If you’re considering buying your very first boat then it makes sense to start off small and work your way up. For many first time buyers they look for something uncomplicated to handle, spacious enough for all the family, in good condition and easy to maintain. The good news is that there are many used boats on the market which tick all of these boxes and have price tags which are manageable. Before deciding on a budget for your boat, it’s important to do your homework and calculate the running costs too. There are berthing fees to pay, maintenance, fuel and insurance to name a few. See our guide to budgeting for a boat and work out what fits comfortably within your financial situation.
All the prep work done, and it’s time to start looking for your boat. There are many ways to find your next boat but one of the most instant and competitive is to use online boat marketplaces such as Rightboat.com. Enter your search parameters including geographical location, budget and type and style of boat and start browsing. While the term ‘affordable’ means many things to many people, for the purposes of this article we’re looking at boats which are under £20,000/$27,000.
Cabin Cruiser Power Boats
Compact cabin cruisers are a fantastic option for first time buyers, with a mixture of speed, maneuverability and interior space. They allow for overnight stays and plenty of adventures, whilst keeping costs down. With a small aft cockpit and a compact galley in some, you’ll be well-equipped for fun days of coastal exploration. While the price tag on a cabin cruiser can be high for newer or more powerful models – we’re talking anything upwards of £75,000/$100,000 - there are plenty on the used market by respected manufacturers such as Sea Ray, Beneteau, Bayliner and Chaparral for under £20,000/$27,000.
Rigid Inflatable Boats have long been the workhorses of the sea, but also popular with day trippers, water sports enthusiasts and just for a spot of coastal pottering on a sunny day. While £10,000 will easily buy you a small brand new RIB, on the used market that money will go much further. You’ll find 4-6 metre (13-19ft) RIBS in excellent condition by manufacturers such as Osprey, Williams, Zodiac, Ballistic and Ribcraft, to name a few. Lightweight, easily transportable and – at this price range – outboard engines for easy maintenance, a RIB is sure to whet your appetite for more boating adventures. Brush up on your bargaining skills, and you might get the trailer included in the price.
In the UK, £10,000/$13,000 or less can buy you a beautiful wooden sailing yacht to fulfill the dreams of would-be sailors. Usually ranging from 7-8 metres (22-26ft) in length cabin sailboats, as the name implies, have a snug little cabin perfect for overnight stays onboard or longer trips as well as a functional little galley and storage space. Bermudan cutters and sloops are common, and you’re looking at a manufacture age of around 19060s to 1980s. It goes without saying that you need to proceed with caution when buying a wooden yacht, and get a good pre-purchase survey done, but in good condition and well-maintained these classic yachts are simply magnificent, easy to handle and very affordable.
Another good style of motorboat to consider is a fly bridge style. Popular with fishing and water sports enthusiasts, the fly bridge offers bucket loads of space and a lot of boats for the money. With a galley, saloon and forward berth, it can easily accommodate a whole family for a weekend of coastal cruising, and while it might not look like your typical family boat, you’d be surprised at the fun you can have water skiing, fishing and exploring.
Sport fishing Boats
These can be great fun as affordable weekend boats, and offer a range of ways to use them. Many models of sport fishers have a walk-around layout, with an enclosed helm and cuddy which allows you to escape the sun or rain, have some storage space or even to use the head in privacy. With powerful outboard engines, they will zip you around quickly, and many come equipped with fish finders, GPS and radars meaning extended weekend trips are possible.
OK, so you won’t be spending weekends sleeping on board, but a bowrider offers so much daytime fun that you really won’t mind. For a first boat, bowriders are very affordable and extremely versatile, and because they’re able to be towed by a trailer you don’t have to worry about expensive berthing fees. They’re better suited to calmer waters, so coastal or inland waters are ideal. They have a V-shaped seating section able to accommodate between six and 10 people, usually measure between 5 metres and 10 metres (16ft and 33ft), and have sterndrive outboard engines which make them perfectly suited to recreational watersports such as water skiing, tubing and swimming. Add a cooler box and canopy, and you’ve got the perfect place to while away sunny days on the water.
Narrow Boats and House Boats
A boat big enough to live on usually comes at a higher price, the cabin space, more spacious galley and long length coming at a cost. However, if you’re open to a project boat, then it is possible to pick up narrow boats or house boats for around £20,000/$20,000 respectively. In Europe, narrow boats trundle leisurely down the inland waterways and come in all guises, from luxury floating homes, to traditional rustic canal boats. Be aware that a project boat will need more money investing after the initial purchase price has been paid, and you’ll want to ensure you get a good marine survey done beforehand, but if you’re happy to spend weekends using some elbow grease and love you could end up with a very affordable and beautiful boat. You might even decide to try living on your narrow boat for a complete change of lifestyle. On the other side of the pond, live aboard boats such as Holiday Mansions, which around 11 metres (36 ft) in length, can be found at very affordable prices. Whether you plan to live on it or just enjoy weekends on the lake, then you get a whole lot of boat for your money.
As we have seen there are many ways to get out on the water and enjoy the boating lifestyle without it costing you hundreds of thousands of pounds or dollars. We’ve looked at some of the smaller or more affordable styles of boats you could consider investing in, but there are other ways to reduce the outgoings of boat ownership too and even creative ways to make money with your boat apart from chartering your boat.
A word of caution however. While a cheap boat might seem like an appealing purchase, make sure you do your homework and find out why it’s so cheap. Boats can have huge and costly problems, and one that hasn’t been well-maintained could end up costing you more money and headaches than spending a bit more on one with fewer issues. Be sure with all used boats to get a professional to take a good look over it before buying so you know what you’re getting yourself in for. For help and advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Rightboat.com, or browse the website for your perfect first boat and get started on an exciting new journey.
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