Buying boats

Please note that these guides do not constitute legal advice and any information provided in the guides should not be construed as legal advice or legal interpretation. We do not accept any liability for any loss caused by your reliance on this guide.

The DoneDeal guide to buying boats

Before you buy

  • Buying a boat is like buying a car, a full inspection of the mechanics is advisable.
  • Arrange to see the boat and, if possible, view it out of the water.
  • Try to find out the vessel’s history prior to purchase.
  • Go to the manufacturer’s website or ‘class’ clubs to examine the specifications of the vessel.
  • Get a full inventory before you view.

Things to ask for

  • Ask the seller for the last recognised survey of the vessel. You will need a survey to insure your boat.
  • Ask if it has a certificate of construction. This may have been provided by the boat makers when they constructed the hull.
  • Check if this has been approved by a classification society.
  • If it has, this is a good indication that the boat is of reputable design.
  • Look for identification marks like a hull number. This is like the VIN number on a car and should be somewhere on the permanent structure.
  • If there have been repairs to the vessel, ask if they have been documented.

Import certificates

  • If the boat has been imported you will need an importation certificate.
  • This will indicate if VAT has been paid.
  • If it hasn’t, your boat could be seized if there are outstanding monies owed.
  • Unless the boat is of Irish manufacture, proof of VAT being paid in the EU is necessary.
  • Some boats will be VAT exempt because of age.


  • Check the last survey carefully.
  • If the survey is more than a year old you should get your own survey carried out.
  • Arrange to have an out of water survey.
  • Use a recognised, reputable surveyor.
  • Surveyors usually advertise in boating magazines and periodicals.
  • Ask the seller if they will bear the cost of a new survey.

What a surveyor does

  • A surveyor will check the construction of the boat.
  • They will look for damage and check for osmosis (signs of taking on water).
  • They will also look at all standing rigging, masts and associate stays.
  • They should also check the condition of the running rigging.
  • If the boat is newly painted, a surveyor should be able to assess if damage has been covered up with a fresh coat of paint.


  • Ask what type and make of engine it is.
  • Find out when it was serviced last.


  • Ask if the vessel has a VHF radio.
  • Does it work?


  • When buying a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat), check if it comes complete with an outboard motor.
  • Check the inventory.
  • See if all extras are included.


  • Ask if pyrotechnics are part of the inventory.
  • Are they in date?

Life jackets

  • With life jackets you get what you pay for.
  • The minimum requirements for life jackets are that they are CE approved and, if gas inflated, have a minimum 150n lift.
  • The starting standard for life jackets is CE EN396 or ISO 12402. These must be serviced every three years.
  • SOLAS life jackets with an EC MED ‘wheelmark’ should be serviced annually.
  • If bringing children on board ensure that the boat is equipped with children’s life jackets.

Talk to people

  • There are a lot of ‘class’ club websites where owners of different types of boats discuss their vessels.
  • These are good places to find out common problems with different boat types.
  • Talk to people on the marina where the boat is moored. They will know if the boat has had a troubled past.

Things to bear in mind

  • Before buying, consider where you are going to berth the boat. Where will you keep it?
  • When out of water, where will it stay?
  • Remember that winter insurance on boats that are kept on swinging moorings is not very common or very expensive.

Most importantly

  • Buy a boat that is suitable for what you want.
  • Does it meet your needs and experience?
  • Factor into your costs any required personal training, if you are not familiar with the vessel you purchase.
  • Sailing associations run courses which give recognised qualifications which will enhance your enjoyment and safety on the water.