Before buying a boat, think carefully about the practical considerations such as mooring, maintenance, location as well as what you and those with you – maybe family, or racing friends or maybe you are a solo sailor – intend to use it for. Have a look at the range of boats before you buy – boat shows (new and second-hand) are good places to see what is available. Try not to fall in love – use your head not your heart!
Do your homework on costs and be realistic – mooring, fuel, harbour dues, slipping, cleaning, servicing the engine, winterising, lifejackets, liferaft and servicing, insurance, maintenance and repairs, new bits of kit …
Using a professional broker – someone who has undertaken training, such as the ABYA 2-day intensive Yacht Brokerage course – will ensure you get the right advice on legal title (ownership), VAT and RCD status. These are all important documents and will assist you if you want to go into Europe, with your insurance and eventually when you come to sell. Buying privately may seem like the cheaper option, but if the boat falls apart the day after you buy it you may have no recourse against the seller.
Documents to look out for:
Builders Certificate – May be missing on older boats, but helps prove the boat was built before 1985 for VAT requirement and/or 1998 for RCD compliance.
Bills of Sale - One between each change of owner passing “Title” of the boat - evidence the person selling it owns it. You will need 5 years title evidence if you wish to register the boat on Part 1 of the British Registry. The history also shows if the boat has been sold outside the EU – this renders the VAT-paid status invalid and VAT is due again on re-entry to the UK/EU.
Outstanding Finance – Finance travels with the boat and becomes your debt if it isn’t paid off. Brokers can arrange to pay off the mortgage on completion. Ensure the vendor signs a Sale and Purchase Agreement which states there are no outstanding fees or encumbrances. At least you can sue for fraud. However, this is small comfort if you cannot find the vendor again … RYA has a standard document for private sales.
VAT - Boats built in the EU or coming into the EU since 1985 should have evidence VAT has been paid. Any company selling a boat should provide a VAT invoice as for any other new or second-hand goods. See HMRC Customs Notice 8 for more information.
Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) - Boats built in the EU or coming into the EU since 1998 require a compliance certificate valid at the date they were put on the market in the EU. There should be a CE plate fixed to the boat. The Hull/Craft Identification Number (HIN/CIN) should match up with the information on the CE plate. The compliance certificate may be at the back of the Owner’s Manual.
Survey – it is important to find out the condition of the boat. Don’t find out too late that the cost of repairs is more than the value of the boat unless you know you are buying a project. Use a member of a professional organisation as they will have PI insurance. Don’t be tempted to skip the survey – you will probably need one for insurance anyway. The report will identify any defects with the boat – bear in mind that it is not a new boat and there will be some things wrong. But your surveyor will advise whether they are important, can be done at the next maintenance or are cosmetic. Most surveyors are not marine engineers, so consider having a specialist marine engineer look at the engine, especially if it is a motor boat. Similarly with spars and rigging. But most of all - be realistic in your expectations!
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