A Guide to Buying a Second-Hand Boat on Gumtree

With boats depreciating even faster than cars, it makes sense to buy a used boat, but new or second-hand, it’s still a major decision that needs careful thought. Some of the issues to consider remain the same whether you’re thinking of buying a kayak, a small sailing dinghy, a sailing yacht or a cruiser, while some apply specifically to a particular type of boat. Our Gumtree tips for buying a used boat should help you navigate the process, and where more specialist advice is needed, we’ll try to make sure you – pardon the pun ;) – steer the right course.

A Gumtree guide to buying a used boat

Buying a kayak

Whether you’re an adrenaline-fuelled white water fan or prefer a gentle swan-like glide in the calmer reaches of river, you need to know that your kayak is water-worthy. Whatever your budget, and however great the kayak looks in the photos, it’s always a good idea to see for yourself. If you limit your search to areas reasonably close to where you live, you can cut out a lot of time-consuming and expensive travel. It’s also worth checking in advance whether the kayak you’re considering is designed for recreation, racing or touring and whether it fits with your intended use. When you’ve made a shortlist and you go to view your prospective purchase, here are a few things to look out for:

  • A first glance can give a good overall impression of whether the kayak has been cared for, whether any ropes are frayed and whether it’s been stored outside. Running your hands around the outside can help identify any bulges, dents or cracks.
  • It’s worth bringing a torch to look at the inside for any hull deformity, because the shape of the hull determines how the kayak moves in the water. Any dents or bumps will probably affect its performance.
  • When you take it for a paddle, you’ll want to feel happy that the kayak handles the way you expect, and that the foot pedal guiding the rudder works smoothly.
  • What about accessories? Some things, like deck rigging, are quite easy to replace, while others such as hatches that no longer seal, may be more difficult, especially in older models.

The bottom line: how much for a kayak?

A small amount of surface damage or easily replaceable missing parts are not necessarily a deal-breaker, but may help you to negotiate the price downwards a little. For leading brands like Prijon, Seabird, Wave Sport and Wilderness Systems, some buyers reckon on around 50% of the recommended retail price for a second-hand kayak in good condition, setting you back around £500. However there are lots of independent and less well-known brands to choose from and, depending on the type and condition, you could pay anything from £100 to £1,000 and more, with many available around the £300 mark.

A Gumtree guide to buying a used boat

Buying a second-hand small sailing dinghy

Like kayaking, sailing can be high-octane or calm and tranquil, and many of the same principles apply when you buy. The first step when purchasing a sailing dinghy is to decide on your search radius, approximate budget and of course what you intend to use it for. If you’re looking for a starter children’s boat, top brands include Optimist, Pico and Topper, or for a step up for young adults, Laser Radial, Feva or the double-hander 420 are all popular. For racing, some top names are the Laser, RS200 or RS800, and the 49er, while cruisers include the Wayfarer, Wanderer and Kestrel. Once you know the class of dinghy you want, it’s best not to get too hung up on the brand name. Instead, it’s better to keep an open mind and see what’s on the market. Other issues to think about include:

  • While it’s vital to see the dinghy for yourself and do all the condition checks that you can, it’s also wise, unless you’re very experienced, to get an expert to look over the boat before you buy.
  • You need to know in advance where you’re going to keep your dinghy. Mooring costs can be quite expensive in popular locations, and some have waiting lists.
  • When drawing up your budget, sailing organisations like the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) recommend that you add about 10% of the purchase cost per year to allow for maintenance and overheads.
  • It’s worth checking whether the boat is being sold together with a road trailer; if not, you would need to buy one separately, but the dinghy would cost less.
  • Although insurance is not usually a legal requirement in most waters, it’s worth getting appropriate cover to protect yourself from potential third-party liability if your boat should somehow cause damage to another one.

The bottom line: how much does a sailing dingy cost?

Dinghies hold their value quite well compared with larger boats. A small dinghy like a Topper, costing around £2,500 new, could cost up to £1,000 second-hand, but you may find some available around the £200-£300 mark. A Laser dinghy complete with full rig, a road trailer and trolley could cost up to £1,500 but you may find a little dinghy like it for around £500.

A Gumtree guide to buying a used boat

Yachts and cruisers

When you step up into the league of a sailing yacht, river cruiser, coastal cruiser, or even a blue water cruiser, there’s a lot more to think about. The cost and arrangements for mooring need considering, as well as a realistic budget for both purchase and running costs, with a healthy contingency for unforeseen expenses. When you’ve identified a possible purchase, you could start by taking a look at any service records available, which will quickly flag up any past problems. Having done this, and even though it’s pretty much essential to get a professional opinion, your next step is to inspect it yourself. Here are some of the questions to ask:

  • Does the exterior look well maintained and clean, and are there signs of repairs to the bodywork, cracked fibreglass or faded gel-coat finish?
  • Are there any bubbles or blisters in the fibreglass? These are hard to repair.
  • Are the sides of the hull straight and is there any sign of patches of discolour, which could indicate a previous repair?
  • Is there any sign of leakage or separation under the rail between deck and hull? Separation problems can be extremely difficult to put right.
  • Is the transom where the outboard motor is normally mounted showing any waterlogged wood?
  • Is the bilge area reasonably clean, with no signs of oil leaks from the engine?
  • Does the interior smell musty, and is there any sign of dry rot in the floor or seating? If there is any warping or soft wood in the floor, this would be a big problem.
  • Do all hatches and doors open easily and close securely?
  • Is the engine rusted anywhere? This could be a signal of previous immersion, which may be a major issue.
  • Does the engine oil look milky? If so, it could show that water has got in at some point, and could be a cause of future problems.

These issues will apply to whatever boat you are considering, but when the boat in question is a sailing yacht, there’s also the rigging to check. It’s particularly useful to find out when the standing rigging was last changed. This needs to be done around every ten years, or five in the case of a racing yacht. If you want to proceed following your own inspection, the usual sequence of events is that you make an offer, sign a contract and pay 10% deposit.

Getting a professional survey

Your own inspection will help you form an impression of whether you want to take things further, but it can’t substitute for a professional survey, preferably by a surveyor who is accredited by the Yacht Designers and Surveyors Association (YDSA) or the International Institute of Marine Surveyors (IIMS). The marine survey will not cover the engine, so it’s also a good precaution to get a qualified marine engineer to carry out a full mechanical inspection and oil analysis. If these show up any repair works needed, this could either be carried out by the seller before the sale with no price alteration, you could negotiate a lower price and carry out the repairs yourself, or the deal could fall through.

What other paperwork do you need to buy a boat?


The contract of sale in the UK works slightly differently from, for example, buying a house. Once the offer has been accepted, the transaction moves immediately to contract stage, which is legally binding. Usually the offer is subject to inspection or sea trial or both, and the contract allows about 14 days for these to be carried out, though the length of time could be flexible during busy periods. You can download a model contract for the sale and purchase of second-hand boats from the RYA. This covers all of the usual terms and conditions relating to this type of transaction. It assumes you will have a survey and should adequately cover everything you need for a private boat sale of British registered or unregistered boats.

Clear title

Establishing clear title is basically confirming that the seller actually owns the boat, and that there are no outstanding charges such as mooring fees owing on it. If you’re buying through a broker, it’s part of their job to demonstrate clear title. If you’re buying privately direct from the seller, you could ask to see bills of sale from previous changes of ownership, maintenance invoices, or confirmation from the seller’s club or mooring.


You don’t legally have to take out insurance cover for your boat in the UK except in some circumstances. These include:

  • Keeping your boat in a marina or harbour.
  • Getting a licence for inland waterways.
  • Racing or chartering your boat.
  • Taking on marine finance to buy your boat.
  • Sailing in countries outside the UK.

The bottom line: what does a yacht or cruiser cost?

The cost of a boat is a little like the cost of a house: it depends, obviously. The one sure thing is that buying a second-hand boat costs less than buying new.

Cost of a sailing yacht

The top yacht brands in the UK, such as Sunseeker, Baltic Yachts, Oceanco and Benetti, hold their value better than lesser-known brands that could have very similar specifications. This means that you can pick up a better bargain if you’re not too focused on the starry names. Brands including the Jeanneau Melody 34, the Westerly GK29 and the Sigma 33, though they may lack some ultra-modern design details, can offer very good value for money to the second-hand buyer. You could find a Jeanneau Melody 34 dating from around 1979 for prices between £13,000 and £25,000. This compares with prices between £100,000 to £140,000 for its more modern and sophisticated sister, the Sun Odyssey 389.

Cost of a motor cruiser

Top-tier boat brands such as Bertram, Boston Whaler, Chaparral, Lund and the watersports-specific Mastercraft also hold their resale value quite well, and so can look comparatively expensive on the second-hand market. Prices range from £10,000 for a 1988 Mastercraft ProComp to £72,000 for a 2013 Mastercraft X-Star. Less prestigious brands such as the Larson 240, Reef Runner 23 or the Fairline Phantom 32 cruiser could show more budget appeal, with prices around £21,000 to £37,000.

Owning your own boat is a dream for many of us. If you’re fortunate enough to make your dream come true, it certainly pays to do lots of research, talk to experienced boat owners and take your time searching for the best deal. While you’re waiting for your ideal purchase to come along, why not have some fun finding boat accessories on Gumtree?