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Top 10 Mistakes when buying a Sail or Motor Yacht

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Misjudgment of the Budget.

Mistake nr 1 You have allocated a certain budget for the purchase of a pleasure boat, and you have, based on this budget, already set your eye on a specific ship. The biggest mistake 95% of boat buyers make is to allocate their entire budget on the purchase of the boat. Dealers and Brokers will tell you, once the boat is delivered, your new purchase will be ready to set sail. Just like you would buy a car. Get in and drive / sail away!


  • You will need to purchase a lot of extra's before you can set sail. From safety equipment, navigation charts, toolboxes, weather gear to extra fenders, lines, boat hooks, cleaning material, spare parts etc. This equipment is always a big list and you need to calculate, depending on your sailing area and the type of boat, between 3.000 € and 10.000 €

  • On top of that comes the boat registration which, depending on the flag state is between 700 € and 4000 €. And the insurance for a full coverage can often be many thousands of Euro and will be very dependent of the owner qualifications and the sailing area.

  • In addition to the purchase, however, you must spend a considerable annual budget on maintaining and using the ship. However, many new owners underestimate these annual costs: insurance, winter storage, anti fouling, maintenance of the engines, mooring fees but also regularly unexpected costs such as replacement of batteries, damage to gel coat or paintwork, technical malfunctions, damage to sails or propulsion, upgrades of charts, inspection and replacement of safety equipment, etc.

  • For boats between 10 and 12 meter, most owners spent between 5.000 and 10.000 €/year on standard annual costs: mooring fees, fuel, winter storage, anti fouling, engine maintenance, insurance. Once your boat is over 12 meter, the costs are increasing almost exponentially per extra meter in length.

  • Consider also that an older boat needs more attention and repairs with a higher annual cost as a result. If you buy a second-hand ship, you can often use as a rule of thumb: 50% of your budget for the purchase, 50% to equip, upgrade and renew the ship according to your own wishes.

  • The cost for marina fees is dramatically increasing. The last couple of years, most marinas had an annual increase between 10% and 20%. The cheapest marinas are in The Netherlands, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries. The UK is very expensive and in the Med, it all depends where you want to go. Sardinia is top of the bill, Greece is low cost but with almost no proper marina facilities. One of the major problems today is the lack of available long term mooring spaces in marinas. Before you make a purchase, make sure you have a place to keep the boat.

  • The moment you go to a ship chandler, you will be surprised by the cost of any tiny piece. The reason is very simple: all equipment must resist the harsh environment of the sea and weather conditions.

The credo: "keep it simple" absolutely applies to a pleasure craft. The more extensive and complex the equipment, the more likely it is to malfunction and the associated costs.

Also keep in mind that the costs of skilled personnel in the yachting industry are a lot higher than, for example, in construction or technology.

Our general advise regarding budget for a boat - For a new yacht: allocate 80% to 85% to the purchase, including all options from the factory.

- For a used yacht: allocate 50% to the purchase and the remaining to finish the boat according your wishes.

More and more new yacht owners hire our services to consult and support them during purchase process. Based on the use and the plans, we will give new owners an understanding about the total costs, not only buying a boat but also in maintaining their boat.

Your First Ship is a New Ship

Mistake nr 2
You want freedom, sunny places, enjoy the water and you decide to buy a boat. You go to a Boat Exhibition or Dealer and you have your eye on your Dream Ship. During exhibitions, everything looks shiny, and you will be treated like a king. They will tell you yachting is fantastic and with all the modern equipment, easy-peasy to handle the boat. No experience needed, the dealer will give a quick training and off yo go. The seller will sell you a dream, you gasp and you pull out your credit card to pay the deposit.

What will be the reality?

If you have never owned a sailing or motor yacht before, it is very difficult to estimate how life on board goes: being able to handle your ship, maintenance, bad weather, seasickness, the impact on your family and friends, your available free time, etc.

A large number of owners of new ships sell their ship after only one or a few years because the ship and the entire event on the water do not meet their "dream" expectations. Just like with a recent car that you sell, you then have to factor in a significant financial loss.

Most buyers of a new ship decide not to buy a used boat because new = good and free of trouble. You pay more but you will have no unexpected problems. That is nice on paper, but the reality is VERY different! Contrary to what most might think, a new ship is usually not error free. The first 2 to 3 years there are regular problems that need to be corrected by the manufacturer. As a result, you often cannot make optimal use of your ship. Suppose you have saved up your holiday to be able to sail for a few weeks and then you are waiting for a technician somewhere because you have a technical breakdown. You don't sign for that. Warranty on new ships does not mean, no costs for the owner. Generally it means that defective parts will be exchanged but labor and transport is never included. In case your boat needs lifting to make the repairs, that will be at your charge. Unfortunately, we know so many boat owners who had their sailing plans ruined because of unforeseen failures, defects and late delivery on their new boat. Read also here our article about the commissioning of a new yacht

When you buy a new yacht, consider also a lot of time which you will need to spent on the entire process between purchase and the delivery of the yacht. All our clients confirm this: we have severely underestimated the time we had to spent before and during the boat handover.

If you are not able to spent that time because of your professional duties, do not buy a new boat or have the entire process managed by a company like us.

Our General Advice

  1. If you have never sailed or had a motor yacht before and no or very little experience, stay away from a new boat. Your learning curve will be extremely steep and you will make a lot of mistakes which can result in frustrations, boat damage and a lot of unexpected costs. Not to mention all the issues you will have to deal with regarding the quality and finishing of the boat. Unfortunately, we see many people buying new boats because they are teased by the lifestyle and they have a nice budget to spent. Reality is that they sell their new dream yacht quite rapidly.

  2. New into boating but not sure how it will work out for you? Buy a recent used yacht. As I said before, quite some recent yachts come on the market and in most cases, all warranty issues and yard failures will be corrected. Upgrading or refitting the boat according your wishes will be quite cost effective and your investment will keep his value.

  3. The year your new boat is handed over, do not make any long distance sailing plans. Keep close to the dealer or factory in case corrections or repairs need to be done.

We support our clients during the purchase process. New and Used boats and we can manage the entire upgrade or refit program.

Not consulting your other half when buying a yacht

Mistake nr 3
Make good agreements in advance with your loved ones about the expectations. It often happens that hubby wants to buy a boat and assumes that my wife will also like it.

This mistake is high on the ranking of the top boat purchase mistakes. When purchasing a pleasure boat, never assume that your partner and housemates are all equally enthusiastic about the purchase of a sailing or motor yacht. They also often choose a vessel to sail together with the children. However, children are getting older and their interests shift from year to year.

If only one person is excited to buy a boat and that person estimates the other family member(s) will also like it, that is a wrong assumption which can results in a relation crisis.

In too many cases we see that the wife is fed-up being on a boat resulting in the husband sailing on his own.

If you sail as a couple, sail as a couple, meaning share tasks, plans and boat work. Too often, we see the classic roles on board. The man behind the helm, the woman handling fenders. If it works for you as a couple, absolutely fine but try sometimes to change the roles: it is fun

Our General Advice:

  1. If you have plans to buy a boat, we suggest making an list together with your housemates with at least 3 positive comments and 3 concerns per housemate. That is a good basis for making a number of decisions.

  2. Do not make the assumption and decision for the other family members : all will be OK. They will certainly like it. Perhaps not now, but certainly later. Wrong. On a boat, you are together in a small space. You can not walk away in the middle of the ocean. If communication fails, things can become dangerous.

  3. Go during a weekend to a marina and talk to some boating people. The social media is not a very good medium to look for input or comments. You normally just see on the social media the beautiful part of boating. Not the situations on board when you hit hard a pontoon, when you are sitting on the toilet in bad weather and thinking by yourself: what the heck I am doing here, being seasick or got hit by a sudden storm. But than you are sitting at anchor in a beautiful bay looking at the sunset and all this trouble and discomfort is gone. That is the reality with boating.

Insufficient Research and Match

Mistake nr 4 Choosing the boat which does not match your plans and purpose.

When you have avoided mistake 1 and mistake 2, decided with your family you want to buy a boat, allocated a budget, now it is time to search for the boat which matches your plans. It is quite important to know what you will do with the boat and the time you want to spent on board. Some boat owners never leave the marina, others go on a world tour. Some like to do sail racing and others just want to chill at anchor. Certain boat owners want style and comfort and others prefer simplicity. It is clear that, based on the use of the boat, a certain match must be found. Again, a boat is a summary of compromises and a perfect match almost never exists.

This is the most difficult process in the purchase of a boat.

Example: An Australian customer contacted as to support him during his yacht purchase in Europe. The client had a nice budget so he could afford himself a nice boat. He wanted a comfortable ship, to sail around the world and also in remote high and low latitude places (Arctic and Antarctic, Norway, Island, Greenland etc.) He had already decided to buy a series catamaran and had already all the quotations and discussions with the yard to finalize his order. If you want to sail in the Nordic or extreme south of the world, the first thing you know is: this is not the place for a series build catamaran. Even not for a catamaran. Catamarans need a following sea but they are horrible on close reaches and in bad weather conditions. Also, in bad weather conditions, the tension on the rigging is intense with predicted mast failures. Also insurance companies will not cover you when sailing in these remote areas. Long story short: Based on our advise, the client ordered a semi-custom mono-hull at a price slightly above his budget. 2 years after his order, the ship was delivered and he is now sailing happily above the Arctic Circle.

Our General Advise:

  1. Don't just go to a broker's or dealer's website. On social media, there are usually forums or owner groups per type of ship who are happy to share their experience.

  2. Hire in some independent advice from specialist like us who have been dealing with many kind of boats and who have many miles of sailing experience. That advice will safe you a lot of time and money.

Compare the purchase of a pleasure craft with the purchase of a car

Mistake nr 5 A major mistake that many make is to compare the purchase of a ship with the purchase of a vehicle.
A ship is infinitely complex. You have systems on board that are completely different from what you will find in a house or car.

In addition, a car is a series product that has been thoroughly developed. Pleasure craft, on the other hand, even those built in larger series, are never subject to the strict quality standards as in the automotive world. You will therefore regularly be confronted with malfunctions for which you cannot always consult a technician. If you are not handy and you have no knowledge of technology, buy a ship with few technical gadgets and preferably new.

Example: A Belgian client bought a new yacht from a known French brand. The hand over went quickly without consulting us. Now, about 3 months after the hand over between the dealer and the owner he had the following defects: engine defect in the middle of the English Channel due to misalignment of the engine and prop-shaft (resulting in a 3000 Euro Towing cost), exploded battery due to wrong cabling and wrong programming of the charger, stuck furling mainsail due to wrong tension on the rigging, many small but critical correction resulting in one month lying on a service pontoon in a marina to perform the corrections. This demonstrates the importance to have a commissioning expert supporting the customer during the handover of a boat and to avoid those problems often resulting in a lack of confidence by the boat owner

A ship also requires a lot of attention and maintenance. It is more than just an annual maintenance at the dealer. A good rule of thumb is: 50% sailing, 50% jobs. If you don't want to spend this time on it, don't buy a ship.

Boat yards are specialists in producing the hull. All other equipment is sourced outside and installed by the yard. But many systems like inverter systems, water makers, generators are complex pieces of equipment. Equipment that needs a lot of maintenance and care. It is not like bringing your car to the garage workshop for maintenance and things are done. Having a yacht means you will have to arrange yourself all interventions or do it yourself.

When you buy a new car, you order the car and at a certain moment the car is delivered and you drive away. Easy Not with a new yacht. Between ordering and handover, there are a lot of things to organize, prepare and do before you can set sail. You will need to spent a lot of time during that process. Read also our article: Commissioning of a New Yacht

Underestimating Time Management

Mistake nr 6 As a boat owner, you will spent a lot of time dealing with the boat. Not only the joy of sailing but also maintenance, winter storage, small repairs, upgrades etc. If you do not have the time to deal with this, charter a boat instead of buying a boat

Boats need a lot of TLC (Tender Love and Care). Some boats more than others. If you have a nice classic boat with a lot of woodwork, than you need to spent a lot of time on maintenance. If you do not have the time for this: buy a "plastic fantastic"boat with no wood, bronze and copper.

In case you are not a handy person, you will need to hire specialists for your maintenance. From engines to sails, from rigging to hull. You will need deep pockets. Boat specialists are difficult to find and you will often have to deal with low skilled workforce's. Resulting in clumsy and semi-finished work. Not to mention the prices they charges clients. Quite some maintenance yards take advantage of the fact that you own a yacht (so you are rich) and that invoices are often related to the size and price of a yacht.

Speaking from experience, there are only a small number of service yards that we know throughout Europe that are reliable, effective and correct.

Based on our experience, having a boat means 50% joy and 50% work Boats need regular maintenance and upgrades. Not doing this will result in a quick deterioration of the boat and will make it difficult to resell. So many boats come on the market where the owner had no time or resources to keep up with maintenance. Those boats are very difficult to sell.

Not taking a survey or a commissioning expert

Mistake nr 7 As a yacht is a complex piece of equipment with a high cost, it sounds logical that when you buy a boat you want assistance by specialist who can advise you about the purchase, the correct price setting, detection of anomalies, defects and who can finally advises you if you should buy the used boat or accept the new yacht. But in practice: so many boats are sold without survey quite often resulting in huge frustrations and high costs for correction.

On the "Top 10 mistakes when buying a yacht"this should more likely rank on a higher position. But ok, it is all about choices and situations of course.

It is logical that a new boat owner is excited when he is in the position to sign a purchase agreement for the used boat or signs the acceptance form when a new boat is handed over. As we have indicated before: Boats are very complex and construction quality is not to be compared with those of cars. Even when you buy a used car, the sales contract is only valid after an official check by an independent organisation.

Not with boats and yachts. Many new owners just trust the dealer or the broker and sign.

What is the difference between a surveyor and a commissioning consultant? - A survey is done on used ships during the sales process. A surveyor will also do boat checks after an incident or based on the request of an insurance company. The task of the surveyor is to look for structural failures, safe working order of equipment and performance of the equipment according manufacturer specifications. - A commissioning expert will support the client during the commissioning and hand-over process of a new yacht. The purpose of the support is to detect and inform the client about non conformity's in the construction of the boat which need to be corrected before signing off the acceptance form. See also our article about the hand over and commissioning of a new yacht

For used yachts, the report of the surveyor is often used to indicate to the owner what needs to be corrected before the sale becomes effective. Based on our experience in most cases the seller will bring down the price. So the corrections will need to be done by the new owner.

Based on our long time experience, we can inform the buyer about the budget and time needed for the corrections. This cost must be deducted from the purchase price.

Example: Our client informed us regarding the purchase of an older used yacht from a yard with a good reputation (Hallberg-Rassy). The boat was inspected by a surveyor and some osmosis contamination was found on the underwater ship. The client really wanted the boat but basically decided to let go.

We had a look at the report of the surveyor and the pictures. Because we knew there were generally very little osmosis problems with that brand and the boat needed anyway a refit, we advised the client to buy the boat but with a discount. We calculated a budget for osmosis treatment and preparation and looked at the worst case scenario. Based on that scenario, our customer went back to the broker and the owner. After a tough discussion, they agreed on the deduction as we had calculated. When the boat was in the yard for osmosis treatment, the problem was very local and limited and the repair was half the price as projected. That extra room in the budget was used for extra upgrades. Again a happy customer.

When we provide support to our customers buying a used yacht, we go beyond expectations because we also check the boat pedigree and paperwork. Not to forget scrapping the flag registration of the previous owner and eventual mortgages on the boat. This should be the task of the broker but brokers want to make volume and touch their commission. On top of that, we have a good reputation in negotiating the price to a correct level. Today, because of high demand, used boats are overpriced. But with a concrete motivation, based on the survey and our observations and negotiation skills, we are generally able to obtain an important price reduction.

Closing a deal during a Boat Show

Mistake nr 8 Boat Shows are organised to sell boats and equipment. Brokers, Dealers and Yards invest a lot of money in Boat Show. Just like during a car show, the yards will have promotions, some free extras, etc. Sales People are there to sell you a dream and get you to sign a contract. Understandable. That's how the world works.

Buying a boat is a big investment and to be honest, only with a negative return. Boats COST money. Boats do NOT give you an INCOME.

When the seller completes an order form, they will start to tick very quickly the options list. Adding easily 30% on the base price of the boat. Quite often you do not even know what the option is about. When we are involved in the purchasing process, advising the client, we will explain in detail what the options are about. Options from boat suppliers are normally quite expensive because they make the cherry on the cake. In some cases, like for example the option of a generator, is better to take from the factory. On the other hand, the so called "comfort packages"like a set of fenders, mooring lines etc are generally much cheaper when bought after the boat is delivered.

In case you decide anyway to sign a contract during a boat show, make sure you only make a reservation of a building slot and that you can recall your order within a certain agreed time.

Waiting for an "exceptional" deal

Mistake nr 9 Since 2012, the boat market has turned from a buyers market to a sales market. If there is a deal, there certainly is a "catch"

For the water sports enthusiasts who would like to wait for a "sale" or a bargain, they are there for the effort. During a boat show you can sometimes receive a discount, but that will usually count as delivery of an extra, rarely as a real financial discount. And if they give a financial discount, it is usually on an expiring model. ONE TIP: of you want to buy on a boat show a dinghy or outboard engine, do it the last day. The dealer hates to pack those things and bring it back home. You can get a good bargain just before closing time of the boat show. But be aware, you need to take it with you right away.

Today, delivery times for new yachts are sometimes more than 3 years. For the moment, buying a recent catamaran of ex. 3 years old will be sold higher than the initial purchase price.

Many yards just recently increased their prices, sometimes with even 20% and with no price guarantee at the moment of delivery. We always advise our clients only to sign a contract with a fixed price. Be careful: Boat yards will eventually agree on a fixed price but they have found a reason how to overcome this: in case you change any item on the option list during the course of the building process, they are allowed to change the prices. So look at the small letters of the contract.

Overestimating your boating or sailing skills

Mistake nr 10
Quite some people buying a boat for the first time now, have started yachting on a later age. It is not enough to have followed a 5 day "day skipper"course that this will sufficient to manage and handle your new boat. Certainly with yachts now becoming bigger and bigger

The people in our team have been sailing since we were teenagers. The sea, the boats, sailing, it is just part of our DNA. We can handle boats in the most difficult conditions but we know also that most new boat owners have to start on a later age just from scratch. Most new boat owners go through a very steep learning curve. And that first scratch in the skin of your ship will be experienced as a deep scratch in your soul and trust. Most shipyards give one or two days of training after the boat handover, but that is more to get to know the ship than to learn your fundamental sailing knowledge. Especially when it comes to sail when the weather conditions change quickly.

Our General Advise

In the initial phase, bring an experienced skipper/instructor. Not someone who can just sail or has the same ship. There is a world of difference between sailing and instruction.

If you have a good instructor, your confidence will grow quickly and you will also be able to enjoy your ship much more. At least you will have not made one of the top 10 yacht purchase mistakes

Do you want some personalized advice how to avoid YOUR top 10 mistakes when buying a yacht or a boat, just email us and we will sign you up for a FREE One Hour Zoom Meeting to discuss your plans

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