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29 Jan 2024

Buying a Boat FAQs

Haven Knox-Johnston Stand: G151
Buying a Boat FAQs
Brought to you by Haven Knox-Johnston boat insurance, in partnership with Promarine Finance, Boatpoint Boat Brokers and Ben Sutcliffe Marine Surveyor.

Buying a boat can be the culmination of a lifelong dream, but it doesn’t always go according to plan. Here are some of the most common problems that we hear about after someone has bought a boat, as well as ways to mitigate them:

Problem – I’ve found some structural issues

Defects are not always obvious to the untrained eye, and it may even be that the seller was unaware of the problem. There are also unscrupulous sellers who may try to hide defects during the sale - These may include structural issues, engine problems, or hidden accident damage.

How to avoid this happening: Undertake a vessel survey prior to purchase. Ensure that the marine surveyor that you instruct has a solid reputation within the industry.


Problem – I’m not sure about the history of the boat – I haven’t been given any documentation

Missing paperwork and unclear titles can create complications and delays in the buying process. It can also turn out that the seller wasn’t the rightful owner of the boat in the first place.

How to avoid this happening: Use a reputable broker – They will make sure that all the correct paperwork is available with a boat which will give you peace of mind. If formal documents are not available, consider what other ownership evidence exists, such as current and past insurance documents? If you are purchasing privately or the deal is complicated (for example an overseas purchase), it would be prudent to instruct a marine lawyer to carry out the necessary checks on your behalf. It can also be worth checking to see if your local broker offers a conveyancing service.


Problem – the boat has outstanding debt on it

If there are outstanding loans on the boat that were not settled during the buying process, they can become the responsibility of the new owner and the boat will still be security for the debt. This can be an unwelcome surprise if the market value has already been paid for the boat, putting the buyer out of pocket.

How to avoid this happening: Use a reputable broker who will carry out outstanding finance checks on any boat they are selling. If you are purchasing privately, again, it can be prudent to instruct a marine lawyer to carry out the necessary checks on your behalf.


Problem – The boat doesn’t meet expectations

The Seller may have unintentionally or intentionally misrepresented the condition or features of the boat.

How to avoid this happening: Use a reputable broker. They will make sure that the boat is advertised honestly – it is their reputation at stake. It’s always important to talk to the broker about the boat prior to travelling to view it. It may also be possible to do a video tour of the boat prior to a viewing.

Arrange a marine survey – this will highlight the condition of the boat.

Keep your expectations realistic - It is important to consider the age of a boat as well as price paid for it. Don’t expect a 10 year old boat to be in nearly new condition.


Problem – I can’t find a mooring for my boat

Moorings and marina berths, particularly in popular areas, are often in high demand with long waiting lists. You may need to venture further afield to find a mooring, resulting in the boat being used less due to the inconvenience of getting to it.

How to avoid this happening: Always research mooring availability prior to completion of the boat sale. Have a plan in place for getting the boat to its new mooring, and have a mooring confirmed. It is also worth speaking to your broker regarding moorings; they often work closely with marinas and can arrange for the current berth to be transferred.


Problem – I need to release equity in my boat, can I get a mortgage on it?

Yes. Although not all lenders will re finance an existing boat. Those that can, such as Promarine Finance, will want to know details about the boat and why funds are needed, for example to maintain or improve the boat or perhaps for other commercial reasons.


Problem – The running costs of the boat are higher than I expected

Annual costs for mooring, insurance, fuel and maintenance soon add up. These can feel particularly painful if you aren’t using the boat regularly.

How to avoid this happening: A reputable broker will be able to advise what the approximate annual costs would be to own the particular boat that you are interested in. Boat forums and owners associations are other excellent sources of information. Whether you purchase through a broker or a private sale, it’s always important to do your research prior to completion, and have a plan for meeting the running costs throughout the year.

Consider ways to generate income from your boat – potential ideas might be to offer charter services, boat club, boat based accommodation or even filming and photography! However, there is likely to be an initial set up cost if you are using your boat commercially – you may need to Code the vessel and change your insurance policy, amongst other changes.


Problem – I’m not using the boat as much as I thought I would

How to avoid this happening: It’s always important to sense check the type of boat you are looking to buy against your lifestyle, family commitments and plans for use. Discussing all these points with a broker will help you to identify the type of boat that would be most likely to fit your needs.

If your boat is lying unused for long periods, it may be prudent to consider keeping it out of the water to minimise wear and tear. You could also consider other ways for the boat to be used – such as setting it up for charter, boat club, boat based accommodation or even filming and photography! Note that there will be an initial set up cost if you are using your boat commercially – you may need to Code the vessel and change your insurance policy, amongst other changes.

As with all high value purchases, taking a cautious and informed approach can help mitigate potential problems and ensure a smooth boat buying process.



If you would like to find out more about the process of buying a boat, and how to avoid common pitfalls, tune into the Haven Knox-Johnston webinar on Thursday 8th February, with partners Promarine Finance, Boatpoint Brokerage and Ben Sutcliffe Marine Surveyor.

Click here to register

Can’t make the date? Don’t worry – we’ll record the webinar and upload it to our YouTube Channel. To be sent a link to the recording, please register for the webinar.

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