When buying a boat there are some key steps you should follow to make sure you get the perfect boat for your needs. Here you'll find Motor Boats Monthly's top tips to buying a boat.

Set a budget
Before you set foot on a single deck you need to think about how much money you want to spend on buying a boat. This might be a monthly repayment or simply an amount of money you are prepared to invest in your hobby.

It might well change as you start your search but you have to narrow the market somehow and price is an easy way to do it. It’s worth remembering that if costs get out of hand it’s very difficult to have fun, and fun is why you’re here.

Costs to consider

  • Boat purchase price / monthly repayments
  • Moorings – approx £350 per meter per annum ie 10m craft costs £3500 pa
  • Fuel
  • Servicing – approx £500 per engine per annum
  • Maintenance and lift out from £500
  • Insurance
  • Survey report

Buying a boat advice: which type of boat to choose?

Choosing a boat type

The market can be broken down into several different types of craft. Open day boats, cruisers, flybridge and fishing boats and trawlers. But before you get to design types you need to ask yourself how and where you will be using the boat.

River and coastal boats are designed for different tasks, if you know you are going to spend a couple of years on the river you will enjoy the experience a whole lot more if the boat you are on is designed for that job. Boats, especially second hand models, do not necessarily lose money all that quickly so you can afford to buy the right craft and change your boat along with your cruising style.

Ask yourself

  • Where will I use the boat and for how long?
  • How many people will be on board?
  • Will we (all) overnight on the boat?
  • How agile are the crew, is deck access a priority?
  • Do I want to be sheltered or out in the elements

Any boat is, in theory, a dayboat, that is a boat you can send the day on. But what we really mean here is a smaller open craft, possibly with a small cuddy cabin, that is designed for harbour and inshore use. These can be of any speed and be powered by inboard or outboard engines. Smaller, lighter boats are perfect for trailing and are therefore easier and cheaper to maintain with home storage an option.

The most popular form of cruiser, a boat that offers a degree of interior accommodation, these fast, stylish craft can start from smaller, trailable sizes and run up to large, multi-million pound vessels. Almost always inboard powered, vessels over 30ft can offer hardtop option for the cockpit. For families, craft over 24ft can usually sleep four.

The idea of placing a flying bridge atop of a wheelhouse has been around almost as long as the motorboat itself but in the last 20 years this versatile design has really taken off. The winning mix sees a sheltered, comfortable accommodation on the deck level, usually including a lower helm position and a separate upper deck for a more exposed and exciting experience.

Aft cabin
As the name suggests, these boats work in a cabin in the stern of the boat in place of a cockpit. This delivers more and very private accommodation away from the forward interior sections. A usual bi-product of this design is a raised aft deck where seating and an outside steering position can be sited.


The classic motorboat design delivering a sheltered steering position and saloon on the deck level. Practical in nature, modern design now builds in more light and access in the form of cockpit and side deck doors and overhead hatches and sunroofs.

Boat shows like the Southampton Boat Show are a great place to get a taste of dozens of different boats in one place.

If you want to research the different types of boat you can search the YBW Boats for Sale website, where you’ll find plenty of opportunities to look around models or even buy a boat.

Buying a boat advice: market research

You have considered your budget and type of boating, now use the internet and magazines to research what’s on offer when buying a boat.

It’s important to be practical about your boating choices but you have to like what you see, so make a note of the brands that appeal stylistically.

Here are some recommended sources for your market research:


In print

  • Motor Boats Monthly – Focus is practical boating, with honest and comprehensive tests of new
    and used craft from sportsboats and RIBs, right up to 60-footers.
  • Yachting Monthly – Yachting Monthly is at the heart of the British yachting market and is
    for people who actively sail their boats – whether cruising across the
    channel, around the coast or further afield in blue waters.
  • Motor Boat & Yachting – MBY’s boat tests are acknowledged as the most authoritative in the business and its technical coverage is without equal.
  • Yachting World – Yachting World is the most widely distributed and most international sailing magazine in the world, reaching over 100 countries.
  • Practical Boat Owner – Practical boat maintenance advice and boat reviews from the UK’s biggest selling boating magazine.

Buying a boat advice: get on the water

Once you have a feel for the boats and brokers that offer what you want, it’s time to get out on the water and test your sea legs before you buy a boat.

Pictures may tell a thousand words but there is no substitute for getting up close and personal with a boat.

There are a number of options for getting out on the water. For example, you might decide to charter a boat for a weekend or more. This way you’ll really get a feel for what owning a boat will be like and if you go with family and friends, get an idea of how much space you need.

However, if you’re set on a boat then get down to your local broker for a test run on your boat of choice. Once you’ve found a broker or two that you feel comfortable with, you can keep an eye on all their new boats here – just use the broker search option.

Buying a boat advice: paperwork and history

If you’ve found the boat of your dreams you’ll be feeling elated and be keen to get on with buying a boat. Don’t.

If it’s a used boat deal, sit down with the broker or seller and ask about paperwork such as proof of ownership, service history and other such boring matters. Paperwork is not why you buy a boat but it might well help you sell it later on.

Documents to ask for:

  • Bills of sale
  • Proof of VAT paid
  • Engine service history

Buying a boat advice: Offer and deposit

If the paperwork looks good you can now make an offer and buy a boat. There are no rules here. You offer what you think is a fair price based on your research. As a buyer, you don’t want to pay too much, but equally a very hard offer may harm any future negotiations.

This is also the time to check on the inventory of the boat, what is staying and what is going. Items like the tender and navigation equipment are costly to replace. Remember that your offer is subject to survey or any other terms you may wish to work to.

For new boat sales you need to come to an agreement on the total cost including optional extras, delivery and commissioning.

Once an agreement is reached a deposit, usually 10% of the total price, is put down.

Buying a boat advice: Survey

Unless you are a qualified marine engineer or just very lucky, you need to call in a surveyor on most boat purchases before you buy a boat.

Boats are fairly complex machines whose components and overall build need to be professionally scrutinised. The purpose of a survey is not to nit-pick and chip away at the offer price, it is to avoid a bad boat, one that will require serious and on going remedial work.

Other, more serious or expensive issues or faults can be discussed and the offer price negotiated accordingly.

Surveys predominantly form part of a used boat deal but can be employed for new boat sales.

Buying a boat advice: Demonstration and sea trial

It’s important to get a demonstration and sea trial when you’re looking to buy a boat. Two things are very rare with demonstrations or sea trials. One is to get a demo before an offer is made, the other is for the demo itself to uncover a potential deal breaker.

But there is much to take note of during a sea trial. Remember to look in the engine bay before and after the demo so you can check on leaks.

Engine and handing checks

  • Is the engine hitting max revs?
  • Is the performance of the boat as described?
  • Is there excessive smoke after the engine has warmed up?
  • Is there any obvious vibration?
  • Are the gearshifts and steering easy to use?
  • Does the navigation equipment work (surveyors will not check electronics)

Buying a boat advice: Payment

Once you have decided to buy a boat its time to pay.

If using a broker, you will pay them and sign a sales contract. Once the monies are cleared the boat is yours and you should receive all the relevant documentation and proof of title.

  • Private sales

The key here is to agree on and draw up a clear contract between you, detailing the parties involved, the boat and hull number and them sums involved. If and when you come to sell the boat on this paperwork will be vital.

  • New boat sales

Many new boat sales will be made up of a simple deposit and then the balance upon delivery. Others will be made up of stage payments, an example being a 10% deposit and then three payments of 30% as the boat’s build progresses.

You should expect a hand over and demo on the boat prior to the final payment being made.

  • Client accounts

If working with a broker or dealer, you should ask whether monies paid will be placed in a client account, rather than a trading account.

Buying a boat advice: Have fun!

Once you’ve got your new boat why not share your experiences on the YBW forums? The forums are a great place to meet like-minded boat enthusiasts and if you run into any problems or are thinking about upgrading your boat, the PBO Reader to Reader forum is a great place to pick up practical boating advice.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Buying a boat advice: which type of boat to choose?
  3. 3. Buying a boat advice: market research
  4. 4. Buying a boat advice: get on the water
  5. 5. Buying a boat advice: paperwork and history
  6. 6. Buying a boat advice: Offer and deposit
  7. 7. Buying a boat advice: Survey
  8. 8. Buying a boat advice: Demonstration and sea trial
  9. 9. Buying a boat advice: Payment
  10. 10. Buying a boat advice: Have fun!
Page 1 of 10 - Show Full List