Buy a Yacht | A Complete Guide for First Time Yacht Owners

Here you are. After years of renting catamarans, chartering motor yachts and sailing on different crewed vessels, you made your mind up: it’s time to buy your own yacht.

Behind this apparently simple task actually lies a lot of confusion. If you’ve never done it before, buying a yacht isn’t exactly the same as buying a new car or a personal watercraft. Buying or selling boats is a very complex process that brings a lot of questions along the way: 

– What type of boat is a good fit for you?  Motoryacht, sailing yacht, catamaran, trimaran, motor-sailor (fifty)?
– What is the best yacht configuration?
– Should you buy a brand new yacht, or a second hand one that has proved herself?

We have been owning boats for many years, and we’ve been organising yacht charters for more than 20 years with Windward Islands. We’ve helped countless owners to buy their boats from 15 to 47m . Needless to say, we know a thing or two about the ideal yacht buying process. Follow our beginner’s guide !

1. Choose the boat category you want to buy

All categories of yachts have their pros and cons. One boat can be perfect in a certain situation, but not suited for some others. If you plan a transatlantic journey, you will not have the same needs as someone looking for a catamaran to sail the shallow waters of a tropical island.

So your first question should be to determine what you are going to do most of the time with your boat and where you are going to go the most.  

Buy a yacht that matches your main uses and the destinations you wish to discover.

You can always charter a more suited yacht for these extra activities that are not adapted to your boat.

Read also : Catamaran vs Trimaran : What are the differences

2. Find a yacht that pleases your eyes

Whether it is justified or not, aesthetics is a big part of narrowing down your options when you are buying your first yacht. Everyone wants a yacht that is a true eye candy. Many of them are unique and have lines or interiors designed by prestigious artists and shipyards.

Regardless of your yacht style, keep in mind that your mooring neighbor will want to have a prettier (and bigger) boat than you, and vice versa. Nobody wants to be left behind.

Joke aside, all options are on the table: traditional sailboats, sharp catamarans, luxurious motor yacht… Some designs are timeless while some lines follow trends that could fade. Regardless, find a boat that makes you want to step on it. It’s all about pleasure.

3. Assess the comfort needed on the yacht you want to buy

Knowing what comfort you expect is very important. The comfort is directly related to the size of your yacht, its equipment and therefore whether or not it will need a crew or specific skills to operate it.

If you choose a boat too small, you might be able to sail it yourself and reduce the overall cost, but you may encounter limitations in size, comfort, or possibility to hire a crew. 

On the other hand, if you choose a yacht too big, you might have a vessel extremely comfortable but you will likely need a crew to operate it and the costs for both purchase and maintenance are higher. 

Bigger and more comfortable is not always the answer. Even superyacht owners sometimes go for smaller vessels after years of using huge yachts to find the pure sailing experience back. 

A bit like aesthetic, comfort and size are matters of feeling, and sometimes compromises.

All yacht designers say that there are 3 criteria to define the qualities of a boat: Performance, Aesthetics and Comfort on board. To date, it is only possible to combine 2 of these: Performance and aesthetics, Aesthetics and comfort. The performance and comfort couple is the most difficult one to achieve” Emmanuel Pertuisot (President of Windward Islands).

4. Decide the boat performances you want

Not everyone is looking for the fastest yacht. But let’s be honest, speed can be one of the most addictive parts of sailing. Some boats are more suited for long distance, some are better to cruise around and many can be a balanced mix of the two.

So you can decide to compromise on performance to favour cruising and long distance. 
Or go full on on the fastest boat of your category. 

The choice is yours. The important thing is to buy a boat that you like.

5.Estimate your yearly budget for yacht maintenance

As rewarding as it is, yachting can be an expensive hobby. The price of your yacht is of course important, but many other costs will add up on a yearly basis, and it’s important to forecast them properly. 

A boat needs maintenance, repairs, insurance and mooring. In most cases, the bigger the yacht, the bigger these expenses add up, especially when crews get in the mix.

On the bright side, once you have a boat category suited to your needs, aesthetics you are looking for, a good idea of your comfort needs, your performance expectations and a budget you can afford… you are basically ready to buy your first yacht.

Emmanuel Pertuisot (President of Windward Islands) estimates that the annual operating costs of a vessel are usually 10% of its purchase cost. It’s rarely far from this ratio. Some then consider putting the vessel under rental management.

Read Also: How much does it really cost to own a yacht?

6. Browse the yachts available on the market. Take your time!

Have a look at the market, observe which boats are for sale and why. Especially when you buy a yacht second hand, it’s important to understand the market before diving head first. Once you do, you will quickly realize that there are always good deals lying around. 

Do your research, and do not hesitate to contact a well established sales broker who will advise you on the different models and who will often be able to point out “off-market” boats that often prove to be the best opportunities.

Afterwards, your specialist broker will be of great help in securing and finalizing your transaction:
– check all legal documentations
– organise visits
– manage a pre-purchased survey
– negotiate for you the best deal
– settle the charter business if you want your vessel expenses to be covered by rental

7. Visit the yachts for sale that you like

This is not the worst part of our process.
Take the time to visit the yachts that interest you. For a new boat, the easiest way is to go to a boat show where your broker will arrange a visit and private test.

For a used boat, it will be necessary to travel to visit the vessel(s) in their home port. That’s where your specialist becomes handy again. By assessing the condition of the boat first, he can ensure that your trip is worthwhile.

Another way to be sure about a boat model is to rent it out or to charter a similar one to see if it meets your expectations. Windward Islands as an expert broker in boat sales and charters can help you in this process.

8. Find a place to dock the yacht you intend to buy

It might look like this step is out of place, but it’s not. 

Finding a marina or a harbor to dock your yacht can be difficult in some areas. So if you know your marina is in high demand, it is worth checking how long it usually takes to obtain the holy grail: a spot to dock your new jewel. Even if your yacht is not exactly bought just yet.

9. Settle the financing and the paperwork

You can finance your yacht in different ways: ask for a loan at your usual bank, pay it cash or lease it.

The choice of the flag of your yacht is also usually made at this stage of the purchase. It is generally chosen according to several criteria such as home port, sailing area, commercial activity or not.

Many flag of convenience options are available in addition to the usual options in your country of residence. Your specialist broker will be able to help you make a choice, or will refer you to a professional in the sector.

10. Enjoy!

After all these researches, visits, and test sails, you are now a proud yacht owner.


How long does it take to buy a yacht?

Buying a yacht can take anywhere between a few days to a few years, depending on what you are looking for and how ready you are to make the purchase.

Buying a yacht for the first time: where should I start?

Start by deciding what kind of boat you like and what are your needs. Take your time before buying a yacht. Sail test the yachts you like and consider chartering similar yachts before bringing a definitive answer.

Should I find a place to dock my yacht before or after buying the boat?

A place to dock your yacht should be picked before you buy the yacht, especially if your marina is in high demand. It can sometimes take a few weeks to a few months to have a spot in some marinas.

Should I buy a new yacht or a second hand yacht?

If you are buying a yacht for the first time, you should get an experienced broker by your side if you intend to buy a second hand yacht. If you do not, better stick to new yachts that usually have less “hidden surprises”.

Where do I buy a yacht?

The best place to buy a yacht is a yacht broker. A yacht broker can assist you in picking the right yacht for your needs, controlling a used yacht and give you access to off-market offers.

Should I buy a yacht?

If you are a true sailing enthusiast that know what you need, then you’ll love having your own yacht. If you are undecided about the type of yachts your like or the destinations, then better stick to yacht charters.