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Our Step by Step Guide to Buying a Catamaran

Please Note – this guide is just a brief overview of how it works.

In this guide, you will learn how to buy a used boat.

This includes the typical process, things to look for and tips for ensuring a smooth transaction.

The purchase price of a used Catamaran can be significantly less than that of a new boat, especially if no broker is involved – The ‘’going rate’ of a Brokers Fee is 10% of the sale price – so on a $500,000 Catamaran the brokers fee is a whopping $50,000 commission – and this is usually built into the selling price.

Just like cars, Catamarans usually depreciate year on year, so finding a boat a few years old will typically have a lower price than a brand new boat. The problem of course is that used boats usually don’t come with any warranty which could involve more maintenance and repair costs simply due to their age.

As such, the search and purchase process for a used Catamaran is extremely important. Making the right or wrong choice at this stage can result in very different outcomes with respect to the future enjoyment on the water and future hits to your pocket. So choose wisely and do your homework before signing off on your ‘Dream’.

The steps involved in buying a used Catamaran are basically as follows:

Selecting the right Catamaran for you.

Make an Offer

Get a Survey – Accept or Reject the Vessel

Closing and Delivery.

In this how to buy a used Catamaran guide, we will walk through each step and address the most common questions.

1: Selecting the right Catamaran for you

With the numerous types and models available on the market, a good place to start when selecting the right type of Catamaran is to look at the type of boating you imagine yourself doing. Based on the type of boating, a particular type of layout may be more suitable.

To start, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your ideal day on the water ?
  • Will you be doing mostly day sailing, or do you plan to do more long-range cruising ?
  • What kind of activities do you plan to do ?
  • Do you plan to spend overnight time on the boat ? Weekends ? Longer periods ?
  • How many guests do you require space for ? – There is a big difference if it’s just you and the wife versus a group of ten friends.
  • Additionally, are there considerations such as bridge height, depth and draft or slip length and width to know where it is possible to keep your Catamaran?
  • How experienced are you in boating ?  (Some vessels require different levels of experience and skill). Big Catamarans will need crew.
  • Is speed a priority?

The above questions can serve as a great starting point for the process. Also Consider creating an actual checklist where you record your answers to these questions. While these answers are important, the biggest factor in purchasing your dream Catamaran will be the actual buying price.

When reviewing your budget and price range for a potential boat purchase, it’s important to remember that there will always a more expensive boat. If the boat being considered is going to be a strain financially, it might make more sense to find a lower priced option where you can still comfortably spend on maintenance and care.

As you begin your search, you’ll notice that there is an obvious trade-off between size and age. The older the vessel, the larger the boat will be in your price range. How one navigates the size vs. age equation will ultimately be a personal decision, but if you are a novice, it might make more sense to go with an easier more manageable Catamaran. Also newer Catamarans will have more updated technology, and you shouldn’t typically have to deal with as many maintenance issues. For more seasoned boaters who are comfortable with the maintenance and repairs process, a larger Catamaran with more years might be acceptable.

As stated previously, the initial process of narrowing your Catamaran selection should be based on your boating goals, your budget and your experience.

Step 2: Finding the exact Catamaran to purchase

At this point in the buying process and after doing your homework you should now have a decent idea of the model or type of boat you are looking to purchase.

When looking at specific boats for sale, geographical considerations may also come into play. Depending on the type of boat being sought, the search area will most likely not be local and this will also need to be allowed for in your purchasing budget.

Once the potential options have been narrowed to a few, it is time to go see the boats firsthand for a personal inspection. If you have family or friends in the boating community it’s wise to get them to tag along if possible, they may not be experienced mechanics or electronic experts but they may be able to spot something that you wouldn’t.

You should also note that if the Catamaran in question is not within a few hours drive and it is too expensive or time consuming to travel and view every Catamaran, buyers can make an offer on a Catamaran that is subject to personal inspection. Then, following a negotiation, the inspection can be scheduled to ensure less time is wasted.

Step 3: Making an offer

The process in which an offer is made on a boat can vary, but there are some important practices to consider in order to ensure a smooth process and also potentially give you an advantage over other buyers.

Before a formal offer is made, it’s good practice to have a deposit of 10% of the approximate purchase price available (in Escrow) and either have the remaining balance of the purchase price ready to go or have financing pre-approved. Coming to the negotiation table with a confirmed deposit plus the remainder of the balance ready for transfer will communicate to the seller that you are a serious buyer and give you an advantage over a buyer that is potentially making offers with no deposit and subject to financing.

The offer itself is typically made up of three main components:

  • The Offer Amount – This is the price that you will offer for the boat. If you’re on your own without much experience buying or selling boats, determining the right offer amount can be difficult. Compare the same type and model with the price that dealers are offering them at and then offer at least 10% less of that price as a starting point – Do not be afraid to negotiate a discount. Sellers want to sell and expect a lower offer in most cases but it has to be realistic, your not going to buy a million dollar Catamaran for a hundred thousand dollars.
  • Contingencies – Having the sale be subject to sea trial and SURVEY is standard, but typically I would also suggest requesting that all equipment and accessories currently on the vessel be included in the sale.  Unless you are 100% qualified NEVER buy a boat without a survey.
  • Timeline – The timeline has three components. First, the time in which you give the seller to respond to your offer (often 24 – 72 hours). Second, the window you wish to give yourself for a sea trial and survey and to formally accept the vessel (usually within a couple of weeks from the sellers acceptance of an offer). And Lastly, the time to close the transaction and transfer ownership of the boat (often one week from formal acceptance of the boat).

Step 4: Surveying and inspecting the boat

Once you have a deal with a seller, it’s time to begin the survey process. Again there is good and bad in every industry’s again do your homework and get yourself a reliable and reputable marine surveyor. Not all surveyors are equal and just because one has the appropriate certification does not necessarily mean he or she is the right person for the job. As the types and models of boats and yachts vary widely, having a surveyor with experience specifically with Catamarans is very important. You may have to hunt around a lot and even may have to fly the right surveyor out to the boat but it will be time and money well  spent – your dream purchase doesn’t want to end up becoming a nightmare.

Here are a few things to consider when planning the survey:

  • A good surveyor is worth their weight in gold and often times the really good surveyors can be quite busy, so plan ahead
  • The degree to which the boat is checked out might vary depending on size and age of the boat. For instance, if you’re buying a 40 foot boat that is a year old with a warranty still intact, a simple one-day survey including a haul out to inspect the hull might be sufficient. If buying an older, much larger yacht with many onboard systems, a survey team for a multi-day inspection is more likely required to thoroughly check all systems on board.
  • It can be a good idea to notify the surveyor that you intend to be present during at least part of the survey. This can contribute to accountability, but also it allows the surveyor to show you findings in person. Additionally, if a surveyor requests that the buyer not be present during the survey, it could be a red flag and an indication that you need a different surveyor.
  • Based on your initial research, if there is a potential problem that would disqualify the purchase, communicate this upfront to the surveyor so it can be examined at the beginning of the survey. Should the boat be disqualified early in the inspection process, it can save a lot of time and possibly result in a lower rate for the survey.
  • While the surveyor is typically hired by the buyer, it’s not necessarily the surveyor’s role to recommend for or against the purchase of the Catamaran. The surveyor is there to provide an objective report that details the boat’s overall condition, descriptions of the systems onboard the boat and findings of potential issues with the boat (usually ranked in severity).

After receiving the survey, review the results and If any follow-up questions present themselves, you can ask the surveyor or contact a different specialist for more detailed answers on a specific item. Note that a surveyor will always find some issues with a boat no matter how new or well maintained it is. As such, expect some findings and be sure to ask any questions to ensure proper understanding. 

Surveyors are often members of and governed by the codes of ethics from the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) and the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS). Before getting your survey, it can be helpful to read through the information provided by these organisations.

STEP 5. Acceptance or Rejection of the Offer

Following the completion of the survey and receiving satisfactory answers to any remaining questions and being comfortable with the overall understanding of the boat you are considering, there is one question that remains: The biggest question of all !  Are you ready to own this boat?

Typically there are three answers to this question, each with a different path to take in the purchase process.

These are acceptance of the vessel, conditional acceptance of the vessel or rejection of the vessel.

Acceptance of the vessel occurs when no major surprises occurred during the survey process. Perhaps there are a few minor issues, but nothing major. If acceptance is desired, the buyer can submit a clean acceptance of the vessel which means that you are ready to accept the boat as-is, close the deal and take possession of the boat.

If submitting the acceptance, the buyer’s 10% deposit typically then becomes non-refundable at this point and both parties proceed to closing.

A conditional acceptance of the vessel occurs when the survey went generally well, but a few major issues revealed themselves that the buyer was not expecting. This typically does not refer to routine maintenance items, but rather issues and repairs needed that are impeding the boat’s expected operation. If this has occurred, the buyer can request an adjustment to the purchase price factoring in the cost of the needed repairs. The Conditional Acceptance of Vessel form maps out the request and states that the buyer is willing to move forward with the purchase if the requested cash adjustment is made. If the seller accepts, then the 10% deposit again becomes non-refundable and both parties proceed to closing.

A rejection of the vessel occurs when the boat surveys quite poorly. If the number of issues and potential repairs revealed compromises the integrity of the boat or there’s no amount of price adjustment that would occur to make the buyer want to move forward, then the buyer can reject the vessel at this point. After submitting the rejection of vessel, the buyer’s initial deposit is returned. While this result is not desirable, incurring the cost of a survey and a bit of wasted time is a better result than acquiring a boat that will lead to major problems down the road.

STEP 6 – Closing & Delivery

After you have accepted the Catamaran, it’s time to complete the paperwork and take possession of the boat. Prior to finishing the deal, it’s important to have a few things taken care of beforehand.

First, ensure that you have boat storage sorted out. Whether you’re keeping the boat at your home, a marina or on the hard somewhere, make sure that you have storage set up before taking possession of the boat.

Next, having insurance coverage before taking possession is a must. Especially If financing is involved, this will certainly be required.

For larger yachts or international boaters, circumstances may lead to foreign flag the boat. If unclear on the best approach, consult a maritime lawyer.

For larger Catamarans purchases, understanding the operations of the yacht and/or assembling the right crew are also important considerations before taking possession.

Closing on your used boat purchase should be very straightforward – For it run to smoothly make sure all paperwork is prepared and in place and make sure that you have taken care of everything prior to taking possession of your Catamaran.  

Hopefully this guide gives you an insight of what to expect and we wish you all the best in finding your Dream Catamaran