Buyers advice

Happy new boat owners

Buying a boat is a happy day. Here are some things to look out for.

Get in touch before committing...


Buying a second-hand boat

Some of the key things to look for when buying a second hand boat:

  • a sound hull
  • a well-maintained engine
  • a sound internal infrastructure without rot (suspect air freshener – what is it hiding?)
  • a clean engine bilge shows good maintenance (but if too clean, was it steam-cleaned just for the sale?)

Using a surveyor

We highly recommend using a professional surveyor with a marine engineering background to determine the quality and condition of a boat you’re considering buying.

The boat safety scheme survey will not give you a valuation or hull integrity assessment that you may need for insurance and that you will need if you are seeking a mortgage for your boat.

The survey fee will depend on its scope whether it includes the boat safety certificate and involves taking the boat out of the water, but a rough guide would be around £500 plus VAT

Legally, before you can use your boat, you will need:

A mooring (unless you are continuously cruising)

Finding somewhere to berth your boat can be difficult so, unless you intend to continuously cruise the inland waterways network, you need to find an appropriate mooring before buying a boat.

There are ‘online moorings’. The Canal & River Trust have some around the country and you can bid for any available in your area.

Or ‘Offline moorings’ these are in marinas or basins and are generally managed by businesses, offering services such as, showers, Wifi, electricity, diesel, pump out services and more.

A cruising licence

Your boat needs to have a licence to use the canals and rivers. Licences and prices can be obtained from the relevant navigation authority. Some reservoirs also have special licence arrangements. You can also buy a Gold Licence, which allows you to use all Canal & River Trust and Environment Agency waterways.

A Boat Safety Certificate

Your boat will need a Boat Safety Certificate in order to obtain a licence. The scheme operates like an MOT for your boat and a certificate lasts for four years.

Find out more about the Boat Safety Scheme


To obtain a cruising license you will need to provide proof that your boat has third party insurance for at least £1,000,000. This will safeguard the owner or person in charge of the boat from claims made against you for injury or damage. You should also insure the boat itself against loss or damage and provide cover for the safety of the crew and the contents, as this is probably not provided as an extension of your home contents policy.