Getting into boating

The Motor Boats Monthly guide to buying your first boat - plus berthing, budgeting and other essential information

Looking to buy your first boat? Let MBM walk you through the options.

Boats are often purchases of the heart but that doesn’t mean you can’t be logical and considered in many of the choices you make. In addition to the boat itself, you will also need to consider berthing, insurance, training and equipment.

Instead of finding a boat first and then trying to fit everything else around it, start by narrowing down key elements. Where you will use the boat? How often that will that be? Who will be on board? And what is your budget? – not just for the boat but for the annual running costs that come with it.

What are the options?

Yearly boat running costs ÷ boat use = true boating value. This is a sum that most boatowners only do when they are buying or selling a boat but these days there are many alternatives to outright purchase.

Boat membership
Similar to a gym membership, you pay a joining fee then a fixed monthly sum to use a boat. The current trend is to offer six or seven memberships per boat and one owner member. This equates to about seven slots of usage per member a month consisting of times at a weekend, week and evening booked ahead using an online calendar.

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Terms differ but RIBs cost about £300 per month, a 30ft sportscruiser will set you back about £750 per mouth and £1000 per month for a 40ft cruiser. All you pay for is fuel, so if you only want occasional use this could be for you.

Boat share
Fractional or syndicate ownership divides the cost of purchase, ownership and maintenance between part owners. The system makes arranging whole weekends or weeks away a lot easier and is usually managed by an online calendar.

Chartering is a very simple option but quite often proof of competence is required.

In more popular areas, consider finding a suitable mooring first and then buy the boat to fit.

Dry berthing / dry stack
Dry berthing is available for boats less than 12m (39ft). The boat is kept out of the water and launched by the yard when requested.

Marina berths
Dedicated pontoon berth and the use of the marina facilities, like shops, restaurants, electricity, water and some contracts include free nights at other marinas within the same group.

Swing moorings
If you don’t require a walk-ashore berth, mooring buoys, piles and river pontoon moorings are a more affordable.

Many boat clubs have moorings for their members and these are offered at very reasonable rates.


Depending on size, a boat can be stored at home and trailed when required. The benefits are low cost, an extended cruising area as it can be trailed anywhere and accessible maintenance. The cons are the extra hassle of trailing, trailer servicing costs, launching, recovery, trailer parking and inconvenience.

What can I tow?
– A vehicle over 3.5 tonnes can tow a trailer no bigger than 2.55m wide x 12m long. The overall length of the vehicle and trailer must not exceed 18m.

– A vehicle weighing 3.5 tonnes or less can tow a trailer no bigger than 2.3m wide x 7m long. The overall length of the vehicle and trailer must not exceed 18.75m.

Budgeting for a boat

If it is your first boat buy something that is in reasonable condition and is ready to run and enjoy makes sense. Boats which require ‘a little TLC’, are to be considered carefully as any potential saving on the purchase price could be lost on the cost of remedial work, so do your research on costs.

Running costs
Look beyond the direct purchase and survey costs and consider the ownership fees, such as mooring, storage, servicing, fuel and insurance. Where you boat will make a vast difference – the annual running costs of a 30ft cruiser moored in a south coast marina will be about £10,000, reducing to perhaps £5,000 if it’s moored elsewhere.

Marine finance
If you want to raise funds for a boat purchase you could get an unsecured loan or a marine mortgage. Unsecured loans are generally used for smaller boats or sums up to £25,000 and are available from specialist marine lenders as well as banks, supermarkets and price comparison websites.

Insurance and documentation

There is no national requirement in the UK to take out insurance but when it comes to mooring up marinas and mooring operators require you to have £2,000,000 public liability and third part liability. If the boat is financed, there will often be a requirement for insurance of the vessel.

– 22ft (7m) sportsboat worth £20,000
Annual premium £250-£300

– 30ft (10m) sportscruiser worth £60,000
Annual premium £400-£500

You should have the following documentation otherwise it can be very difficult to sell the boat afterwards or take it overseas.

– Vessel registration
– Builder’s certificate
– Bill of sale
– RCD compliance
– Proof of VAT-paid status

On used boats, ask for service history receipts as these come in handy for your records and when the boat is sold.


So long as the boat isn’t used for commercial gain and it isn’t carrying paying passengers then there is very little regulation on the amount of equipment until the boat is over 13.7m(44m). The standard equipment required will depend on the vessel and how it is going to be used.


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