So you've made the big decision and you've decided to buy your first boat. Follow the advice from first time buyers and established brokers to avoid the pitfalls

They say the best day of your life is buying your first boat.

Mind you, they also say that the second best day of your life is selling it!

If you are new to the world of boat ownership don’t panic! Buying your first boat doesn’t have to be a headache.

To start off, browse the thousands of sail and power boats. YBW’s Boats for Sale has lots of vessels for sale where you can find lots of ideas on models and costs. Take a look! You might find your dream boat.

What the brokers say

YBW speaks to Rhian Sewell, group brokerage manager at Ancasta to get her tips for first time boat buyers, which make up around 30-40% of their customers.

1. Type of boat

Sail or power? Catamaran or RIB? There are so many types of boats out there.

Before thinking of parting with any money, it is best to get as much advice and experience as possible. Take a sailing holiday, get out on a friend’s boat or charter a yacht for the day. See what boat really works for you.

Also consider the size of the boat you need. Do you have a growing family? Will the grandchildren be spending a lot of time on board?

In which case, you might need something with more than one cabin.

Before buying make sure it is the right boat for you.

A man looking at a boat at a show

Boat shows, like Southampton, are a great place to start looking for a new boat. Credit: onEdition

2. Budget/Financing

Decide your budget and stick to it. We find that many people have put a budget aside already.

A broker can offer marine finance options – just make sure they are FSA authorised. Remember qualified brokers have rigid protocols in place to protect your money and client designated accounts. We can also give advice and have the experience and negotiating skills.

Since the 2008 Financial Crisis, the number of people financing their own boat has dropped.

The price of brand new boats have also gone up because of production costs.

As a result, we find that the majority of people buying are in the 50-65 age range. Often, their children have left home, they are downsizing their house and so have extra cash to invest.

Those in their 30s and 40s tend to have higher financial commitments and generally buy boats under £35,000.

As we have a minimum fee for our brokerage services we don’t sell much for under £35,000, so consequently don’t see that end of the market, and this has certainly been noticeable since 2008.


3. Shared ownership

Shared ownership can help keep the costs down, and there can even be options for investment.

We work alongside a bespoke Swedish charter company which allows people to buy their boats and use it for certain days a year, while the company will charter it the rest of the time.


4. The legal bit

Buying a boat is not dissimilar to buying a home. You have a contract with agreement, terms and conditions etc.

Remember that the vendor must prove clear ownership.

They must have the title for the boat and show a VAT invoice to make sure the VAT on the boat has been paid.

Since June 1998, all new boats being sold in the UK must have a Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) – effectively a CE mark – which ensures the boat is built to a required standard.

We have come across some people who have bought in the US, shipped their boat over and then found it does not have an RCD. This can be done retrospectively but it will cost

A marina on the south coast of England

A marina is a good place to keep your boat. Credit: Bob Embleton/Wikimedia Commons

5. Extras

Customers should remember that around 10% of the value of their boat (a little less for sail boats as they don’t tend to have expensive engines) will be spent each year on mooring, maintenance and insurance.


6. Avoid a doer-upper boat

Generally, we advise first time buyers not to buy a boat that might need a lot of work, as they might not know what they are doing. Let’s face it, you want to spend your time enjoying your boat and not mending it!


7. Use a surveyor

Surveyors work for the people who hire them so use them as much as you can.

As well as verifying the condition and quality of the boat you plan to buy, it is also worth asking a surveyor for advice on boat buying procedures such as making sure the boat comes with a VAT invoice.

There is not much legislation around yacht brokerage and anyone can set up as one – they just need a mobile phone and a website.

Like any sector, there are unscrupulous sales people out there, so it is recommended that buyers use a recognised broker


What first time buyers say

Tom Gregory bought a Albin Ballard direct from the owner

A mother and child next to a yellow yacht

Tom Gregory’s Albin Ballard, Sundance, which he brought when his son, Vin, was just eight weeks old

Amazingly, Tom Gregory managed to persuade his wife, Louise that buying Sundance – an Albin Ballard – was a good idea – despite just becoming parents for the first time.

He admits he made “the fatal mistake of being enchanted by one particular type of boat” after seeing “a very clean Albin Ballad” in Plymouth.

Despite this, Tom decided to do some research. He knew if he “wanted to make a sailor out of my wife”, he would need some basic creature comforts “like standing headroom and a proper head”.

The former dinghy sailor, who has plans to cross the Atlantic solo one day, also factored in the possibility of a growing family, and that he wanted to distill a love of sailing to his children.

Like many young couples, they had been saving towards a house deposit, but with prices increasing, decided that it was time to buy a boat.

Only a few Ballads come on the market in the UK each year, so Tom looked initially at online classifieds, forums and owners’ groups in the UK before widening his search to Europe. In the end, he posted a wanted advert on a Facebook yachting buy and sell page and was contacted by a Ballad owner in South Wales – only a few hours’ drive from Tom’s landlocked home in Shropshire.

“I met the owner of Sundance at Newport and Uskmouth Sailing Club and made my second mistake, falling head over heels with Sundance as soon as I saw her. I decided with my heart if the mast step, rigging, sails and engine were good and the owner was being realistic in it’s value I would buy her,” he recalls.

And buy her he did, although he soon faced another stumbling block – he had nowhere to keep his new yacht.

Initially he planned to moor the boat in North Wales, but having looked around Newport and Uskmouth Sailing Club he decided to keep it there.

Tom advises anyone looking to buy their first boat to “research it, speak to owners, find out the problems and keep an eye on the market to see what they’re selling for”. He also recommends factoring in the cost of all the equipment, and getting a handover sail from the owner.

And what was the one thing he wish he had known before parting with his cash?

“I wish I had found and joined the club beforehand, I would have found plenty of people needed crew, so much so it’s possible I could have done all the sailing I wanted without actually spending any money on a boat! In reality though, I wanted to own my own boat, my own sanctuary something that could take me anywhere on all the adventures I wanted, and it was mine. They say an Englishman’s house is his castle, well mine is my boat,” said Tom.

Continued below…

Roy Burgess bought a Aquastar 38 motor boat from a broker

A lady wearing a life jacket enjoying a day out on a motor boat

Roy’s wife, Debbie enjoy cruising on the Aquastar 38

Despite a strong sailing yacht background, Roy Burgess decided to buy a motor boat

The nephew of Nigel Burgess, who tragically lost his life competing in the 1992 Vendée Globe, Roy grew up sailing Hunters, but thought a motor boat “would be easier to handle and frankly a little more comfortable”.

He admits that “the transition from boat handling 1980s sailing technology to a 38ft twin screw motor yacht was a little harder than I had anticipated but a short course with Julie from Mendez Marine helped enormously.”

His wife, Debbie had sailed on holiday in the Mediterranean, but the couple had never previously sailed in UK waters.

Like many budding new boat owners, Roy searched the internet to find his ideal boat, including appealing to YBW forum users.

Eventually they decided that either a Marex or Nimbus would suit their needs, and did further research by ordering some back copy sea trial reports from Motor Boat and Yachting.

Left unimpressed after looking at a Marex 370 in the Netherlands, they decided to look at a Nimbus at the brokers James Dickens Marine Ltd.

They also spotted a 2002 Aquastar on the firm’s books, and eventually, after looking around both boats, the Aquastar claimed their hearts.

Just a week later, the boat was featured in the December issue of Motor Boat and Yachting.

Of the purchase of his first boat, Roy says: “We ended up spending slightly less than we had been prepared to on the purchase but have probably spent rather more than we anticipated on upgrades and general work.”

“I wish I had know how to find a really good surveyor and how expensive teak decks are to keep in good order,” he adds.

His advice to first time buyers is “don’t expect perfection or something that exactly matches your requirements”.

“You’ll probably find that your ‘requirements’ change after you get sea time in anyway.  An 80% solution now is better than a 100% solution never,” adds Roy.

Mike and Ann Perkins bought a new Bavaria 34 from a broker

A couple on board a Bavaria 34

Mike and Ann Perkins knew they wanted to spend their weekends and holidays sailing and not working on a boat so decided that buying a brand new yacht was the right option for them.

Originally they wanted the Bavaria 37, and were planning to buy in Euros, but the Brexit decision and the change in the exchange rate meant it just became too expensive.

Initially, the couple had visited several boat shows to try and find the right boat for them, deciding that a Bavaria would best meet their needs.

They had already made contact with broker Martin Bunker from Clipper Marine at both the Southampton and Poole Harbour Boat Shows, exchanged many emails and had several meetings with him at Swanwick while trying to weigh up whether to go for a Bavaria 37 or a 34.

Once Mike and Ann decided against the 37 for both finance and size reasons, they looked at the Bavaria 34 “stock boat” at Clipper Marine. It had 90% of the factory options the couple wanted.

It also had another benefit, as Mike explains.

“As it was a “stock boat” that Clipper had ordered and presumably paid for and was sitting on the hard I got a better deal than one that was factory ordered. That meant I could order more extras,” he said.

Buying new also meant that Mike got added peace of mind.

“I am a ‘mechanical pygmy’ so wanted something with a warranty and new everything rather than have to start refitting and changing. Also, as I still work I didn’t want to spend weekends working on it rather than go sailing on it.”

Prior to buying, he read Yachting Monthly boat reviews , spoke to sales reps and got advice from friends, with one advising “against buying an older boat, paying for it to be upgraded and then wishing you had bought new at the end of it.”

And the one thing he wish he had known before laying down his money?

“The ‘other bits’ are a lot more expensive than I had considered, extended Volvo warranty, extra life jackets, fenders, PLB, plastic plates etc etc. The list went on and on, and I would think (it cost) another £3k – £4k on these bits alone.”

Ultimately, if you’ve made your mind up and you are ready to start your new journey and buy your first boat, Mike’s advice couldn’t be simpler: “Do it”!