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Buying a new or used boat: 10 documents you’ll need

As with any major purchase, there are a number of documents you’ll need when buying a boat.

Whether you’re buying a new or used boat, we recommend working with someone who has experience and knows what is involved. A boat broker, marine lawyer, or marine finance provider should help you complete all administration tasks.

This will ensure you get it right, as well as save you time and money. Here are 10 documents you’ll need to buy a new or used boat. 

Bill of Sale 

Drafted by the broker, the Bill of Sale details all key information. It will state the boat’s registration number, model, make, and year. Importantly, it states whether there is finance outstanding on the vessel.

It will also include the price, the contact details and signatures of the buyer and seller, and the conditions of the sale. e-sign Bills of Sale will not be accepted. 

Boat Licence – required for inland waters only

While you can purchase a boat without a licence, you’ll need one in order to get out on inland waters. 

The type of licence you need, the cost, and the authority you purchase your licence from depends on where you plan to go boating, and for how long. So, do your research before making the purchase. 

Please note: to get a licence, you’ll need insurance and a Boat Safety Scheme certificate. 

Builder’s Certificate – required for new boats

If you opt to buy a brand new boat, you should be provided with a Builder’s Certificate from the vessel’s manufacturer. 

It will outline the boat’s details, the contact information of the builder, and confirm that you are the vessel’s first owner. It is helpful for any used boats to also be sold with this original document.

Boat Insurance

While marine insurance is not legally required in the UK, it is highly recommended. And, is mandatory in several ports, marinas, and other countries. It is a requirement to obtain a marine mortgage.

When buying a new or used boat, you should think of it as an investment. The right insurance will protect your investment. 

At Promarine Finance, we always recommend speaking to a specialist before choosing your insurance. 

Maintenance records

When you purchase a second-hand boat, maintenance records should be provided by the seller to detail the condition of the boat and with a timestamp of what maintenance tasks have been performed, when they were performed, and who by. This is particularly important for the engine, gas, and rigging (on a sailboat).

Once you become the owner of a boat, you can keep a logbook detailing any maintenance works the boat undergoes, including checks or inspections you carry out yourself. When you sell a boat, you’ll be able to pass on this logbook to the next owner.

Flags and Registration 

All boat registration is managed by the UK Ship Register. How you register your boat depends on what the boat will be used for and the size of it. It could be merchant and pleasure, fishing, small ships, or bareboat charter. 

If you intend on taking your boat abroad, you will need to register with the Small Ships Register or Part I Registration for larger boats. For inland waterways, you’ll need to get a license from the navigation authority that manages the waterways you intend to sail on.

Once registered your boat will fly under the red ensign flag to prove nationality and ownership, administered by the UK Government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

UKCA Marking 

After a long time of following CE standards set out in the EU’s RCD, because of Brexit, you now need to adhere to the UK’s Recreational Craft Regulations. This requires your boat to have a UKCA mark.

The UKCA marking came into effect on 1 January 2021. There are four UKCA categories including Ocean, Offshore, Inland & Estuary, and Sheltered Waters.

Boat Safety Scheme 

The Boat Safety Scheme sets a national minimum for legal safety requirements, with an examination and certification supplied on passing. The certificate is valid for four years.

You may need to get a Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate before you can register or buy a licence to use inland waterways, e.g. rivers and canals. Boats with no gas, electrical, heating, or fuel systems are exempt.

Inventory and manual 

While not compulsory, having a full inventory and manual for your boat can help keep track of the items present on your boat, and also be a crucial piece of paperwork that you can hand over when selling your boat.

Having a backlog of items you have onboard and the condition they are in is a useful, ongoing document that can be updated regularly, whether that is seasonally or at the same time each year. 


All yachts built-in or brought into the EU on or after 1 January 1985 must be able to prove their VAT paid status. So, you must ensure you have this to hand in case you are asked for it to be shown. Older boats do not often have evidence of VAT paid status, so be aware this is a risk that you need to consider.

The evidence of VAT-paid status will usually be in the form of an invoice, showing the VAT element and a VAT number. Some EU states ask for the original copy of the invoice, but a certified copy is usually adequate for the most part.

Promarine Finance is a leading provider of marine finance. If you’re thinking of buying a new or used boat or find out if you’re eligible, get a quote today.