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Boat Buying Guide: 5 Red Flags to Avoid When Buying a Boat

Recognizing the Warning Signs When Buying a Boat

When it comes to purchasing a yacht, it's essential to navigate the process with caution. Going into each opportunity with open eyes and increased awareness of the red flags can help to safeguard yourself from potential pitfalls, ultimately helping to make a better and more informed decision. In this article Team Bluesail will highlight 5 red flags to watch out for when buying a boat, helping to ensure a smooth and worry-free experience.


1. Unrealistically Low Yacht Prices

Boats are notoriously good at hiding expensive problems, so the old saying "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" holds true in this industry. Uncover hidden issues by scrutinizing excessively low-priced yachts that aesthetically look unbelievable on the surface. Unrealistic bargains can often signal undisclosed damages, extensive or major upcoming maintenance requirements, or other concerns. Conduct thorough market research either yourself or through a licensed broker, compare prices, and seek expert advice to ensure the price aligns with the vessel's condition and market value. Just remember, if it looks like a fire sale there is probably a good reason for it so ask a lot of questions up front.

2. Incomplete or Inaccurate Yacht Documentation

Pay close attention to the yacht's documentation, such as registration, title, maintenance records, and service history. Incomplete or inconsistent paperwork can be a red flag. Detailed maintenance records with large gaps over time can also be a red flag. Ensure federal documentation and state registration, logbooks, and service histories are accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable in order to help mitigate risk on closing day or down the road after ownership transfers.

3. Signs of Neglect or Poor Maintenance

Inspect the yacht meticulously for visible signs of neglect or inadequate maintenance. One of the first places we look when viewing yachts with our clients is in the bilges and around the engine(s) and generator for water, excessive surface rust, corrosion, mold, mildew, and other damage that may indicate a lack of care. A well-maintained yacht ensures longevity and minimizes the risk of unexpected repairs or safety hazards, ultimately helping you to enjoy more time aboard your new yacht, and mitigate the need to perform maintenance underway or call for assistance for more serious matters.

4. Structural Integrity and Hidden Damage

Thoroughly assess the keel, hull, deck, and superstructure for structural issues and hidden damage. As the saying goes "the boat is already broken, you just haven't found it yet!" It's a great idea to look for spider cracking in the gelcoat around stanchions and chainplates, along with blisters, soft spots, or any evidence of previous repairs to the hull, keel, and rudder. Engaging a licensed marine surveyor will also maximize the likelihood of identifying major issues as you navigate the buying process. Contact your licensed broker for a list of local marine surveyors.

5. Ownership History Concerns

To the extent possible, research the yacht's ownership history with your licensed broker to help understand the general pedigree and how well each owner managed and maintained the yacht. Multiple owners in a short period of time doesn't necessarily cause concern, but multiple owners with little or missing maintenance history should be a red flag. Check for liens or legal disputes associated with the vessel, and don't hesitate to ask around the marina or neighborhood to identify any undisclosed incidents, accidents, or vessel history that might not be mentioned in the listing details. Also ensure that the seller has clear title and authority to sell the yacht. Any doubts or inconsistencies in the ownership history should be thoroughly investigated - something your licensed yacht broker can do for you.


When embarking on a yacht purchase it's crucial to be mindful of red flags that may arise along the way. By remaining vigilant about unrealistically low prices, incomplete documentation, signs of neglect, structural issues, and ownership history concerns, you can make an informed decision, protect your investment, and ultimately more safely enjoy a greater amount of time out on the water with your family and friends.

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