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Buying a Used Charter Yacht – Dispelling the Myth

In the search for your dream boat it’s likely you have come across a great many used charter yachts. It’s also likely that you have come across a great many people—friends, acquaintances at the yacht club or on the waterfront, or even yacht brokers—who, at the mention of a used charter yacht, suck their breath in and warn you away from what they consider to be damaged goods.

It’s long past time this myth was consigned to the shelves of yachting fiction. Charter yachts are considered by many to be used and abused without care or attention and this is a point often voiced by people or brokers unfamiliar with this aspect of the market.

So here’s a question: If you have ever chartered a yacht, how did you treat it? In an industry as competitive as that of Caribbean chartering, reputations are key, as word-of-mouth counts for a great deal. Charter companies that show a lack of care and attention towards their primary assets (boats, owners and customers) arrive at an early demise sooner than later.

Of course, boats will break down periodically and have unpredictable faults, but inadequately maintained boats and equipment will inevitably lead to dissatisfied customers and owners. This necessity for an excellent reputation results in scrupulous, regular maintenance, meticulous records of work done, and boats that are in immaculate condition for age and use. There is not a yacht on this planet that has a more transparent history than that of a well-managed charter yacht.

So what purchase opportunities exist in the Caribbean charter market? Charter companies broadly break down into two tiers: first tier, usually only chartering yachts from new to five years old and second tier, generally managing yachts from four or five years and older. There are exceptions of course but, generally, the market is as described. Sooner or later, most of these types of boats come up for sale and the large range and volume of boats in the Caribbean make it a buyers’ market where pricing is usually fair and competitive.

The yachts available in this region offer a variety of options for buyers: continuation of chartering to offset ownership costs, the ideal boat for the dreamed-of blue water cruise, a ‘fixer-upper’ for the hobbiest, or a private yacht to take back home or keep in the Caribbean. The services available in the Caribbean cater largely for the needs of all owners from shipwright to rigging or from glasswork to mechanics. The local brokers are vastly experienced and know their product thoroughly. As with buying any boat, there are things to be wary of and charter yachts certainly have had opportunities to face them all. The Caribbean is smack bang in the hurricane belt and is not short of a reef or two. What if the boat has been grounded or damaged in a storm, for example?

The process for buying a charter yacht is no different from buying any other boat, so it’s sensible if not essential to hire a reputable, qualified surveyor of whom there are many in the Caribbean. Any boat that has received significant damage will no doubt have been repaired through insurance and those repairs will have been documented and signed-off by the insurer’s surveyor. Once again, all of this remains as transparent as the history of the boat already is. If damage has been correctly repaired, there should be little to worry about.

How do you find these boats? These days, with the World Wide Web, it’s not hard to find anything. Most yachts for sale in the Caribbean are listed with reputable local brokers and most charter companies have their own sales divisions. The usual yacht sales websites along with charter company websites and local and international magazine listings will quickly reveal the many boats out there. No one knows these boats better than the companies who represent them and, in many cases, you can even take the boat out for the ultimate test-sail by chartering it for a week or more.

Charter yachts offer some of the best value boats on the market. So if you’re in the market for your own piece of paradise, the Caribbean is open for business.

Jamie Millar is Yacht Sales Manager for Horizon Yacht Sales.

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