A step-by-step guide to buying a boat

Story by Harris & Ellis / July 12, 2023

Author: Patricia and Grant Bowlby Yacht Brokers Harris & Ellis Yachts

Purchasing a new boat is an exciting journey. Once you and your broker have found the perfect boat, here are four important steps to making it yours—plus a bonus one.

Step 1: Make an offer

To write the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, your broker will need the following from you:

  • whose name(s) the boat will be in and the correct spelling.
  • the mailing address including postal code and contact phone number for the primary owner’s name (one of the above).
  • the amount that you will be offering for the boat. Your broker will help you determine the current market value, as well as what similar boats have sold for recently.
  • a date that you would like to take possession. Generally, this will be three to four weeks from the date of the acceptance of the offer. The exception is during the cold winter months if sea trials are not possible. Again, your broker will help you with the timing based on the location of the boat and weather conditions.
  • any conditions other than the survey, the mechanical inspection, and the sea trial that you would like included in the sale. These might be specific items on board that are not listed, or timing of work that may have been started by the seller.

With this information, your broker will draw up an offer, then send it to you for your approval and signature. Once your broker receives the offer back from you, they’ll present it to the seller.

There could be some negotiation around the price or conditions which your broker will work through with both parties. Remember that, as with anything else, the price of the boat is dependent upon what the buyer will pay and what the seller will accept for the vessel.

Step 2: Satisfy the conditions

Once the offer has been accepted by both you and the seller, the next step is to fulfil the conditions. A few things to know:

  • you will make a deposit on the boat.
  • you’ll book a surveyor and a mechanic to inspect the boat (unless the boat has an outboard, which some surveyors can inspect). As Certified Professional Yacht Brokers it’s a conflict of interest for us to recommend a surveyor or mechanic to you. However, we can provide you with a list of local surveyors and mechanics and help you navigate the process.
  • your broker will coordinate the inspection dates with the seller and the marina or yacht club, so be sure to let your broker know the name of the surveyor and the mechanic, if there is one, and the date and time of each inspection.
  • the boat should be out of the water for the survey but in the water for the mechanical inspection. Your broker will help facilitate hauling and relaunching the boat as needed.
  • if the boat has been out of the water for the winter, the date for launch may be determined by the marina’s schedule. You’ll need to allow the marina and the seller a couple of days from the day of launch to prepare the boat for the sea trial.
  • once the boat has passed the survey and mechanical inspections, or you and your broker have worked with the seller to decide how any issues will be resolved, you’re ready for the sea trial. At that time, the seller will walk you through all the on-board systems, demonstrating how they work and explaining any maintenance that the seller has performed during ownership. This is a great opportunity for you to ask questions regarding maintenance, upgrades, or idiosyncrasies of the boat. Weather permitting, you and the seller will take the boat out for a short run to demonstrate how it is set up to perform.
  • As each condition is met, remember to notify your broker. They will keep track to ensure that the timelines within the contract are met.

Step 3: Get ready for Closing Day

When all conditions have been met and accepted, a date will be set for closing. Before that date, you’ll need to:

  • contact your insurance company and set up coverage to begin on the Closing Day. Your insurance company will likely require a copy of the survey to bind coverage.
  • contact the marina or yacht club where you plan to keep the boat and let them know when it will arrive or, if the vessel already resides there, when you will take possession (i.e., the closing date). The marina may want you to fill out a contract and will likely ask for a copy of your insurance.
  • contact your bank to arrange for a Certified Cheque or Bank Draft for the day of closing.

Step 4: Closing Day

On the day of closing, you, the seller, and your broker will meet to finalize the purchase of the boat. This is your chance to ask the owner any additional questions. Here’s what the day will look like:

  • your broker will have paperwork already filled out for you to sign, including:
  • Acceptance of Yacht
  • Bill of Sale (both you and the seller will sign)
  • Transfer of ownership / License transfer documents
  • the specific paperwork will depend on whether the boat is Licensed or Registered.
  • you will then provide your certified cheque or bank draft for the final balance to either the seller or your broker as per the prior agreement.
  • the seller will hand over the keys to the boat and any other documents or items they have that pertain to the boat.
  • once you have paid for the boat, you should check in with the marina to let them know that you are now the new owner and to complete any required paperwork.

Bonus Step: Time to Celebrate

The boat is yours—enjoy! And don’t forget that we are always available to answer questions as you get to know her.



As first-time boat buyers and as foreigners wanting to buy a cruising catamaran in the US, we knew we needed a reliable broker that had our best interests in mind. John Heintzman was just that, and more! He was extremely committed to understanding what we were looking for, gave great advice, and guided us through the purchase process with great patience and knowledge. All in all, we felt very well taken care of.

I feel compelled to reach out about the absolutely wonderful experience that I have had with Grant and Patricia Bowlby. I completed the purchase of a boat yesterday and I couldn’t be happier. They were so helpful, kind, and patient. This was my first experience with a broker, and I think I’ve found the best.

I can’t thank Ewan Campbell enough for the super job he did in selling G, making up for my lack of experience in this realm and patiently searching for just the right buyer and a win-win for seller and buyer alike.

It was a wonderful experience selling A with Jeff Cole’s expert assistance. Thank you for simplifying a complicated process. Your patience and kindness are especially appreciated.

I just wanted to thank Jeff Cole for all his hard work. He was very professional and effective.

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