buying privately or through a broker. This way any major structural problems will be revealed before you part with your hard-earned cash. A survey may cost you in the region of £500 for a 33ft boat, but this is considered very worthwhile, and the findings are likely to be useful when you come to negotiate on price.

The Yacht Brokers, Designers, and Surveyors Association website has a very useful ‘find a surveyor’ page.


Article supplied by, the leading European marketplace for buying and selling boats.


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