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December 10th 2013. By Staff.

How to buy a used charter boat

With the right approach, the used charter yacht market is nothing to be afraid of says Leah Kaiz.

Used or abused? That is the question, writes Leah Kaiz. The life of a charter boat – even one that’s not at the busiest base – is never dull, or entirely without incident. Yet where there is risk, there is also reward, and with a little research and common sense you can find a great deal on a boat that will suit your sailing needs. So when you’re buying a boat, an ex-charter yacht could be a great option. Just remember: you get what you pay for.

Sailing cat

Making a smart buy on a used charter boat takes time and effort, but is well worthwhile. 

When deciding on a boat for purchase (see choosing a boat), consider the fact that large charter companies have fleets that revolve around a few select models and builders. This is not simply because they can negotiate better prices on large volume, but also because they’ve quality tested the vessels so they’re proven to handle the test of time and charter.

Miles on the clock

It’s a mistake to believe that because a boat has been in charter for five years, it’s been in use for 52 weeks a year. The average time out for a boat is 24 weeks. Some boats and busier charter bases can see more, but time on the water isn’t always a bad thing.

Often people are afraid of high engine hours and lots of use, but the truth is that boats that sit and do nothing can have just as many problems. As you shop around, ask about the ongoing maintenance. Some charter companies say they inspect the prop, the hull, and the systems with each charter that returns, and others keep maintenance logs for all the systems on the boat. Find out as much as you can about the maintenance history of the boat.

Make sure to ask about any major damage to systems and structure. If a boat has been run up on a reef and patched, the charter company has to disclose that information.

charter boat

Charter boats that are individually owned will have already been phased out, and may be better maintained. 

The phase-out

A very important factor in the life of a charter boat is its phase-out. This is the systematic maintenance process of all the systems and equipment. The boat will never be new, but it will be brought back to fair wear-and-tear condition as they replace and repair issues found during the phase-out. You can ask any reputable charter company for a copy of their phase-out maintenance and see everything that has been inspected and fixed.

As you look for charter boats, consider buying those that are individually owned versus those owned by the charter companies. These boats have already been through their phase-out and the owner was there to see through the process. Whether you buy from the owner or from the charter company you need to hire an independent surveyor -someone who will go up the mast, check the engine, do a thorough inspection, and be there for haul out as well.

Buyer's Market

When it comes to used boats, it’s a buyer’s market, so take the time to shop around. 

Using a yacht broker

If you’re concerned about undertaking the process on your own, consider finding an experienced yacht broker. The ideal broker is one who has strong connections in the boating world and is well versed in locating charter boats and overseeing the process. The best brokers will provide references so you can talk with previous clients who have done exactly what you are about to undertake. Knowing that you have someone working with your best interest in mind can be very helpful and set your mind at ease.

It’s a buyer’s market when it comes to used boats. This gives you the time and the ability to be choosy as you venture into the used charter-boat market. Take your time, ask the right questions, and you may find the boat of your dreams.

If you are considering buying any boat, it’s worth reading our full guide to boat buying.


Leah Kaiz, a former sailboat skipper, is also a PADI dive instructor and an avid traveler. She has sailed all over the Caribbean on education vessels and worked in charter, and also traveled around the world on various adventures. She currently runs her own marketing company on land, Blue Gypsy Inc., and writes on a variety of topics for her diverse clientele. Future plans include buying a catamaran and sailing around the world.