Test your boat before you buy

Test a boat before you buy

Okay, so you've found the boat of your dreams. What’s the first thing you should do? Test it! Testing a boat involves a lot more than a quick cruise around the harbour! You should inspect the boat like a professional boat inspector. 

A boat is a huge purchase. You need to know as much about a boat as you would need to know about a car. Indeed, buying a boat might require even more interrogation.

It’s hard to tell a quality boat from one that may cause you problems. To the average Joe, both could look good on the surface. But when you start to delve deeper, you might just uncover the truth.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Open all doors to get the best view of the structure of the boat
  • Look into the anchor locker to view the hull to deck joint to see if there is light coming through
  • When you are test driving the boat, put it through its paces in open water
  • Try out several boats before making your final choice

And remember, a battered boat is not going to be a good deal regardless of price. If it wasn't maintained externally by its owner, chances are it probably wasn’t maintained mechanically either.

Before you buy a used boat you should carry out some security checks:

Look for the Builders' CE plate that shows that the boat complies with the EU Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) regulations.

Find out the Boats HIN number

Make a note of the Hull or Craft Identification Number (HIN or CIN). It will be a reference like this – GB-XYZ A3456 G4 04...

  • GB – country where the boat was built, XYZ – the manufacturer's identification
  • A3456 – the boat's serial number
  • G – the month of manufacture (A = January)
  • 4 – the year of manufacture
  • 04 – the model year

Ask to see the Declaration of Conformity to confirm that the boat complies with all requirements.

Ask for the original sales invoice that shows that VAT has been paid on the boat.

Sounds simple, but check the boat isn't registered as stolen and that it doesn’t have any outstanding mortgages on it. There are many companies that will do this for you.

If you are buying a canal boat, ask to see the boat's Safety Certificate – all canal boats are required to have one.

Finally, use your judgement. You may not be a professional boat inspector, but you should be able to tell how the boat feels. Stand on the side of the boat and see how much the side dips - it’s best to carry out this test in calm conditions. A boat that is stiff in the water will provide a comfortable cruise.

If in doubt, get your new boat inspected professionally. A good marine inspection will provide great peace of mind. Checks will include; rot under the floor, an engine test and bilge pump testing and anything that will require you to spend money.

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