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Buying A Yacht? Advice On What To Look For When Purchasing

By Rob Bowman | Posted On May 21, 2020
Updated On Mar 23, 2022

There simply is no greater feeling than a perfect day on the water in your very own boat or yacht. For many, boating is more than just a recreation, but a passion that every free moment revolves around. From waking up before dawn to catch bait for an incredible day of fishing to spending hours provisioning for a month long cruise up the coastline, the way every boater spends their time on the water may differ, but the water unites us all in our collective joy.

Some may ask, "Is buying a yacht a good investment?" Our answer is unequivocally, yes. Buying a yacht is not inexpensive by any means, in fact the cost of yacht ownership can easily be 10% of its value on an annual basis. The true value of a yacht is measured in experiences, time spent with family, and greatest of all, the cherished memories you will make along the way. In rare cases, some boats have improved in value depending on their sales price and what enhancements were done after purchase. These cases are not the norm. Buying a yacht is an investment in yourself, not a financial one.

If this is your first time buying a yacht, or perhaps you are moving up from a smaller boat, it's important to take some time and do a fair amount of research about what it's like to be a yacht owner. The definition of a yacht varies from person to person in regards to its size, versatility, and price. Generally speaking, you can make the case that a boat with overnight accommodations and over 40-feet in length would be classified as a yacht. At that size and above, there are different consideration to keep in perspective such as maintenance, storage, insurance, and other operating procedures. A good suggestion to follow is hire a professional, experienced yacht broker that can sit down with you and discuss your boating needs. If you're buying a boat, working with a reputable broker can save you time, money, and best of all, doesn't cost you anything.

A great first-person perspective is the "Trying Not To Sink" Youtube Channel. This couple were new to boating until their first purchase. Their video channel goes through all of their trials, tribulations, adventure, and excitement.

Decide How You Will Use Your Boat

Even before you figure out how much you want to spend on your new yacht, take some time to figure out what you want to get out of boating. Are you looking to primarily fish? If so, will you be staying inshore and need a shallow draft? Or will you be going offshore and need a more substantial boat? The same goes for day boating and overnight trips. Boats are designed and built for very specific situations and their features cater to that specific type of boating. It doesn't mean that boats can't be versatile. Many sportfish owners will also take their boat cruising with friends to the islands, for example, since it has overnight accommodations. There are several questions you will want to ask yourself such as:

  1. Do I want to live on my boat or is this purely for recreation?
  2. Do I have a desire to use this boat for business? (Some owners put their yachts into a charter program allowing them to recoup some expenses.)
  3. Are you going to handle the boat yourself? Or do you need to hire a captain?
  4. Where do you plan to cruise in the future? Remember your confidence will build with time and you will want to venture to more distant places.
  5. How many guests can you see yourself bringing out on your boat or yacht?

Boaters wanting to cruise the Great Loop are a perfect example of needing to choose the right boat for your plans as there are requirements for provisioning, suitable accommodations, and the height of the vessel must be able to clear certain bridges. This is when the services of a yacht broker can really come in handy with your decision making process and save you from making the wrong decision.

Some of the more popular types of boats include:

Below is a great Youtube channel called "What Yacht To Do" which captures the entire process a couple have gone through to take their new boat on a cruise through the Great Loop.

Choosing A Budget

Once you've determined how you want to spend your time boating, the next step is to figure out how much you can afford. As we mentioned before, the cost of your boat or yacht can be near 10% of its value annually, so remember to factor in operating costs like fuel, storage, and travel costs. Spend some time looking online at all of the pre-owned yachts for sale on the MLS (Like real estate, the boating industry has a MLS or Multiple Listing Service).

There are a lot of factors that should be considered when determining your budget. If you're not paying cash for your boat, there are plenty of marine-specific lenders in the industry that can get you financed. As of May 2020, interest rates are very low making it a good time to finance your boat and keep your cash in the bank. If you do plan to finance, expect to put between 20% and 40% as a down payment on a 20-year loan. In addition to the cost of the boat, you'll need to consider other costs like:

  • Storage - Do you have a dock at your home? Is your boat trailerable? Or will you need to pay a marina for a full-time slip?
  • Captain & Maintenance - If you're buying a yacht, hiring a yacht management company to keep it working perfectly can be a smart financial decision.
  • Insurance - Make sure you choose a reputable marine insurance company that has a relationship directly with the carriers.
  • Registration & Taxes - You will need to choose a state or country of residence depending on the yacht you purchase. (Ask your broker for advice!)
  • Accessories - You will want to buy cool stuff for your boat. This includes new electronics, soft goods for bedrooms, water toys, and more.

There's an old saying that the word BOAT stands for "Bring Out Another Thousand". No matter if you are purchasing a 30' center-console or a 68' sportfish, there will be additional costs for upkeep and upgrades. The best advice we can offer on cost is to do your homework, set your budget, and then relax. For new boaters, you will find that the positive benefits and the experiences of boating far outweigh the financial aspects. 

Seen below is an excellent interview with Noelle Norvell, President of the Luxury Financial Group, about everything a buyer needs to know when financing a yacht.

Research The Brand For You

At this step in the yacht buying process you should have an idea of your budget, how you plan to use your new yacht, and where you plan to keep it. Just like purchasing a new car, there are many different builders or yacht brands being sold today. Some brands cater to boaters looking for a certain price point, while others build their boat at the highest quality possible. Materials used in construction, the amount of engines and horsepower, the size of the vessel, and the appointments on board can all influence the cost. 

Some builders are still producing new boats today while others have gone out of business and only pre-owned options are left. This is where you should start deciding if you want a new boat, pre-owned boat, or custom-built boat. Each has their own pros and cons. If cost is not an important factor, it's hard to beat designing your own personal, custom yacht. Of course, this will take longer and in some cases years depending on the backlog of the factory and size of the project. Buying a new boat means it is still going to be under warranty, but the cost is higher and the customization options are limited. Purchasing a pre-owned or brokerage vessel is the most cost-effective, however there are likely going to be more service and maintenance expenses.

Here is a chart outlining the pros and cons of purchasing a new boat, custom building a yacht, or buying a pre-owned vessel:

pros and cons of being a new versus used boat


Unfortunately, there is really no "consumer-report" guide in the marine industry that rates yacht builders based on their performance, equipment, and value. To add a greater level of complexity to the situation, models from the same manufacturer can even vary year to year and may have a difference in quality. Factors like change of ownership, switching designers, engine brand changes, resin quality changes in construction, and even layout changes to the lower deck accommodations can alter the performance or popularity of a boat. This is where hiring a yacht broker to help you purchase a new yacht can show its value.

Boat builders, like automobile companies, differ as well in their aesthetics. Some boats are sleeker and sexier for a particular look the owner wants. Others cater to owners who wish for their boats to have more socializing features on board or windows below deck that alter its exterior. Going to a boat show is an excellent way to get to know all of the different brands that are currently being built today. This will enable you to spend time on board the yacht, speak with factory representatives, and compare options. Many boat owners will arrange to have their yacht broker walk with them around the show and discuss each different brand. This ensures that, as the buyer, you are getting the advice that's right for you. Hiring a broker that is looking out for your best interests means that he isn't compensated to sell you any one particular boat and will offer the honest feedback you need to make the right choice. 

Some of the most popular yacht brands in today's market include:

If you've never been to a boat show, the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show is an excellent one to attend. It's considered the largest boat show in the world and every major builder is in attendance. It happens every year at the end of October or beginning of November.

Negotiating The Purchase

Whether you plan to purchase a brand new yacht, build your own, or buy a used one, there will eventually be a negotiation. Trying to determine whether you are paying too much or getting your boat at a fair price can be difficult. Generally consumers will look online for comparable pre-owned boats that are close to the same year and size to see the price they are selling at. If you plan to do this research yourself and without the assistance of a yacht broker, keep in mind that condition, engine size, engine hours, accessories, layout, and other options can influence the price of a boat. At United, we work with buyers to help determine whether a price is fair or not in a variety of ways including:

  • Researching our own sold database. United consistently sells over 500 boats every year and we can accurately price all major builders.
  • Using the MLS databases like that only brokers have access to.
  • Polling our extensive team of over 165 brokers worldwide using our proprietary yacht broker forum

Whether you are buying new or pre-owned, there's a good chance that you will be negotiating with a salesperson who's best interest is to make money for themselves and their client or company. Our best advice is to hire an experienced, professional yacht broker that will keep your best interests at heart and negotiate on your behalf. This can not only save you money in the long run, but it also alleviates the stress of the process. And best of all, the seller (or boat builder) pays your broker's commission!

Surveying Your Boat Or Yacht

Whether you are purchasing a brand new yacht or a brokerage vessel, you will need to have a survey done for the bank (if you are financing), for your marine insurance company, and for your own peace of mind. A thorough sea trial and survey can uncover problems or potential issues that weren't noticeable by the untrained eye. The results of the survey can also play a role in the final negotiation process. Buyers may want to pressure the seller to lower the selling price or fix the remaining problems before the final closing can proceed.

Finding the right marine surveyor can also be a bit daunting if you have never used on before. Your yacht broker should have connections in the area with surveyors he or she has used in the past. The American Boat and Yacht Council has an easy-to-use marine surveyor search engine: 

Seen below: Youtube channel The Boat Life has an in-depth interview with a marine surveyor on his experiences working with boats. The video is nearly 20 minutes along and goes through all the checkpoints during a real survey.

Resale Value & Selling Your Yacht

"Hiring a yacht management company is one of the smartest things you can do to keep your boat running smoothly and the resale value up," says Christopher Cooke, United Yacht professional broker and owner of Spencer Christopher Yacht Management. A good yacht management company take care of all of the hassles of being a yacht owner like checking the electrical, pumps, all your fluids, and even run the boat for you so the engine stays in good condition. This continual maintenance can mean thousands of dollars saved at the point when you go to sell your yacht. Not only will you recoup more money if your boat is in excellent condition, but it will also be easier to sell. The re-sale value of your yacht will depend primarily upon:

  • How many hours are on your engines and if they are up-to-date on service
  • The condition of the structure and mechanical components of the yacht
  • The current market conditions for that particular style of brand of yacht

Just as important as keeping your boat in good condition when going to sell it, is selecting the right brokerage firm. There are many choices today, especially in the Florida market, but at United we pride ourselves on our integrity, our expertise, our support team, and the amount of business we do on a monthly basis. With over 165 brokers worldwide and a digital connection between all of them, we often sell our client's listing before it even hits the market.

For more information on buying or selling a yacht, please contact our main office at (772) 463-6161. We will put you in touch with an experienced, professional broker that is either in your area or specializes in the particular type of vessel you have interest in.

Here are several other articles you may have interest in: 

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