Buying a boat
Buying your first boat is an exciting time, but it can also be a little daunting.
You’re probably used to buying cars or houses but, while there are some similarities to both, there are a whole host of unique elements to consider when buying a boat.
In fact, if you’re new to boating, you’ve probably got a whole host of questions – plus a few more you haven’t thought of yet.
Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Here at NYA we have 40 years of experience when it comes to getting people started on their boating journey. In this boating for beginners FAQ, you’ll find all the answers you need to get out on the water with confidence. If you still need more help, why not get in touch? We’re here to help.
Yes, but not in quite the same way as you need a driving licence to drive a car. There is no “boating licence” for UK waters, as such, although an appropriate training course is essential to make sure you are safe and get the most out of your boating experience.
There are, however, certain licences that will be required, especially if your boat is kept and used on inland waterways.
In this case, you will need a licence before you can take to the canals, rivers, and waterways around the UK. This cane be acquired from either the Canal and River Trust, Environment Agency or, in the case of the Norfolk Broads, the Broads Authority.
You will need to buy a licence for each different waterway you plan to use, which pays for upkeep and maintenance.
A boat safety certificate, which lasts for four years, is also required.
The RYA SRC (Short Range Certificate) is a legal requirement for anyone operating a marine VHF radio, while a Ships Radio Licence is required to cover the radio equipment being used on the vessel.
If you are planning on boating in European waters, the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) is required by law.
A recognised training course is increasingly a requirement for insurance and we strongly recommend anyone new to boating takes an appropriate training course.
You wouldn’t sit in a car for the first time and expect to know how to drive, after all.
Our Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor provides a wide range of courses from basic boat handling up to VHF operators course, ICC and coastal powerboat training.
We strongly recommend that new and more experienced boaters take the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Course. This is a hands-on course with minimal theory which equips skippers with all the skills required to make their boating safer and more enjoyable.
On completion, this course also enables skippers to take the written test for the RYA International Certificate of Competence (ICC) which is a legal requirement in many parts of Europe.
While there is no legal requirement in the UK for boat insurance, almost every marina, mooring or inland waterway requires boat owners to have a minimum of third-party cover.
For example, the Broads Authority requires a minimum third-party liability cover of £2m for all powered craft, with evidence required before you can buy your annual licence or toll.
It’s also sensible to more comprehensively insure one of the biggest purchases you are ever likely to make, and we work closely with leading insurers, Navigators and General, to provide first class marine insurance.
Yes, the RYA Short Range Certificate is the minimum legal requirement for anyone operating a fixed or handheld marine VHF radio with Digital Selective Calling (DSC).
Our RYA instructor offers this classroom-based training, which includes a short test paper.
A Ship Radio Licence is required for those sailing further out to sea and operating longer-range radios, satellite communication equipment, EPIRBs and SARTS.
The RCD is a European Union directive (2013/53/EU) aimed at harmonising construction standards for watercraft as well as regulating exhaust and noise emissions. This applies to the design and manufacture of craft between 2.5 and 24 metres in hull length built since June 16, 1998 intended for sport and leisure use.
All eligible boats placed on the market within the EU, wherever they were built, must comply with the Essential Requirements specified in the RCD.
Things to look out for include:
Further information including details of all exemptions and import by private individuals can be found on the RYA website.
There is no equivalent of a car’s V5 document, which is a compulsory record of the registered keeper of every vehicle.
However, the bill of sale acts as the boat’s title document and, in an ideal world, there will be a paper trail back to the original builder’s certificate.
Back in the real world, older boats may well be missing some of this documentation, but you should ensure that the most recent owner – the seller of the boat – can provide a bill of sale showing that they do own the boat and have legal title to sell it. Other documentation, such as receipts for moorings, maintenance, and other incidentals, would further corroborate their ownership over a period.
Some boats may be registered on the UK Ship Register, or Small Ships Register, which is the closest thing to a V5 in the boating world as owners must have five years’ worth of original title documents.
Yes. Buying a boat can be one of the largest purchases you’ll make, and at NYA we can help arrange loans and Marine Mortgages with a wide variety of packages, subject to status, with our trusted partners, Lombard Marine.
Many insurers require a survey as a condition of providing cover and, given the potentially high value of your purchase, we always recommend a full inspection for our brokerage boats.
These are boats which are, effectively, private sales from one individual to another, with NYA acting as an intermediary, like an estate agent.
As such, there is no warranty provided by the broker.
Just like when buying a house, a survey will highlight any issues that either need addressing right away or will need attention at some point in the near future.
As well as providing you with peace of mind, a survey can help you negotiate a better price if it highlights issues that need addressing – just like when you buy a house.
Be aware that there are different types of survey: an insurance survey will only look at the potential risks for the insurer, while a finance survey will primarily assess the overall condition and value of the boat.
The most comprehensive survey is a full condition or pre-purchase survey, which will assess the structural integrity, the engine and mechanicals, safety systems through to cosmetic details.
Don’t rely on an old survey, which can only assess the condition of the boat on the day it was carried out.
NYA can help you find a qualified marine surveyor.
It is essential that you properly equip your boat prior to taking to the water.
Some safety equipment is mandatory for pleasure vessels of 13.7m in length and over as they are classified as Class XII vessels under the Merchant Shipping Regulations.
Whether or not the equipment is mandatory, at the very least you should carry:
Some of this equipment will come with new or second-hand boats, but if you are in any doubt our staff can help you find everything you need.
Yes, none more so than our own NYA Cruising Club, which offers newcomers to boating the chance to experience offshore cruising with the help of a professional support team and marine engineers.
You’ll be able to join like-minded boaters at sea without worrying about route planning, moorings, tide times or bridges.
It’s the perfect way to give beginners experience and reassurance in a safe environment while they learn the ropes, and the social aspect of the cruises is an integral part of the experience.
After your purchase, you’ll have all the support you need on an ongoing basis, from professional training to advice on equipment, moorings, and the servicing of your boat once you’re enjoying life on the water.
Many of our customers pop in to the office for a chat and a coffee, and you’ll always find a warm welcome and an expert on hand to help you with any queries you may have.
Our Cruising Club also provides an opportunity to go out to sea with a full professional support team to give newcomers all the reassurance they need while they learn the ropes.
Brokerage boats are sold on behalf of a vending owner without any prior inspection or guarantee from the broker.
Once you have signed on the dotted line she’s yours, so assessing the condition is important. We always recommend a survey and mechanical inspection before you buy and can help put you in touch with the relevant professionals.
It’s very different with a dealer stock boat, where a trader has a legal responsibility like a used car dealer.
At Norfolk Yacht Agency, we prepare all our own used stock to a very high standard including valeting and a detailed pre-delivery inspection. Most of our stock vessels are sold with a mechanical warranty, providing our clients with peace of mind. For an insight into our pre-delivery inspection click here.
Many people will think that the ideal boat would be shaft driven with an inboard diesel engine fully enclosed in the boat.
However, particularly for smaller boats, there are advantages to outdrive or outboard propulsion. The space freed up by locating the engine at the rear of the boat usually provides more internal accommodation, not to mention steerage astern and, in planing boats, greater performance and efficiency.
A vessel fitted with an outdrive has the engine located in the aft (rear) of the boat with the drive mechanism outside the boat.
An outdrive will need regular out of the water maintenance. Most manufacturers recommend a service every 2 to 3 years dependent on use. However, outdrives can be expensive to fix if not regularly maintained.
Smaller boats are powered by an outboard motor, a self-contained engine and gearbox mounted on the transom at the back of the boat. The latest generation of 4-stroke outboards are whisper quiet, smoother, less smelly and much more economical than owners of boats in years past might be used to!
Yes, especially if you are buying a boat privately or a brokerage boat, which is a private transaction between two parties with the broker acting as a middleman bringing the two parties together.
Just like with a car, it’s important to check the service history of the engine, or engines in the case of twin-engine boats, and a comprehensive pre-purchase survey will include an inspection of all mechanical aspects of the boat.
Most sea-going boats will come pre-equipped with navigation equipment, which are essential if you are planning on venturing offshore.
These can include chart plotting equipment, GPS satellite navigation, depth sounder, compass, radar, navigation lights, and a VHF radio.
On the Broads, the only requirement is that vessels carry navigation lights if for use after dark, though GPS satellite navigation will prove useful if you’re unfamiliar with the geography of the 120 miles of navigable waterways.
This will depend on several factors, not least your budget. As with a car, a new boat will be more expensive than a used boat of the same type and will depreciate faster.
But obviously the engine, equipment and fittings will be brand new and, if ordering something like a new Haines boat, you will be able to have it built to your own specification if you are prepared to wait – although NYA does also carry a small stock of pre-built brand-new boats.
You’ll know that everything is in perfect condition and will have the peace of mind of a full manufacturer’s warranty.
On the other hand, if you are new to boating you might want your initial outlay to be lower and you might want to start with an older boat while you find your feet, and upgrade to something newer in a couple of years.
It might suit your budget better to buy an older, second-hand starter boat, and carry out all the checks, including a survey, to make sure you get the best boat for your money.
The Broads is probably the best place in the country for those new to boating, with 120 miles of navigable waterways without the often-daunting prospect of using locks.
With wide open, man-made lakes, there will always be space to practice man oeuvres while you’re learning the ropes and, because of the thriving holiday trade which brings inexperienced boaters to the area every summer, there will always be people ready and willing to help newcomers with mooring along the way.
With Lowestoft and Yarmouth on the doorstep, you also can go to sea if you buy a sea-going boat.
If any aspect of boating is making you nervous, it’s probably mooring and maneuvering in confined spaces.
The absence of a brake pedal, the flow of the tide and effect of the wind does take a little getting used to, and the type of boat you buy will also change things – whether you have a single or twin engine, for example.
But practice makes perfect, and there are plenty of places on the Broads where you can hone your skills.
NYA instructor Chris Billson says that while mooring is probably the hardest part of boating to master, it doesn’t have to be.
“Providing you understand some of the very basics, it happens for you,” he says. “It’s when you ignore those basics, when you don’t understand what the tide or wind is doing, it can all go wrong. Most importantly, know when you’ve gone wrong, come out and try again.”
Chris runs several different courses, using either your own boat or his training vessel, and we strongly recommend all newcomers to boating to undertake a two-day training course.
These are the three most common types of hull design on a boat and have different characteristics on the water.
Planing hulls are V-shaped and are designed so that the boat glides on top of the water when enough power is supplied, allowing the boat to skim over the water at high speed.
The bow of the boat will rise as speed increases, and the boat may roll or bank in sharp turns.
Powerboats and sea-going sports boats capable of higher speeds are most likely to have planing hulls.
Displacement hulls have a rounder bottom and move through the water by pushing it aside from the bow and along the length of the hull, which remains fully in the water at all times.
This “bow wave” creates a resistance to the hull, and therefore the maximum speed of the boat is limited by its length at the waterline, no matter how much power is applied.
Lower speed boats, such as Broads cruisers, have displacement hulls.
A semi displacement hull is not constrained by these rules of physics, and is a cross between the two above, and can achieve greater speeds than a displacement hull when required.
They will operate in displacement mode at lower speeds, with some flatter sections partially lifting the forward section of the hull out of the water to decrease drag for higher cruising speeds.
Most people will buy from a boat dealer such as NYA.
Going to a dealer should mean you have a good range of vessels to choose from. A reputable dealer will usually have a sales area where you can see several craft at any one time.
A professional brokerage should also be a member of the British Marine Federation and the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents (ABYA), who ensure a code of conduct covering such things as how title is guaranteed, and money is securely handled.
NYA can provide advice on which is the best boat for your needs, as well as ongoing support after the sale, including access to training, maintenance and mooring.
Engine breakdowns can be expensive to fix, so it’s important to have your boat serviced at regular intervals.
Different boats and engines may come with different recommended service intervals, but in general a typical inboard diesel engine should be serviced at least once a year, more often with heavy use.
Of course, regularly servicing the engine is just one of the maintenance jobs you’ll need to undertake to make sure your boat is always in tip top condition.
It’s important to keep an eye on all mechanical and electrical systems, plus anything that may allow water into the structure of the boat like leaking deck fittings.
Fibreglass should be regularly polished and waxed to keep it in good condition, while antifouling is often done in the spring to prevent the growth of marine organisms during summer.
Batteries and safety equipment should be checked regularly, with self-inflating lifejackets serviced by an authorised service centre.
You can keep your boat either on an NYA-owned mooring or on an independently-owned mooring.
We currently have space for nearly 80 boats at four moorings at Brundall, catering for boats of different sizes and all equipped with 240v shorepower, toilet and shower facilities, and car parking.
There are plenty of other mooring spaces all over the Broads, and our sales staff can help you find the right place for you.
If you buy a boat from NYA, we can provide mooring free for seven days, with temporary mooring thereafter at a daily, weekly or monthly charge.
You can view our latest mooring fees and locations here.
As well as mooring fees, there are several other running costs that need to be considered within your overall budget.
It’s impossible to give exact figures because it obviously depends on which type of boat you buy, its condition and how much you use it.
But, in general, additional costs will include insurance, licences for using waterways, servicing and maintenance, fuel and oil, depreciation, servicing and replacing safety equipment, and replacing parts such as batteries as and when required.
A bow thruster is a propulsion device fitted at the bow of the boat that provides lateral thrust, making the boat more manoeuvrable and therefore easier to moor or control in tight spaces.
They often come fitted to newer, larger boats, but can be retrofitted to older or mid-sized boats.
It’s particularly useful when mooring in strong winds, currents or in crowded mooring areas, allowing skippers to turn to port or starboard without forward propulsion.
Do you need one? You’ll find much debate on boating forums, from purists who believe all that’s needed to moor a boat is proper boatcraft, to those who wouldn’t be without them.
There’s no doubt they are a useful aid, particularly for beginners, providing extra control when it’s needed and therefore boosting confidence.
The most important thing is that you buy a boat you’re comfortable with and, after some instruction, you feel confident handling, but which is large enough for your purposes.
For example, how many people do you want to take on the boat, how many do you want to sleep on board, and do you want the option of going offshore when you have more experience?
At the end of the day, only you know how confident you’re feeling and, although the principles of controlling a boat remain the same if it’s 24ft or 50ft, many newcomers do opt for a smaller boat to learn in.
After all, not many people jump straight into a powerful sports car when they’re learning to drive.
But if you’re feeling confident, and don’t want to go through the process of trading up, there’s nothing to stop you buying a 50ft, sea-going boat.
That very much depends on how you want to enjoy your boating, and what sort of budget you have.
Are you happy cruising around inland waterways like the Broads, or do you want to head out to sea?
If you want to stay inland, there’s no point buying a large, twin-engined vessel capable of 30 knots. But if you think you might want to go offshore, there’s no point buying a Broads cruiser.
The important thing is to find the right boat for you. If you have boating friends, they will no doubt provide you with their insight into what to look for and more likely what not to look for.
Our advice to first time buyers is not to get too caught up in your friends’ opinions. What suits them may not suit you. Just begin your search knowing how you want to enjoy the boat.
Look for a boat that has accommodation to suit you and is of an age and condition that you are happy with. Walking onto a boat is like walking into a house, it either feels right or it doesn’t. Look at several boats in the flesh. You can’t get a real impression of a boat from an advert. Once you’ve found something that appeals consider whether it is suitable for your use and find out about running costs.
At NYA, we sell boats of all sizes, shapes, ages and prices, so there’s a good chance you’ll find something to suit.
There is no hard and fast rule, and it very much depends on your budget and how you want to use your boat.
Once you start looking at adverts for boats, you will quickly see the type of boat you can afford on your budget, and then it’s all about finding the best boat you can for your money and that fits your requirements.
You can buy a small, second hand Broads cruiser for as little as £7,000 to £10,000, right up to new or used sea-going boats for £350,000 or more.
The most important thing is to buy the right boat for you and have fun!
If you come to us with an idea of your budget and how you want to use your boat, we will do our best to find something that meets your requirements.
The most significant differences between a river cruiser and a sea-going boat are the hull design and the engine power, while you will also need more safety and navigation equipment at sea.
A boat capable of going offshore will need a more powerful engine than a river cruiser to provide the greater performance you will need at sea.
We will be able to match you to a suitable boat if you’re looking for a dual-purpose vessel.
All privately-owned boats used in the EU by EU residents must be VAT paid, and you may be required to show evidence of this if you travel to an EU country.
When you buy a boat, the vendor should be able to provide evidence that VAT has been paid, usually in the form of the original VAT invoice from when it was first sold within the EU.
Vessels built before 1985 are deemed to be VAT paid if they were in the EU in December 31, 1992, if evidence of both dates can be shown, for example with a builder’s certificate and evidence of mooring.
For petrol boats, fuel is available from Broom Boats or Waveney River Centre, or from a petrol station using a jerry can.
For diesel boats, fuel is available from NYA at Brundall and many other boatyards and marinas. We run a fuel club which has a one-off £250 joining fee and includes your own electronic fuel tag. Once joined you can enjoy fuel at our cheapest rate and 24-hour access to the fuel pump.
There are several historic bridges on the Broads, and some will open for you.
The bridges can be contacted either by VHF radio or by mobile phone. For a full list of bridge heights and contact methods, see the Broads Authority website.
If you don’t have your own trailer and plan on transporting the boat by road, NYA can help with arranging transport through our recommended haulier, Beverley Transport.
Your boat will need to be lifted onto the transporter, and this is charged in addition to your survey lift. Please note that a transport lift is charged even if boat stays out of the water after the survey as the crane must move and lift your boat onto the transporter.
Your boat will need to be stripped for transport, which involves removing/stowing canopies, ropes, fenders, screens, aerials etc.
All need to be stowed safely to prevent damage during transit. NYA can do this for you for a small fee.
Some larger vessels will require props, rudders and radar arches to be removed, which may involve an additional lift or the use of a forklift.
If you are leaving by river or sea, a transit licence will be required, which can be obtained at Brundall and Wroxham.
If you leave the Broads via Great Yarmouth then bridges may need to be booked to lift to allow your passage. This needs to be done 24 hours in advance. If you are leaving via Lowestoft then you can use Mutford Lock at Oulton Broad. It is advisable to book this and the bridge after it.
If your boat breaks down on the Broads and you can’t fix it yourself, the first thing you should do is ensure the safety of all those on board.
There are services that operate an AA-style breakdown service on the water, who will come to your aid.
The NYA service centre also operates a recovery service.