Buying a Boat - A Boat Insurers Tips!

The list below is composed of recommendations in aid of anyone seeking to buy a boat for the first time. All guidance herein is provided with our best intentions, if it's useful make good use of it, if it's not ignore it! Whilst we have tried to cover all areas, clearly as a boat insurer we naturally tend towards giving tips which mitigate the likelihood of post-purchase problems that may lead to personal safety or future problems that may result in an expensive problem!

Do your homework

boat for sale
  • Write a priority list of must have's (essentials) versus would like to have's (desirable's if the budget and options are there).
  • Scour the internet for equivalent examples so you know the correct value for the type/age of boat you are buying.
  • Never, ever buy the first boat you see. It's a buyers’ market and viewing several so you can compare pro’s and con’s and give yourself ideas about optional extras you might also purchase if the right boat doesn't have absolutely everything you want.
  • Review boat maker and boat model write-up via internet forums but check to ensure you don't go to sites that may have a vested interest or who may be sponsored by the manufacturer. Instead search broadly so as well as for “model/maker name reviews” also search for “model/maker name known issues”, “model/maker name problems” etc via search engines. This should then bring up independent boat owner comments and reviews written on forum sites. Obviously the more results the more wary you should be but do also consider the manufacturer size. Large boat makers will naturally get more posts but conversely equally therefore they should have more positive reviews too!
  • Consider what the vessel has been previously used for (e.g. an ex-hire boat is likely to have greater wear and tear)... 
  • Unless you are very experienced, once you think you've found the perfect vessel the services of a marine boat surveyor may well be invaluable. An experienced, independent surveyor is likely to know the key weak spots to check any vessel for and will be on your side, any otherwise unforeseen defects that they find can be used to help bargain a better price... thus their services will often pay for themselves! 

Check the documentation

  • Review documentation to ensure that the vessel has a good or full service history (question any gaps in the history and apply common sense of anything that does not seem correct... question it)!
  • Don't consider any boat without full the vessel documentation, boat safety certificate, ownership certificate etc
  • If getting an inspection get the boat inspector to double-check the vessel documentation, boat safety certificate, ownership certificate etc.

When viewing the vessel

  • Check more awkward to maintain spaces, around hatches, the engine bay, bilges, under any flooring... have they been properly maintained also.. is all fully water tight?
  • Check the engine… oil level/ signs of oil leaks? Neat and tidy cabling? Check the spark plugs, if old then not serviced.
  • Test all functioning electrical circuits/ mechanical/ moving parts... bilge pumps, lights, heaters, outboards, sails, rigging etc
  • Take the boat for a trail sailing or test run. Any engine smoke? Poor starting (make sure the boat was cold before you started it)? Steering unresponsive/ unpredictable?
  • Unless you are very proficient always get the vessel inspected by a professional boat inspector.

Lastly, before making that all important offer...

  • Make sure you get one or two insurance quotations for the vessel before you buy it, just so there's no surprises such as high risk exceptional items you may not have considered (e.g. vessel age-over 20 years of age, abnormal engine sizes, a lack of automatic bilge pump etc). Such abnormalities unfortunately can negate a survey if one has not been carried out recently. 
  • Verify the personal contact details of the seller… check all telephone, email and address details given to you are correct.
  • Always check stolen boat listings via the internet (search “stolen boats” in a search engine to find stolen boat listing websites).
  • Finally make sure the seller agrees to write up a bill of sale so all is official and legitimate in the eyes of the law (or create one yourself... just download a simple template via a search engine query).

All that's left to say is.. good luck in your hunt!

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