Buying a second-hand boat has its pitfalls. To help you protect your legal rights and be aware of some of the common issues Noble Marine have produced this guide to buying a boat. Please note that we have only addressed the legal aspects of the subject and advise that you should also satisfy yourself that the boat is seaworthy before you consider buying.
Looking for a boat?
The Noble Marine boats for sale database has over 3000 boats for sale. Each boat has a desciption and photos of the boat so you can look around before you contact the seller.
Wondering what boat to buy?
In addition to this boat and dinghy buyers guide you may wish to make use of our dinghy database or interactive boat finder where you can compare statistics of over 300 classes and view suggestions on similar classes to the type you are interested in.
Unlike a car there isn't a legal registration document tracking the ownership, in fact unless you want to take your boat abroad, you are not required to register your boat at all and many people don't, so checking that the person selling the boat actually owns the boat and that there are no outstanding loans secured on the boat can be difficult.
Before you consider buying a boat you should visit www.stolenboats.org.uk to see if the boat for sale, or a similar one, has been reported stolen. If a boat is not listed on the site it doesn't mean that it is not stolen.
If you buy privately, you won't be protected legally if the craft has a hidden history or faults. It's up to you to ask the right questions and to satisfy yourself that the boat is in good condition before you buy.
Buying a used boat is essentially a case of 'Buyer Beware'. The onus is on you to make sure the craft is sound, it's a good idea to get an qualified marine surveyor or boat builder to give the craft a thorough inspection.
When viewing a boat you should satisfy yourself that the vendor is knowledgeable about the boat and has a legitimate reason for the sale. Ask yourself whether the price is similar to other boats on the market - if a deal looks too good to be true it probably is. You should always arrange to view the boat at the seller's home address and never in a car park or other public location.
It is important to check whether the boat has been involved in any accidents or has any large repairs carried out. Most repairs will be guaranteed for 12 months so it is worth finding out the date of the repair and the repairers details in case of any future problems.
Once you are satisfied that the seller is genuine and have agreed an acceptable price you will need to arrange to make payment for the boat. This is usually carried out by bankers draft or a cash payment can be made. Occasionally the seller may be happy to accept another method of payment but you should be willing to use whichever method they suggest.
The only legal terms that cover a private sale contract are:
- the seller must have the right to sell the craft
- the craft should not be misrepresented
- it should match its description
When the sale is complete you should always draw up a buyers contract so that each party can sign and keep a copy. This will act as your purchase receipt and will prove that you are the new owner of the boat.
Noble Marine have prepared a sample buyers contract for use in private boat sales. It is always important to keep the purchase receipt and the previous owners details - you may need to prove ownership or contact the previous seller in the future.
If the vessel was home built or if you are considering buying outside the EEA, you will also need to be aware of the Recreational Craft Directive requirements.
The VAT status of a second hand yacht is also important, as your vessel needs to have VAT paid status to be allowed free transit throughout the EU.
Interactive boat finder
Sample buyers contract