How to buy a used boat: Everything you need to know to buy with confidence

Many buyers prefer to go secondhand as this gets you more for your money. Of course, you don’t get any control over the boat’s specification and unless you buy an approved used boat from a dealer there is rarely any warranty to speak of.

Most brokers sell both used stock – where the broker owns the boat – and brokerage boats, where they act as a conduit between vendor and buyer, much like an estate agent does during a house sale.

Only here, the broker also handles conveyancing and funds so performs the job of an agent and solicitor rolled into one. As the buyer, the broker will act on your behalf to communicate with the vendor and handle the paperwork and arrange a sea trial if it gets to that point.

On newer used stock an unconditional offer may be agreed. This is a seven-day agreement for when both buyer and seller want a quick sale. A conditional offer is a 30-day contract which allows the buyer time to survey and sea trial a boat.

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A marine survey, like a house survey, addresses the condition of the boat (though not necessarily its machinery, for which an independent engineer’s check may be prudent) and highlights any potential problems with the boat.

The buyer may use this information to ask for the issue to be rectified or to renegotiate with the seller. A deposit is usually taken before a sea trial.

How to buy a used boat on finance

You don’t have to buy a used boat outright, you can use finance and the most popular way of doing this is with a boat mortgage.

Since the 2008 financial crash there are fewer players in this sector than there used to be and most are only interested in lending to businesses or towards the purchase of larger, more expensive boats.

There are some companies out there that will lend smaller amounts of money, though, even sub-£25,000. A boat loan works in much the same way as a property mortgage with fixed and variable rate loans available, but the APR rates tend to be a little higher and the repayment terms usually have a 10-15 year maximum.

Boat mortgages can be applied to used boats, though some lenders may be reluctant to pay out if a boat is in disrepair or classified as unseaworthy.

First published in the May 2021 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting. Our Get Into Boating series is brought to you in association with Pantaenius.


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