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A guide to buying your first boat

Home / News / A guide to buying your first boat

A guide to buying your first boat

Sun 20 March 2022

Click here to open/download this as a printable PDF / Poster


This article will take you through all the important questions you need to ask and information that you may not have thought of about buying your first boat.

See also: FAQs - Buying a Boat

What do you need to spend?

This is determined by what type of boating you decide to do, whether inland or coastal, day-boating (without a cabin) or long-term cruising.

You can spend from £5,000 for a small open boat to hundreds of thousands - but set a realistic budget that you can afford as you also need to pay for running costs (see later). We have a wide range of boat for sale - see

What type of boat do you need?

  • Day boats don't have cabins so are great for days out on rivers and lakes.
  • Cruisers have one or more cabins, plus facilities, so you can stay on the boat over a weekend or longer.
  • Narrow boats/wide beam boats are designed for canals and rivers and have cabins and facilities for longer trips.


Where do you want to use the boat?

  • Around the Coast:
    • You will need coastal skipper RYA qualifications and decide if you want a sail or power boat for coastal cruising.
  • Inland (Rivers & Lakes)
    • Lakes will have depth restrictions and most rivers will have restrictions regarding depth and bridge heights, which you will need to keep in mind.
  • Inland (Canals)
    • A lot of UK canals are 'narrow beam' i.e.: 6ft 10in wide, therefore you will need to look for a boat specifically designed for canals.


New or Used?

  • New - buying new means you can choose the exact specification for your needs and gives you peace of mind of a manufacturer's warranty.
  • Used - most used boats are sold by a broker so will have no warranty. It's essential that you have any used boat surveyed by a professional surveyor to ascertain its condition.

Who to Buy From?

  • Private seller: As the saying goes, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). Always get a survey done before buying from a private seller (although this will likely mean moving the boat to a marina so it can be lifted out of the water). It's also advisable to draw up a contract to detail what happens if anything goes wrong.
  • Broker/Dealer: Brokers are either agents for the owner or manufacturer; or own the boat themselves. Bray Marine Sales are a broker. If you buy from a broker then it could be the start of a long relationship, as you may want to upgrade your boat later and use the broker to sell your current one, who already knows the history of the boat and its owners. A reputable broker will get to know what you need and offer good advice while helping you through the entire process.

What are the Running Costs of a boat?

There are a variety of different costs you need to take into consideration:

  • Mooring - this will vary depending on where you keep the boat and goes from nothing to moor it on your own property; reasonable rates at a local marina; all the way up to Ice Wharf Marina on Regent's Canal in London, which costs £10,000 per metre per year!
  • Servicing - this will vary hugely (like a car) depending on what type of engine - single/twin, outboard etc. You can get quotes before you buy.
  • Insurance - this is generally based on the value of the boat and where is it kept/used. Get quotes before you buy, and just as you would with a car, make sure the boat is insured from the moment you buy it.
  • Licence - boats kept on most inland waterways will require a licence so it can be used on that waterway.
  • Finance Costs

Each of our boats on our Boats for Sale page automatically calculates the following (under Purchase/Running Costs):

  • Survey Lift Fee (how much it costs to have the boat lifted by a crane so the surveyor can view it properly)
  • Survey Fee (the cost for the surveyor)
  • Mooring Costs (based on mooring the boat at Bray Marina)
  • Thames River Licence (calculated on the LOA - length overall)

Each boat also has a link that will give you an instant finance quote.

Finding out more information

A wealth of information is available on the Internet, but you can only learn so much. Visit us and view a wide variety of boats - we are always available to help and answer your questions.