Buying a second hand boat is, for the vast majority of us, the most likely route to boat ownership. Right now that is probably truer than usual with waiting lists for new yachts at something of an all-time high as demand far outstrips supply. 

Deciding you want to buy a second hand boat is the easy bit. Selecting the right boat for you, getting your finances in place and doing due diligence through the purchase process are all crucial to get right ahead of, and during, the boat buying process. 

How to buy a second hand boat

A big part of due diligence, once you have selected a yacht that you want to buy, is getting it surveyed – the boating equivalent of having a home inspection before your purchase goes through. 

A yacht surveyor will come and examine your prospective purchase and provide you with their professional opinion. But, as with a house survey, there is a limit to what a yacht surveyor can tell you. It’s worth reading all about getting a yacht survey ahead of purchase so you know exactly what to expect. 

If you are buying in your own country then finances and surveys are about the extent of your paperwork concerns. But once you look into buying overseas there are further loopholes through which you may need to jump.

Buying a second hand boat in Europe is a popular option for those in the UK and, to a much lesser extent, those in the USA. Double VAT, the Schengen zone, and the 180-day rule are just three things you need to consider when making a purchase on the continent.  

How to choose a second hand boat

While owners will obviously start with a wish list for their new boat, being too prescriptive can be counter-productive. “It’s better to have an open mind. Look more at where the boat will take you and what you can do with it. Start by looking at lots of boats and don’t bid on a boat you haven’t actually seen,” says Sue Grant, managing director of Berthon International. 

However, this is less true if you are looking to buy a very specific yacht type. Owners looking to buy a second hand high latitude yacht might well need to compromise as there will be few options on the market most of the time.

It can often be useful too, to talk to those around you about their experiences and what they would do differently next time they are looking to purchase. 

With demand for new boats outstripping supply, brokerages are also seeing some of the best boats on the market changing hands very quickly and buyers need to be quick to grab the boat of their dreams. 

The most popular second hand boats are usually so-called ‘turn-key’ options, which will appeal given the minimal work required to get out on the water. And of those, typically 10-year old second hand yachts are the most popular. But how do you go about getting your hands on one? 

In our feature on picking up a ready to sail used boat, we discovered that there is no simple answer, but casting the net wider, and working closely with brokers that know what you are looking for, are both crucial if you want to find a ready to sail yacht.

If you are looking to buy a classic boat – which, by definition will be second hand – you may think a turn-key option is off the table. But there are many restorations on the market that have had much of the work done to them and can easily be purchased ready to go sailing. 

In fact, such is the time and cost of restoration, buying a more expensive classic that someone else has spent the time and money on doing up can be cheaper in the long run that purchasing a yacht in need of restoration. We cover all of the options in our piece on buying a used classic yacht.

Buying a charter yacht and shared ownership

Though a traditional boat broker is the place to go for many when they decide they want to purchase a second hand yacht, there are a number of other routes that can be taken. 

The yacht charter industry is offers a variety of routes into ownership. For example if you want to purchase a particularly large yacht, then you might want to consider offering it for charter and thus getting the boat to earn some income for you to offset some of the costs. 

Will Bruton looked into the options for us to help with those looking to purchase a large second hand yacht and specifically looked into the charter market as an option for cost offsetting. 

The charter market can also be a good place to look for used yachts. There are a variety of large charter companies that purchase a great many new yachts each year and are often looking to sell their used stock, so it’s always worth considering buying an ex-charter yacht

Shared yacht ownership – either alongside a charter company or another buyer – is another good way of reducing the cost of a second hand boat. Shared yacht ownership schemes have seen unprecedented demand over the past two years and that demand does not look set to slow anytime soon.

Buying a second hand racing boat

Although being too prescriptive about what you need in your new (to you) boat, for those wanting to go racing, it is important to work out what type of racing you want to do as this will have an effect on the type of second hand yacht that you want to buy. 

IRC handicap racing is one of the most widely raced handicap systems in the world, so you will want to ensure that you are looking at second hand boats for IRC racing that have a good handicap – or that can be optimised to make the most of their handicap potential. 

But the needs for fully crewed racing are different than that of shorthanded sailing (single or doublehanded). So if you intent on buying a boat for shorthanded racing then you may want to consider other criteria.

Among brokerage listings it’s rare to see a yacht openly advertised as ‘work needed’. After an initial conversation, the potential buyer can be easily put off by not knowing how…

If you are one of the many boat owners who buys with cash, then great – you can saunter on by without worrying how to finance a yacht. It’s a…

Buying a family yacht with room to accommodate young and old means looking for some very specific characteristics. Having enough space for living, studying and – increasingly commonly – office…

Used Boat for sail Europe

Double VAT, the Schengen zone, the 180-day rule; the list of considerations when considering buying a yacht in Europe is long and, in some cases, very complex. Crucial to understanding…

Small enough to sail without a large crew, but big enough to charter, pocket superyachts between 55-100ft have become increasingly popular. A compelling proposition for both owners and charterers; buying…

‘Subject to survey’ might be the most powerful caveat to a serious offer on a yacht, yet what a good yacht survey entails can be something of a mystery. The…

Neatly coiled lines, highly polished stainless steel and a sense of order tends to grace berths in marinas serving professionally maintained yachts, seemingly in a permanent state of readiness for…

The rapidly growing double-handed and shorthanded racing scene has attracted a flurry of recently launched models specifically optimised for this type of competition. But a cost-effective way of competing can…


Merf Owen, of Owen Clarke Yacht Design, has designed many a high latitudes yacht for cruising, while his wife Ashley Perrin is a professional ice pilot, formerly working for the…

Yacht charter companies increasingly own new yachts for only a few years, selling off sooner to ensure they can offer the latest models to customers. Meanwhile an older, heavily used…

Over the last three decades there has been a spectacular classic boat revival, resulting in – and further encouraged by – numerous classic boat regattas and rallies all over the…