The basics of how it works in New Zealand

If you want to buy a second hand boat we recommend that you get a survey (meaning boat inspection) done by a good surveyor who is independent of the seller or broker. Problems found after the deal is finalised can damage your bank account and spoil the fun of the boating. On the other hand if your survey or other advisors identify the issues you can negotiate or walk away if it’s a lemon.

Boats over 30 years old will usually require a survey for insurance purposes. You’ll need insurance to be accepted to rent a marina berth and possibly a mooring or to be hauled out at a boat yard.

You can either buy a boat privately (seller sells directly to buyer) or using a broker.

Brokers operate in the same way as real estate agents where the seller pays them a commission if they sell the boat. Brokers will almost always insist that you get a survey so that you are aware of any deficiencies and also so that they are not liable for them.

If you use a broker they will negotiate on behalf of the seller to get a deal acceptable to buyer and seller. The normal process is to make a deal conditional on structural survey which includes out of water internal, deck inspection and essential component checks, engine check, rig check in some cases if a yacht, and sea trial.

The structural surveyor does the hull and structure and external machinery inspection. A mechanic/engineer does the running condition of the engine. A rigger does the rig check aloft if required. A time frame is put on fulfilling these requirements and it’s a good idea to allow a little extra time to get the checks done as organising the surveyors, boatyards and other logistics can sometimes take longer than expected.

The deal becomes unconditional when you agree the conditions have been met to your satisfaction. Some deals have clauses to make it hard to get out of a deal such as that there must be substantial deficiencies. The surveyor’s report is typically used to quantify the deficiencies and it is common for there to be price reductions to alloy a buyer to have deficiencies remediated or for the seller to agree to repair the deficiencies. The broker negotiates these things.

Many people buy privately. A good approach is to use a written agreement between buyer and seller and work through the above processes of survey/checks directly between buyer and seller.

Regardless of what happens you will be in for a journey when you buy a boat. We hope it’s a good one.