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The essential guide to buying your first boat

You’ve taken the decision to buy your first boat, but, as someone with little to no experience in this area, you might not be sure where to start. Not to worry, the Val Wyatt Marine team has produced this essential guide that explains the important steps you need to consider when it comes to first time boat ownership.

We’re covering… 

How to decide
Second hand vs new boat
Considerations for ongoing costs
How to buy your first boat in the UK
What time of year should you buy your first boat
What to do when you find your dream boat

In ‘The Wind in the Willows’, Ratty, quite rightly said to Mole: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

The fun is even greater when the boat in question is your own. Boat ownership is a dream purchase for so many people, and it is not surprising given that when going out on a boat you leave all work and life stresses on the riverbank or the shore.

The day you buy your boat can be the start of a wonderful new water-faring life – however, it is important to do your research ahead of making such a big decision.

Our experts have put together some top tips with regards to buying your first boat.

Decisions, decisions…

Before deciding to buy a boat, the obvious question is, have you experienced a boating trip? If not, it’s a good idea to either take a boating holiday, join a friend on their boat, or hire a boat for the day. The key here is to ask questions and seek advice.

If you already have the boating bug, and buying a boat is the next natural step, then you need to work out what type of boat you want to buy. To help you whittle down the choices, these are some of the simple questions to ask yourself before making your purchase:

  • Do you want a boat for inland waters or the sea?
  • Is it for activities like fishing or wakeboarding – or for leisure cruising?
  • How many people will be on board at one time?
  • Do you want sleeping cabins?
  • What facilities do you need, such as toilet (“head”) or galley?
  • What size boat do you want?
  • What is your budget?

If you are relatively new to boating, it is worth investigating which vessels are best suited to first time buyers.

Choosing the right brand is important. We work with several exceptional manufacturers who are recognised for their award-winning designs, innovation and workmanship: Interboat, Intercruiser, Corsiva and Haines Marine.

Second hand vs new boat

Much like the decision making process when buying a car, many people preparing to buy their first boat will be weighing up whether to purchase a new vessel or opt for a second-hand boat. And the arguments for each option are relatively similar – naturally based around affordability and the desire for new features.

The advantages of buying a new boat are that there is more choice and freedom to find a vessel that ticks all of your boxes, depending on the budget, and benefiting from a boat equipped with the latest state-of-the art features (this can range from materials used to build the boat, to the technology onboard). In addition, you’ll also benefit from the manufacturer’s warranty which will provide added peace of mind when making such a sizeable purchase. In terms of disadvantages, and again similarly to cars, when you drive off the forecourt – or launch into the water – you should expect some depreciation in value. However, there is no hard rule, and unlike cars, depreciation on boats often evens off quickly. In recent years we’ve even seen some used boat prices increasing. Whilst residual values can alter, the most important element of a boat purchase is the value that you will get out of it.

If you’re a first time prospective boat owner keen to get value for money, then it might be better to opt for a second hand boat – but we recommend using a broker so you can lean on their knowledge and expertise (we talk about this in greater depth below). In addition, if you’re striking a deal with someone selling their boat, or upgrading to a bigger or newer vessel, you may be able to negotiate a favourable deal for any equipment and extras.

Whilst there are advantages, you must also consider the disadvantages of buying a second hand boat. The risk of purchasing a second hand vessel lies with the buyer. We will always advise you to instruct an independent surveyor for peace of mind, who will inspect the boat and provide advice on its condition. You’ll also have to consider that certain parts of the boat will, at some point, need repairing or replacing. In addition, it can be sensible to ring-fence some funds for future works and additional costs.

Consider any additional costs

When it comes to your budget, be aware of all the unexpected costs that are involved. Sadly, the outlay does not end with the actual purchase of the boat. A good estimate is to take the mooring fee and double it. This should roughly total the amount required over the course of a year for a boat maintenance programme, license fees, a reasonable amount of fuel, insurance etc.

One of the biggest expenditures can be the mooring of the boat – the choice of where you keep your boat will influence how much you will need to spend. In some places it is possible to drop the anchor for free but be aware of local regulations.

Mooring your boat (tying your boat to something fixed in the water or on shore) is advisable for long term stays; you can choose commercial, in a marina, or private moorings. In a marina, you will benefit from the on-site facilities but do your research carefully because mooring costs vary greatly across the UK.

Rivers and seas continually wear away at your boat, so beware of the maintenance bills. Unless you have an aptitude for DIY or a significant budget, it is probably best to avoid buying a boat that needs a lot of work.

Boat insurance may not be as expensive as you might expect. It is mandatory to have third party cover as a minimum across many harbours, marinas and waterways in the UK. Finding the cheapest boat insurance is simple via price comparison sites. We have a close and trusted relationship with Haven Knox-Johnston, and we often recommend them to customers across our marina.

Other ad hoc costs when you buy a boat can include fuel, a trailer (if required), and registration costs. To find out more about boat owning costs, please refer to our in-depth guide.

How to buy your first boat in the UK?

Inevitably, there are many boat selling sites on the internet – and we list all the boats we sell on all the major websites for maximum exposure.

For first time buyers, it is definitely worth speaking to reputable boat dealers and brokers, which we pride ourselves on being. As well as having a wide range of boats to sell, a broker can offer valuable guidance and advice. Our team has years of experience and will have helped people in the same situation as you. Consulting an expert can help avoid expensive mistakes and also ensure you don’t make any uninformed decisions.

We understand the significant emotional investment that our customers make when it comes to purchasing a boat and we are dedicated to supporting potential buyers with sound and professional advice at every stage of the boat buying journey, and, most importantly, we guide our clients at their own pace.

Due to the sizeable investment you’re likely to make when buying your first boat, it is better to find a knowledgeable broker you can trust – and one that advises you to take your time. Buying your first boat is not like purchasing a new TV, where you visit a department store or electrical shop to browse several different models before making a quick choice. We are aware that the sales cycle for buying a boat can last months, and sometimes years – but by taking the time and by working with the right people, you’re far more likely to make the right decision.

It is important to consider the value-added services provided by a broker, especially if you’re new to boating. For instance, there is a huge benefit to being accompanied on a viewing by a broker. We always encourage our customers to take their time and ask as many questions as possible. Whilst on site, you can also review the marina’s facilities.

Once you find the right boat, it is typical for a broker to manage the legal and financial processes involved in the transfer of ownership. We asked James Clifton, our Sales Manager, what is involved:

“We take the lead in processing and managing the legalities and paperwork, plus other tasks, such as liaising with surveyors and overseeing the trial run for the new prospective owner. In addition, we safeguard all funds and professionally manage all financial transactions during the sale, in accordance with British Marine regulations.

“Once the legalities and paperwork are finalised, we offer a full handover of each boat we sell, which includes a thorough explanation of all its operating systems. We will also spend time demonstrating how to helm the boat and offer tips and advice on boat handling and mooring. Handovers are often complimented by a library of videos for long term reference.

“My colleagues and I are ABYA trained with Val Wyatt being long-standing members of the British Marine Association. These important accreditations provide our customers with increased peace of mind ahead of any purchase.”

What time of year should you buy your first boat?

As one might expect, the most enjoyable time to be out on the water is when the climate is pleasant. Boating in freezing, driving rain is not everyone’s idea of a good time. So, in terms of making the most of the moment, buying a boat in the spring allows you to take full advantage of several months of prime boating time.

Whilst there can be deals to be done in winter, and boats can go for a premium at the beginning of the season, supply and demand do factor in to this. In the past few years demand for boats has been unprecedented. In some cases, used boats are actually rising in value. Therefore, it’s hard to say when exactly is the best time, it’s simpler to say it is best to buy when the time is right for you.

What to do when you find your dream boat?

Once you find the boat of your dreams, don’t jump straight in. Make sure it really is the right boat, and in the right condition. If you are not confident inspecting a boat, seek professional advice from a boat surveyor. It’s vital that you ask for the service and maintenance record before making such a significant purchase.

At Val Wyatt, we are committed to ensuring you are completely happy with your boat purchase and that you have peace of mind when making such a big decision – we want you to enjoy your boat straight away.

For more information on our new and used boat brokerage, contact our team.