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First Time Boat Buyer Mistakes: 9 to Avoid When Buying a Boat

There is no doubt about it that buying a boat is a major purchase, and not something to be rushed into. Talk to any boat owner, and they will have a lot to say about what they got wrong on their first (or even second and third) purchases and how hindsight is a wonderful thing. Learn from others and don’t go straight in without putting some serious thought into what you want out of your boat. Ultimately you want to enjoy your boat and the exciting new lifestyle it can offer you. Getting it right the first time around will make the entire journey more enjoyable…and save you looking back and wishing there were things you had done differently. We have compiled a list of the most common mistakes made by first-time boat buyers, so you can be one step ahead and make the best decision. 



luxury boats


1. Buying a Boat that’s Too Big

Bigger is not always better, especially when it comes to new boat owners, and buying a boat that’s more than your experience can handle is a common mistake. Be realistic about your skills – and keep in mind the increased monthly and annual costs of a bigger boat – and choose something you feel 100% confident in handling. You will be taking your friends and family out on your beloved new purchase, and if you don’t feel confident at the helm it will spoil the experience for you. While this applies to both motorboats and sailing yachts, it is particularly relevant to yachts as the skills involved in sailing them are more difficult to acquire. Start off with something which suits your needs, but doesn’t overwhelm you. 


2. Not Considering Future Needs

Ok, so we’ve recommended not getting a boat which is too big for your experience level, but the same applies to a boat which you might grow out of very quickly. We are referring mostly to motorboats here, where you might find that splashing out a little more initial outlay for an 18 or 20 foot boat might serve you better than settling for the slightly cheaper 16 foot model. Boats aren’t a cheap purchase and it’s easy and common to quickly outgrow your boat. Think ahead. If you have young children, consider that in a few short years your family will have different needs to right now. Make sure the boat you buy can handle the activities you’ll want to use it for, whether that’s fishing, water sports, weekend cruising or blue water sailing around the world


3. Not Budgeting Correctly

The initial purchase price of a boat is only the very beginning of its ongoing cost and it’s crucial that you budget carefully. Allow for annual expenses including marina and berthing fees, insurance and maintenance. The enjoyment in a boat is quickly lost when funding it becomes a headache, and by scrimping and not keeping up with maintenance schedules your asset will quickly devalue. Check out our guide to budgeting for your boat to get a deeper understanding of what’s involved. Read this before getting a boat or marine insurance - Boat Insurance or Marine Insurance Guide 


4. Not Doing Your Research

Buying a boat is one of the largest purchases you are likely to make, so it’s imperative that you know what you’re getting. Take your time before committing to understand the design of different models, their pros and cons, the shipyard and their strengths. Talk to people who have owned different models, and investigate the reputation of the dealers. When you’ve got a shortlist of boats you’re interested in be sure to research their resale values, especially if you’re purchasing a used boat. Websites such as Rightboat.com are a handy way to compare many examples of the same model of boat. Once you’ve chosen a strong contender, don’t rush into purchasing a used boat without thoroughly investigating its history and undertaking a professional survey.


Yachts moored


5. Financing for Too Long

Financing a boat is a good way to buy a high value asset and spread the cost over several years. It is tempting to look at the figures and low monthly marine mortgage repayments and spread them over a long period of time. Putting down a 10% deposit and then taking a mortgage for a long period of time is rarely a good idea because, differently to houses, boats depreciate in value. If the economy changes over time, luxury assets are harder to sell. You will be in a stronger position if you front a larger deposit and opt for higher monthly repayments over a shorter period of time. Read How to Finance a Boat


6. Not Considering the Style of the Boat you Will Use

Long before you start your search for a boat you need to sit down and carefully consider how you will use it. Do you want it for weekend cruising? If so, then it needs to have a cabin and galley. If it’s for day cruising, and entertaining family and friends on lakes or coastal waters, then opt for a model with plenty of decks and seating space. Once you start your search it’s easy to get swayed by boats which don’t fit your needs, so going in armed with a list of your needs will help you to whittle it down to the perfect choice. That being said, be open to suggestions from brokers who are hugely experienced in their field, but just don’t lose sight of what it is you know you need. 


7. Buying a Brand New Boat as Your First Boat

If you are new to boating then it can often make sense to buy a used rather than a new boat as you very first boat. Boating is a steep learning curve and rarely do we get 100% right the first time. Plus, as your experience levels grows you might want to more quickly upgrade your boat than someone who has been boating for years and knows exactly what they want from a brand-new boat purchase. A used boat will be more cost-effective and the depreciation will be less if you choose to sell again in a few years. An exception to this would be if you have been a member of a boating club and are familiar and experienced with a particular type of boat you like. 


8. Choosing the Wrong Surveyor

Despite brokers having a responsibility to disclose all information about a used boat, often they themselves don’t have all the information so it’s important to get your own pre-purchase survey done before committing to buying. A surveyor represents your interests, so it’s important that the one you choose is experienced in the type of vessel you are considering buying. Hiring a surveyor who specialises in sailing yachts to inspect a canal boat won’t do you any favours as their experience will be limited and issues might be missed. If your surveyor finds an issue of concern and recommends bringing in a specialist for a second opinion, take their advice. Spending a bit more now can save you a lot of money in the long run.  Do see also -  Understanding Marine Surveys


9. Thinking the Best Place to Buy a Boat Is at a Boat Show

Boat shows are a great place to see the latest models of boats, to feel swept up in a common passion for the boating world and yes, to get some bargains. But are boat shows the best place to buy a boat? The answer is…sometimes. Show only offers and a highly charged and competitive atmosphere between dealers can mean you bag a bargain on a brand-new boat. However, before making a purchase it’s a very good idea to see if a similar used boat might offer better value for money, or if you could get a better model for the same price. Like a new car, you pay a high premium for a brand-new boat. Check out websites such as Rightboat.com which offer thousands of used (and new) boats all across the world.


For one of the world’s largest selection of new and used boats sold by trusted and experienced dealers, visit Rightboat.com. We are always on the end of the phone to offer advice and guidance, whether you are buying your first or tenth boat. 



Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

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