Boat Buying Advice

Boat Buying Advice

The ability to buy a boat is a privilege for a sailor. It provides freedom for the owner to sail when they wish, to set up the boat as they prefer and the ability to easily share their sailing experiences with friends and family.

There are a number of factors which need to be taken into consideration when considering and purchasing a boat. Over the years Equinox Sailing have been involved in buying boats for our own use and helping other people to find their perfect boat. If new to the boat buying process, it can feel daunting, buying a boat is a big commitment and a new owner wants to ensure they are comfortable that they have considered all the options and made the right choice.

We have put together a list of things to consider for those looking to purchase a boat. What boat you should buy will depend on a number of factors, we have listed below some of the main points to consider.

Not only the initial cost of buying the boat but consideration for viewing and surveys should be taken into account.

It is recommended to have a survey completed on any boat you decide to buy.  The owner may have a recent survey of the boat that you can look at, if not, a potential new owner should consider getting a survey carried out by a registered surveyor.  A survey is a detailed and often complicated document, and will involve the boat being lifted out of the water to be completed.  A surveyor will test the hull for moisture, ensure the keel and rudder is correctly fitted as well as ensuring that the boat is structurally and mechanically sound. This may include concerns which had not been highlighted by the boat vendor or spotted by the potential new owner.

Be realistic, although we would all love a large boat, larger boats cost more to keep and maintain.  If you plan to do the majority of your sailing with only 2 or 3 crew a smaller boat will be easier to handle.

Most modern 30ft plus boats have a wheel, but a few years ago it was not that common.  If you have never sailed with a tiller don’t rule them out altogether, it is easy to learn. A tiller allows more room in the cockpit and a more comfortable sailing position for the helm.

Type of boat
A potential new owner should think about the type of sailing they want to do on their boat and how many people they wish to sail with. For example, if the majority of the sailing will be within 60nm of a UK-based marina and with a smaller number of crew, the type of boat will be different to an all-out racer.

Cruiser – The boat is designed to be sailed in good conditions and has plenty of interior space.  They tend to have smaller sails and shallower draft.  This can mean they struggle in lighter winds but with a shallow draft can cruise to smaller harbours.

Fast Cruiser – These boats will have all the interior space of the cruiser, but with larger sail plan and sometimes a deeper draft keel. This type of boat is suited to longer coastal sailing where the increase in speed can make a difference. This type of boat can also be raced at club level with little or no additional equipment.

Racer Cruiser – If you are interested in more serious racing or perhaps racing offshore then you should look at a Racer Cruiser. This type of boat offers the ability to cruise, but may not have the same level of comfort in port.  They make good long distance cruisers and capable of sailing 150 – 180 miles in 24 hours.

Racing Boat – These boats are stripped of luxury and are designed to go as fast as they can.  If you are considering a race boat, the type will depend on the type of racing you hope to do.

Number of Cabins
The saloon is considered a cabin, the number of people you plan to sail with may influence this.  Commonly 33-35 ft boats have 3 or 4 cabins.

You can relate interior space to the age of the boat.  Older boats tend to be narrower, modern boats tend to be wider resulting in an increase of interior space.  At sea narrower boats have a better motion and are easier to move around, wider boats allow more space in port.

Are you looking for a project or a turnkey boat?  Some boats may require cosmetic work that you may be able to do yourself.

Essential Equipment
What must you have onboard?  Some boats may not have everything you need or want so additional costs may need to be considered – If you are planning coastal sailing then a life raft is an essential and costly piece of equipment.  If you are planning to stay insight of land and close to port then you may not need one

Other things to consider – marina or a mooring
Consider the area where the boat will be kept. Marinas in popular areas, such as those close to the Solent, will have higher mooring fees than those further away from easy access to the main sailing areas.  A mooring will be cheaper but you may have additional cost to take onto consideration.

Getting on to your boat
Mooring – If you plan on going doing most of your sailing at the weekends do you plan to arrive on the Friday night or the Saturday morning?

Some mooring have a water taxi, but don’t run very late or after dark.  To take full advantage of a weekend sail a lot of people like to arrive on a Friday to get an early start on Saturday.

What time do the water taxi’s stop on Friday and Sunday?  This will mean that you will have to arrive at the boat and be back before a certain time.

If the mooring doesn’t have a water taxi you will then need a dinghy, where will you store it how much will it be to store?

Marina – Most marinas provide parking you can then simply walk aboard at anytime day of night.

Provisioning and crew
Mooring – It is likely that you will need to ferry crew, food, drink, bags to the boat if there is a water taxi it is easier but you will have a lot to carry.

Is there parking close by or will you have to walk miles, how much is parking?
If you use a dinghy and it’s not very big you will have to make multiple journeys unless there is a pontoon to come along side.
Marina – Trolleys are available to transfer food and drink from your car to the boat. Crew can simply walk on with their own bag.


Mooring – If you are not getting down as often as you think you, will the battery be able to start the engine after a few months?
It’s an easy fix with a solar panel to trickle charge the battery will ensure that you have enough charge.

Marina – Some marina will include the use of electricity, but do check.  Depending on your battery charger you may not be able to leave your boat connected at all times.

You need to plan more on a mooring buoy
There is no water to wash the decks or top up the tanks, walking ashore for a beer or food on the night you arrive isn’t possible without a dinghy. If you forget something from your car or leave your phone on the boat it may be difficult to get from one to the other.

Less shelter
Not a huge problem most of the time, if you are moored fore and aft so the boat doesn’t swing on the river, when the tide is flowing against the stern it can get a bit noisy.  You are also more exposed if there are stronger winds.

So why choose a mooring?
It is a lot cheaper to keep a boat on a mooring, a 38ft boat can cost between £5 – £8000 per year on the South Coast, a mooring can cost £1200 per year.  Less pressure when berthing, if you make a mistake in a marina it can be costly.

Insurance for boats and sailing is essential, to ensure both the boat, the owner and their crew and any other boat or persons involved in an accident are covered. Some insurance companies will have limitations or have discounts if the boat is out of the water for the winter.  If you intend to do Round the Island Race or other racing let them know to ensure you are covered.

Yard fees
Most people look at the mooring fees, but if the boat is to be kept ashore for a few months each year, check to see if it is included in the fees.  You will have to pay to have the boat lifted, blocked off (if you don’t have a cradle) and washed.  Some marinas insist on the mast being lowered so again check if it can be stored on site.

The advantage of a yard with onsite boat related businesses is the ability to get work done local and hopefully quite quickly (and easily).

There will always be some maintenance every year, at the very least you will need to anti-foul your hull, winterise your engine, drain and flush your water tanks. It can be costly to have these done by professionals and part of boat ownership is getting your hands dirty.  Some jobs will be beyond your experience, but a good manual will get you started.

Boats can get very damp during the winter, if you have a loft or garage it is a good idea to remove as much as you can in particular, soft furnishing and sails from the boat to allow it to dry and air.

Make sure you look over the boats paperwork, there should be a sales invoice showing that the VAT has been paid. All original documentation from the original purchase of the boat when it was first built, should be passed on from owner to owner. This information, including the original copies of the ‘Bill of Sale’ documents provide a useful history of the boats owners and in some cases, details or repairs and maintenance carried out on the boat.

Boat Finding Service
If you are unsure what boats you should consider then perhaps we can help.

Based on the Information above we can research and produce a list of suitable boats that are on the market and available to buy. This is a one off fee based on the type of boat you are interested in buying.  Contact us to help you find your dream boat.

If you are short on time we can even view the boats on your behalf.  We will produce a full report with photos on the boats we visit, allowing you to short list the most suitable boats to view yourself.

We charge by the half or full day and aim to look at 2 boat in half a day and up to 4 in a full day depending on the time of year and daylight available.

Please view our web page for more details on our boat buying service.

Wondering what qualifications you might need to own a boat?
Although technically you don’t need any qualifications, if you are new to sailing it is advised to gain some experience before owning your own boat.  The minimum qualification to charter a boat is the Day Skipper Practical course and should be considered before owning your own boat.

Learn more about the other foundation courses we offer or perhaps learn how to become a skipper.

Have a taste for sailing and would like some more experience? Why not come out cruising with us.
Fancy something a little faster? Why not come out racing or on a race training course?

RYA One Day Courses
RYA VHF Course
RYA First Aid
RYA Diesel Engine Maintenance
RYA Sea Survival Course
Learn more about the One Day Courses we offer.

If you have any other question please contact us or check out our FAQ page.


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