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Buying Your First Motorboat? Let Us Guide You To Smooth Sailing

February 22, 2023
Boat insurance

We have collated a guide on helping you to buy the motorboat of your dreams

Boat sales skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic as more Brits turned to boating in response to foreign holiday restrictions. Figures from British Marine show that in 2020, new and used boat sales grew by 9%, a reversal of the 8% decline in 2019, and experts are predicting that the shift in interest is here to stay as post-covid flexible working enables people to live where they want and spend more time enjoying the outdoors.

If you are thinking of buying your first motorboat, below are answers to some of the most common questions asked by people looking to make a move into the world of boating.

What type of motorboat should I buy?

There are so many different motorboats to choose from, that finding the right one for you and your family can be tricky. The first thing you should do is ask yourself a few questions, and this will help narrow it down. For example, what do you want to use it for, where do you want to keep it, what size of boat are you interested in, do you want to be able to sleep on it, do you need to be able to trail it and, of course, what is your budget?

How much is a motorboat?

Again, this varies massively, from under £1,000 for a small used motorboat to multi-millions for a new powerboat. The first thing to decide is if you want to buy new or used. A used motorboat, around £20ft, with a cabin will cost between £10-20,000 on average, while a similar vessel new will cost anything from around £45,000. There are plenty of websites that allow you to compare motorboat prices, but the best thing to do is visit some boat shows and marinas to get a feel for the type of motorboat you like the look and size of, and then go from there. If you do want to trail the motorboat yourself, you’ll need to get something of around 18ft or under.

How much does it cost to own a motorboat?

When budgeting for your boat, you will need to consider ongoing running costs too - mooring, the costs of motorboat insurance and licencing; we will come onto all of these later. But in terms of the actual cost of the boat, apart from the initial outlay the key ones are the day to day running of the boat and maintenance. Running costs will include fuel, as well as the cost of the electricity, water and gas on board. In terms of maintenance, costs will depend on whether you do the work yourself or get a specialist to do it for you; basic maintenance will include routine engine checks, inspections of covers, and reapplying antifouling.

Helm of motorboat with wooden steering wheel

Do I need a licence to drive a motorboat?

Yes, you will need a licence to drive a motorboat – but not a licence in the way that you need one to drive a car – you do not need to pass a test to prove you can drive.  

Licences are needed if you are using the canals and rivers in the UK, but not if you are planning to use your boat on the sea, although you will need to register it with the UK Ship Register. There are several navigation authorities in that manage the different rivers and canals in the UK, and each has its own licences and fees, and if you intend to sail on more than one waterway you will need a licence for each, and you will need to renew the licence every year. Although, you can buy a visitor licence for shorter periods - perfect for holidays and exploring other areas of the country.

The cost of a boat licence also depends on the size of the boat – for example, for a portable unpowered boat of less than 16ft, it is around £60 a year, for a 77ft power boat, it is just under £1,400. On average, for a small motorboat, it is between £600 and £800 each year. Details for costs can be found here

But before you buy a boat licence, you will need a valid Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate or exemption. The BSS set safety standards for boats and is basically the boating version of an MOT. An examiner will come and assess the boat, and then if it passes, you will get a BSS certificate, which lasts for four years.

Do I need motorboat insurance?

While it is not actually a legal requirement to have motorboat insurance, the high value of boats themselves and the potential for damage and injury make it a risk not to have it. Plus, the UK Government says that if you have a motor boat you will need “third party insurance for at least £1 million” and most navigation authorities insist on insurance too. You may also find that the owners or managers of your mooring will only accept boats that are insured, that you will not be able to get finance to purchase your boat without insurance, and that if you race it, or sail it abroad, you will need to have insurance.

With insurance it is best to get a comprehensive policy for boats, this will protect you against a range of different risks, including accidental damage, loss or damage of personal belongings, third-party liability and personal accidents and injuries.

Where should I keep my motorboat?

The cost of mooring your boat is by far the largest ongoing cost, and prices range hugely depending on whether you choose a budget option or a full-service marina. For example, you could probably find a mooring for a 20ft boat for under £500 a year if you are looking for very basic facilities, but if you are looking for a prime location birth in a full facility marina, it could cost more than £5,000 a year. So, when considering where to keep your boat, you need to think about budget and location. Which river or canal do you want to be on? Do you want to be on these? Are you planning on trailing your boat to other areas? If so, you will need a slipway that is easily accessible so that you can slip your boat in and out of the water regularly. Do you need shower facilities, a club house, full security, and access to mains power? Or do you simply need a place to keep it?

Motorboat sailing across turquoise sea

What do I need to wear on my motorboat?

There is no ‘uniform’ for a motorboat, you can where what you like, but you should consider clothes that are comfortable for moving around and not easily marked by oil et and you should wear deck shoes or at least white soled flat shoes – no heels – to avoid marking or damaging the boat. You should also have life jackets available for anyone who wants to wear one and insist that any children on the boat do.

You should also keep a hat on board to protect you from the sun, plenty of layers for colder days, as well as waterproofs, as while you can put the covers up in bad weather, you will still need to get out to moor up, work locks and bridges etc.

What are the best and worst models of motorboat?

This is a difficult question to answer, because like so many things, this depends on personal preference. An easy way to ‘rank’ motorboats is to look at the recent finalists of the Motorboat & Yachting ‘Motorboat Awards’. In the ‘up to 30ft’ category, the finalists were the Axopar 22 Spyder, Candela C-7, Cobra Nautique 9.2m, Dromeas Yachts 28CC, Fugu 29 and the XO DSCVR 9 while in the SUV category, the finalists were the Brabus Shadow 900 XC, Nimbus C11 and the Nord Star 28+. If you are looking for a used model, some of the most popular makes include Princess, Freeman, Viking and Norman.

To learn more about the world of boating and or other activities, be sure to check out our main blog page.

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