The best places to buy a used boat (you may be surprised!) — Saltwater Journal

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The best places to buy a used boat (you might be surprised!)

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Buying a boat’s a huge investment regardless of your budget. Naturally you want to know that you’ve looked everywhere possible, found a great boat that suits your sailing needs and got a good deal. So where’s the best place to search for your dream boat? And what are the ins and outs of buying a boat overseas?

Read on for a comprehensive list of all the places you can search for used boats. And some unmissable tips to save you from making expensive mistakes. On that note (saving money and avoiding regret) make sure you read Beginners Guide to Buying a Yacht which will guide you through choosing the best boat for you and will make your search for the right boat much quicker.

Three places to find a boat locally, offline

  1. Marinas

When I worked as an Assistant Marina Manager, I’d often have boat owners give me a heads up they were thinking of selling. Common reasons were ill health, less time to go boating, no available crew to take the boat away, or their partner had different life priorities. If the boat was well cared for and well built, it often wouldn’t even make it to advertisement online — all it took to sell was good old fashioned word of mouth, or a small sign on the boat itself.
Visit your local marinas (call into the Office first to check its ok to walk the piers — you don’t want to be reported as suspicious as you check out the boats!). You may spot a For Sale sign on a boat you like, but it’s also a good exercise to compare boats and get a first hand look at size and designs to help inform your search.

2. Boat yards

Ask around boat yards and speak to contractors in the marine industry. They’re often in the know about who is fixing issues on a boat and prepping their vessel to sell. It’s also fairly common for a boat to have been abandoned in the yard (for one reason or another) and could be bought cheaply. You just need to do your research about why it’s been left, and the costs involved with repairs and bringing it up to standard.
Many owners are quite happy to avoid the hassle of advertising and paying brokerage fees. So you never know — being proactive in your local Marina scene may help you find a great boat bargain.
TIP: If you’re speaking with busy contractors, avoid wasting their time by having a fairly specific idea about the type of vessel you’re looking for by providing a size range and design. For example, sharing that you’re “looking for a Catalina 375 or something similar for coastal cruising” is more helpful than asking “Do you know of any good boats for sale?”.

3. Sailing and Cruising Clubs

Contact your local sailing or cruising club (I recommend joining) as it may be possible for you to pop a ‘Looking for’ notice on a club bulletin board or newsletter. Otherwise, joining the club will involve you in the sailing scene where you’ll meet some great people, and get to know different types of sailing boats and what other people do (or don’t) like about them. You’ll always find a myriad of boat preferences in a club, but you’ll learn whose opinions you trust and start to develop your own ideas about what makes a great boat. And you might be surprised what boat’s crop up in conversation about going on the market!

The benefits of buying a boat within your home country

Buying a boat in your own country has the benefit of being much easier to organise as there’s many logistics involved! The boat being closer to you means it’s easier and cheaper to:

  • Travel to view it

  • Find a reputable surveyor

  • Sort contractors to fix any issues

  • Pay tax/duty

  • Register your vessel

  • Deliver it to your home marina

There’s also the benefit that the boat will likely already have electrical systems (power supply) set up for the voltage and power supply of your country. This can be a huge saving as it’s very expensive for a Marine Electrician to rewire a boat and convert it’s outlets and transformers etc.
TIP: The first boat you view may not be the one you buy so if you’re making the effort to travel to see a particular boat in a new city, it’s a good idea to speak to a broker and organise a number of boat viewings for comparison.

Can you find a cheaper boat overseas?

There’s plenty of places in the world where you can buy a great boat for less than what you’d pay at home. Plus buying a yacht abroad gives you options to:

  • Sail home on an extended cruising adventure

  • Keep the boat overseas and visit for cruising holidays

There are more remote countries such as New Zealand and Australia whose boat market is considered expensive (and with fairly limited supply) due to their remote southern hemisphere location, in comparison to popular boating areas such as the Mediterranean — which tends to have a bountiful supply of production boats both monohull and catamaran.
Some countries (and I’ll tell you which ones below) become destinations for cruising yacht sales. Why? Well many cruisers spend a lot of money getting their boat ready for blue-water cruising and set out from the Pacific Northwest on their first offshore passage to Mexico. Unfortunately, after a rough trip a number decide sailing’s not for them, or have run out of money in the cruising kitty to continue on, so they put their boat on the market. Fortunately, this gives you an opportunity to buy a ‘turn-key’ cruiser that’s all ready to go, without requiring many upgrades.

Greece is an incredible cruising location with some great opportunities for buying a boat

Look for great boat deals in these countries:

  • Greece

  • Croatia

  • Mexico

  • Turkey

  • St. Martin

  • United States:

    • Florida

    • Annapolis, Maryland

    • US Virgin Islands

Of course, that’s not to say don’t look in other countries! You’ll find boats all over the world — it’s a matter of finding the one that suits your needs best, that’s in your price range, and where you want to sail from or base yourself for cruising holidays.

TIP: Paying duties and taxes, converting the boat’s wiring to suit your country’s electrical voltage, paying accommodation overseas and transporting the boat home may cost more than the savings you’ve made on the boat. You’ll need to factor in all of the costs to decide if it’s worth buying a boat overseas.

Having an out of water survey is very important when buying a boat

The importance of engaging a reputable Broker and independent Surveyor when buying a boat

It’s especially important when buying a boat overseas to do your research through reputable Brokers about how long the boat’s been on the market, any issues with it and why the owner is selling. Following that, you should never buy a boat without an independent reputable Surveyor doing a full out of water inspection. Many a person has thought they’d try and cut costs by purchasing a boat sight-unseen, or relying on the word of the Broker, only to be devastated when they find the boat has severe issues (or many niggly ones that would have been picked up by a Surveyor) — and the new boat dream quickly becomes a hugely expensive mistake. See more about what a good Surveyor will check here.

When is it a good time to buy a boat?

Anytime you find the right boat for you! But you may find more boats are available on the market toward the end of a cruising season. And, that owners are more open to negotiating when faced with the approach of winter and they’re looking at paying marina berth or storage fees.
It’s also a good time to buy once you’ve:

  • Researched boating expenses and have budgeted for these costs

  • Got your purchasing finance sorted (or money saved)

  • Organised an Insurance Company who is willing to cover your vessel

The best websites to search for boat sales

I’ve done the hard work for you — here’s the best (popular and reputable) sites across the world wide web to help you find your dream boat.

Craigslist (US)
Good Old Boat (US)
Gumtree (UK ) (UK)
Botentekoop (Netherlands)
Boatsales (Australia)
Gumtree (Australia)
Sailboat Listings (US)
Boat Trader (US)
Boat Crazy (US)
Boat Nation (US)
Kiiji (Canada)
Anacasta (International)
Apollo Duck (International)
Boats 24 (International)
Boatshop 24 (International) (International)
Catamaran Site (International)
Yachtall (International)
Yachtworld (International)
NZBoat Sales (New Zealand)
Trademe (New Zealand)
The Yacht Market (Greece)
La Paz Yachts (Mexico)

Check out these popular Facebook groups for boat sales too

Search for websites and FaceBook groups that may be dedicated to the particular boat brand you’re looking for with boat listings. There’s also some very large popular Facebook groups advertising boat sales internationally such as:

Great Sailboats for Sale
Sailing vessels for sale by owner
Sailboats — For Sale by Owner Only
Catamarans — For Sale by Owner — Worldwide


As you can see, there’s plenty of places to find a boat perfect for you. Now, as you’re amping to get on with your dream boat search, I’ll leave you with some final important advice:
1. Don’t let FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) drive you to buy a boat that’s too expensive or not quite the right one for you. As they say — only fools rush in, and the last thing you want is to end up with a boat that you want to sell shortly after you get it. There will always be another boat out there that’s a great fit for you, and your budget. Sometimes you just need to be patient and keep looking.

2. Do your research, study the market and compare boats to get a good idea of the best offer price.
And when you do buy your boat — a massive congratulations and safe travels. I’d love to know what boat you buy — drop me a comment below!

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