Should I Buy a New Or Used Yacht?

As you may know, we are in the market for a new yacht. We've looked at some 37-foot options, like the Aventura, or 40-foot models, like the Bali Smartcat. But as I researched, I began to think that a pre-owned catamaran might be a better idea. For example, there's a 55-foot catamaran built in 1997, completely refitted in 2017, with new engines added in 2020, available in Miami for $300,000.

This led me to the question: Should I buy a new or pre-owned yacht?

© Vincent Gerbouin

The Case For a New Yacht

Buying a new yacht offers several exciting benefits. First and foremost is customization. With a new yacht, you have the opportunity to tailor the boat to your exact specifications. From choosing the layout to selecting the finishes and equipment, new yachts offer a level of personalization that is unique.

Another advantage is the latest technology and design. New yachts are equipped with the latest advances in navigation, safety and comfort. These innovations can enhance your sailing experience and ensure that your vessel meets current safety standards.

In addition, new yachts come with warranties that cover various components and systems, providing peace of mind against potential defects and repairs. Initial maintenance on a new yacht is usually minimal, as all parts and systems are brand new and in perfect working order.

But new yachts are often mass-produced, and the most expensive part is labor. I've seen a French yacht, brand new, priced around 1 million. After four weeks, one of the engines broke down and the rigging had to be replaced. No big deal, comes with warranty, but they had to stay in the harbor and wait for repairs. Two weeks in total. As you can imagine, they weren't happy, and I wouldn't be either, spending that kind of money. 

The Case For a Pre-Owned Yacht

On the other hand, pre-owned yachts offer a different set of benefits. The most obvious is cost savings. Pre-owned yachts are generally less expensive than new ones, allowing you to potentially purchase a larger or more luxurious vessel within your budget. Depreciation is also less of a concern, as the initial steep decline in value has already occurred with the first owner.

Another advantage is the availability of a wider range of models and vintages. This can be especially beneficial if you are looking for a specific make and model that is no longer in production. In addition, pre-owned yachts often come with upgrades and additions made by the previous owner, which can add value and comfort at no extra cost.

Pre-owned yachts also have a proven track record. Their performance, durability and potential problems are well documented, allowing you to make an informed decision based on real-world feedback and experience. You can often find detailed histories, including maintenance records and previous surveys, giving you a clearer picture of the vessel's condition.

But never, I mean never, buy an old charter yacht. Why is that? These boats see heavy use, often resulting in hidden damage that is masked by quick fixes. Charter companies prioritize cost-effective maintenance, and the layout may not suit your needs - that's why shipyards have two options for a yacht.

They are replaced when something comes up that is not worth replacing or maintaining (from the charter company's point of view). That doesn't mean it's going to be an issue today, but I'm coming. Also from my sailing circle, someone bought a good looking Lagoon 50, 4 years charter. As usual, the cabin layout was not ideal, charter ones usually have no owner's cabin. Electronics okay, but nothing extra. The price was about 40% below new. But the port hull had a "bump", was repaired, but after a year water leaked in. Then the mast step was a bit loose, which caused the fiberglass around the step to break, also an expensive repair. 

When deciding between a new or pre-owned yacht, consider the following factors:

Budget: Consider your budget for initial purchase and ongoing maintenance. New yachts have higher upfront costs but require less initial maintenance, while pre-owned yachts cost less upfront but may require more immediate repairs and upgrades. Plus, when you buy as used yacht, and it's not a charter, the VAT is mostly paid. 

Use: Think about how you will use the yacht. For extensive cruising or long-term liveaboard plans, a new yacht with the latest technology and comfort features may be more appealing. For occasional weekend cruising, a pre-owned yacht may be a better value. On the other hand, a well-maintained and equipped pre-owned yacht is likely to have the latest equipment installed. Check carefully, always with a professional on your side. 

Customization: If it is important to have a yacht that is perfectly suited to your preferences, a new yacht is the way to go. If you are flexible and open to modifications, a pre-owned yacht can be customized over time.

Depreciation: New yachts depreciate more quickly in the first few years. If you plan to sell the yacht in the near future, a pre-owned yacht may hold its value better.

Risk tolerance: New yachts come with warranties and less risk of immediate repairs, while pre-owned yachts require thorough inspections to identify potential problems.

In the end, just remember that everything in yachting is a compromise - there is no perfect boat, and the best you can do is find the boat that best suits your needs and agenda at a price you are willing to spend. Whether you are on a brand new sailing yacht or a well-worn charter catamaran, the fish, the bars and the sunsets are all the same.