7 steps to buy a boat (Boat acquisition 101)

Buying a sailboat or a motorboat can feel pretty scary. The chances are high that a boat acquisition will take a heavy toll on your wallet, whatever the price tag. We have been there and know how lost one can feel in the vast boat market. How frightening the price tags can be or how insecure one can feel after scrolling through long lists of sailboat offers filled with fancy sailing terms and boat measurements. But we made it and you can you buy a boat too! To make the whole thing a little easier and help you focus on the enjoyable part of choosing your floating home, we have put together a 7 step process that guides you through the messy procedure of buying the perfect boat.

Boats come in all shapes and colours. You can get them fresh and shiny from the boat manufacturer or find your lucky bargain abandoned in a boatyard. No matter what you are looking for, these 7 steps will bring you secure and happy to the end of the boat buying process.

1 – define what you need it for

First things first. Before opening the wallet or running to a boat broker, we need to determine what kind of boat we are looking for. Are you looking for a ketch, a motorboat or a regatta boat? It all comes down to what you intend to use the boat for. Do you prefer sportive sailing and do not care about a narrow bed? Then you probably will avoid classical blue-water sailboats and choose a nice sport-sailing boat. However, if you prefer island-hopping and enjoying nature instead of facing it, you will start looking for a lovely cruising sailing yacht. You do not like sailing at all? A motorboat will be the only option.

It can be challenging to determine what kind of boat you are searching read on here for more tips and tricks.

2 – Determine your budget

Size, model, manufacturer, age, technical upgrades, sail set up, and many more things will determine the price of a boat. If you are not sure yet how much money you should budget to get your dream boat, please download our “boatlife finance bundle”. It will guide you step by step to determine what kind of budget is needed to not only buy but maintain the sailboat of your dream.

cover page boatlife finance

how to budget for a boat?

3 – Research the market

With a boat and a budget in mind, it is time to dive into the boat market. Most of the boat market now happens online. There are multiple websites which list motorboats and sailboats and help you narrow down your search by filtering the offers. Start to get a feeling of how realistic your boat requirements are for your budget. Maybe you need to rethink your wishlist, or perhaps your budget can offer more than you thought. 

A dealer or a broker can be helpful. We started with a broker and then decided to look on our own. Our budget was already tight enough for the boat we were looking for. Read the full story here.

4 – boat visit and sea trails

Now the exciting part starts. Request a visit for those boats which spike your interest. We hope the description and pictures reflect reality but be prepared for disappointments as they not always do. If the overall feeling of the boat reflects your wishlist, take the time to look closely at the technical details. Check all those things you do not need a surveyor for, such as water in the bilge, rusty keel bolts, leaky windows, overall motor appearance, oil leaks, and does it have all equipment described in the listing. Keep a list of everything that is not as expected so you can use it in the upcoming negotiations. Also, try to understand why the owner is selling the sailboat and how he was treating the boat. You immediately spot if a person took care of his boat or if he just used it for partying on the coast.

Part of a boat visit could be a Sea trail. We recommend always having a sea trial, but a sea trial might be possible only after settling a pre-purchase agreement depending on where the boat is located.

5 – negotiations and pre-purchase agreement

Like with homes, buying a boat is a very personal and intimate experience. However, when it comes to negotiations, you need to leave your feelings on shore and channel your inner salesman/woman. You should have a good sense of the market and the boat by now. Take all that knowledge and negotiate the best price you can.

Usually, this phase concludes with a pre-purchase agreement, which outlines the selling price and the downpayment. Again depending on the country you are in, pre-purchase agreements can be easily dissolved or not. In general, the agreement should stand unless you find major structural damages to the boat during the boat survey.

6 – survey and final negotiations 

You’re almost there! Keep your fingers crossed and you will be a boat owner before you know it. 

Get yourself a picky surveyor who will diligently look at the boat. Our surveyor recommended to haul out the boat and let it dry on the hard for 10-12 days. The boat needed to be dry for him to be able make all the necessary assessments to determine the risk of osmosis, the state of the hull and many more things. The survey included also a sea trail to check the state of the motor, the sails and the funcionality of the rudder and autopilot.

Depending on the outcome of the survey, you can dissolve the agreement, renegoaiate the deal or finally become a boat owner.

But remember – by this time you already payed for the haul out, the storage and the surveyor.

7 – boat purchase

Ready to empty that wallet? For us it was the most expensive pruchase we ever made and I do not even know how to descirbe the combinations of feelings when we found our bank account depleeted. 

Depending on the pre-purchase agreement you have 5-30 days to buy that beautiful sailboat of your dreams. Remember to take care of all the necessary paperwork. The rules here depend a lot on the country the purchase is being made so we will not dive deep into legal matters. If you would like to have a closer look at how things work in the US read here, for information about Italy where we bouht the boat feel free to shoot as an email. 

We hoped you like the blog post and found useful information for yourself. If you don’t want to miss out on our next blog subscribe now to our newsletter or follow @whensailing on most social media platforms

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