Is now the right time to make the leap? If the arguments for and against your next boat are equal, just do it says Rupert Holmes

Negotiating a deal

“We’re very busy and there’s good confidence both in the UK market and elsewhere, but it’s price sensitive,” says Grant. Her latter point is an important one. Owners have to price realistically or be happy to negotiate a worthwhile discount. Nevertheless, the best deal is one that works for both sides. “You’re better off maintaining a good relationship with the vendor,” Grant says. “It can help enormously if they spend time with you at handover to go through the systems.”

There’s no magic formula for how much less than the asking price you should offer. A well-presented boat that’s sensibly priced may sell quickly at, or very close to, the asking price. A boat that’s clearly not being used and has been on the market for a long time will invite lower offers.

Peter Thomas cautions buyers not to get carried away with how many thousands they can get knocked off the asking price, saying this can lead to buying the wrong boat. “There’s no advantage in being tempted to buy a boat that’s not right for you, just because it’s offered with a better percentage discount.”

The 45-55ft sector and above is one of the strongest

Tim and Jane Griffin, Elan 434

Tim’s previous boat was a Princess V40 powerboat, which he replaced with Instinct earlier this summer. Longer-term plans are to sail to the Med and cruise there, maybe also with visits to the Canary islands.

Tim and Jane Griffin, Elan 434

Tim and Jane Griffin, Elan 434

Instinct appealed as it has the owner’s layout, but still with room for a multigenerational family. It has a safe cockpit, with sail controls that are easily reached from the helm, plus a lot of neat touches. Although it’s a cruising design it’s quick and sails well, which were also important factors.

“We first saw this boat a few years ago,” says Tim, “but the owner decided to keep her. In any case we had not sold our previous boat.” Instinct had one owner from new and had been little used, especially in the last couple of years. “She had been very well looked after, with a really good service history from new,” he adds. “That was a deciding factor in the end.”

“She came out of the survey really well, needing new skin fittings, a new saildrive gaiter and some work on the standing rigging and sanitation pipes. Beyond that, the couple have added radar and a 32in flatscreen TV in the saloon, which they plan to interface with the navigation system.

Tim Hammick, Amel Maramu 46

Hammick, who has a long-standing background in performance sailing, bought Marindina in July 2012 and has since sailed around 25,000 miles, including four Atlantic crossings.

Tim Hammick, Amel Maramu 46

Tim Hammick, Amel Maramu 46

He drew up a shortlist of four or five Maramus across Europe, then, to save potentially wasted travel before viewing, he asked the owners detailed questions about each boat, including the condition of equipment on board, age of standing rigging and so on. He then took a risky approach, making a low offer on a boat in Lanzarote that had been on the market for several years, only commissioning a survey once he had completed the deal.

“I wouldn’t have done that with most boats,” he says. “The Maramu’s heavy scantlings and thick single-skin construction gave me the confidence.

“Having that offer accepted meant I had a better budget to refit the boat with everything overseen by a surveyor. That gave me tremendous confidence in the boat. Marindina got a mostly clean bill of health in the survey, with the only real unexpected thing being scattered blisters in the forward part of the hull that the local yard dealt with. They also replaced the standing rigging and installed a satellite phone.”

Mark and Jo Downer, Grand Soleil 46.3

Mark and Jo bought a little used but well maintained GS 46.3, in Holland early last year, having thoroughly researched the market over a two-year period and cast a wide net. They wanted comfortable accommodation and a boat that would sail well and easily with just the two of them on board.


“It was important for the boat to look lovely and be well built,” Mark says. “But it also had to be new enough for decent kit, which pointed to a model of around 10-12 years old.” They have made few changes, replacing the 140 per cent genoa with a 100 per cent furling jib and Coppercoating the bottom.

“It’s worth working out exactly what you want from the boat and being choosy about it at an early stage,” he adds. “It’s a very expensive mistake to buy the wrong boat, and you won’t enjoy it as much.” He also recommends having a test sail if possible. “Even if you’ve already sailed a lot of different boats, you’ll learn from it.”

He says it’s important to check the sails carefully, and ask whether the equipment that’s on board when you view is included in the sale. Boats with minimal gear often sell for nearly as much as well-equipped boats, so you get that gear for less than it would cost new.

The true cost of external woodwork

Large amounts of external timber have a big effect on running costs and depreciation. Teak looks great at boat shows, but what happens as the boat ages? Modern glued decks last longer than their screwed-down forebears, but replacing them is expensive. There are plenty of performance cruisers that look great without external woodwork, including the Amel range, mentioned on p45.

Personally, I have a foot in each camp. Over 15 years of ownership I’ve removed almost every item of external woodwork from my cruising boat in the Mediterranean, yet in the UK I have a boat with a full teak deck. It’s indicative of the compromises inherent in choosing a boat: everything else about the UK boat was right, so the wooden deck was the one compromise we had to make.

Size and complexity

The larger and more complex the boat, the more time, money and hassle it will take to maintain. My boats are simple to fix, which allows more time for exploring, or relaxing in the shade with a refreshing drink. But for others the main point is to entertain family and friends in a high level of comfort. If you fall into the latter camp, stick with brands that offer support for owners wherever they are in the world. Many builders retain full documentation of the systems and equipment for each boat they make, enabling them to assist with solving problems in remote locations.

The arguments for buying new

  • Benefit from the latest design thinking
  • Can choose exactly the boat and specification you want
  • Cosmetic appearance
  • Total price can be quantified in advance
  • Systems will not need replacing or updating for many years

The arguments against buying new

  • Higher price
  • Possibly longer lead time
  • Greater depreciation
  • A snag list of problems is almost inevitable

The arguments for buying used

  • More boat for your money, particularly if there’s recent new gear on board
  • Previous owners may have tried, tested and improved systems
  • Can make a top-quality yacht affordable

The arguments against buying used

  • Older systems may be in need of replacement
  • When will an expensive refit be needed?
  • Missing out on recent design and construction developments


  1. 1. Introduction
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