Buying a Boat Abroad
Considering buying a boat overseas? Here's a few expert tips to keep in mind that will you through the process—including working with brokers and transporting your new vessel.
More and more yacht brokerage firms these days have outposts all around the world. Fraser has a newer office in Barcelona, Spain; Burgess expanded into Shanghai, China, back in 2018 and Northrop & Johnson has some recently constructed new digs overlooking Port Hercule in Monaco.
“We are bringing on a team of exceptionally skilled brokers and look forward to offering a total-service approach for yachting clients in Monaco and beyond,” Northrop’s managing director Europe, Michael Payne, said of the Riviera location.
And beyond are the key words in his quote. While American yachtsmen can find these companies in Florida, Rhode Island, New York and California—with brokers ready to show them all the yachts available on the U.S. market—the idea behind the global expansions is to make the world’s brokerage listings available, too. Should a Miami businessman be traveling for business in Asia or Europe, these companies now offer networks of experts who can arrange showings, sea trials and more.
What happens if you want to buy a yacht that happens to be outside of U.S. waters? Brokers from the globally connected houses can talk you through all the details, but in general, here are some things to keep in mind.
Catch the Boat Shows
For new and brokerage boats alike, there is an annual schedule of overseas boat shows where you can often find deals, or at least have the chance to get on board and inspect a few promising yachts in a single day. The calendar of major boat shows outside of the United States typically goes like this: London Boat Show in January, Boot Dusseldorf (Germany) in January, Dubai International Boat Show in February/March, Singapore Yacht Show in April, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show (Australia) in May, Cannes Yachting Festival (France) in September, and Monaco Yacht Show in September/October.
Look for the MYBA Sales Contract
MYBA: The Worldwide Yachting Association is a leading professional organization of sales and charter brokers that is based in Europe, and that has representatives worldwide. The association’s yacht-sale contracts, known as memorandums of agreement, have been in use since 1986 and have since undergone numerous revises to keep up with the changing marketplace and necessary consumer protections. Brokers who are MYBA members, in addition to using the MYBA contract, are held to ethical standards and practices that are intended to protect consumers as well.
Seek Out “American” Appliances and Systems
Anybody who has vacationed in Madrid or Paris knows that the standard U.S. plug does not fit into the standard European outlet. And anybody who has been aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean at the height of August knows that European people tend to require a whole lot less air conditioning than Americans do. Taken together, these and other mismatches fall into the category of “technical systems.” Americans buying boats abroad will want to make sure technical systems are either U.S.-friendly or able to be changed out in a refit—preferably without having to tear out all the soles and walls to get to the components.
Note Your Closing Delay Time
The exchange rates of global currencies fluctuate. Sometimes, they fluctuate dramatically. In the process of closing a yacht sale, there’s usually a lag time between agreeing on the price and making the final payment. It could be a few days or a few weeks, and either way, the exchange rate may change. This can mean swings of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the yacht being purchased. Work with a broker to build safeguards into the deal if you’re paying in U.S. dollars for a boat that’s selling in euros, pounds sterling or some other currency.
Factor in the Transit
Crossing an ocean is no small feat, which is why many people who buy a boat overseas have it shipped home to the United States. There’s no way to ship a boat inexpensively, but sticking with major shipping ports can help. Florida, Virginia, Houston and Los Angeles are among the more popular ports of entry where shipping routes regularly run. If you (or your crew) can meet your boat in a popular entry port, you can save delivery cash. The rest of the cost? That depends on the size of the boat you’re buying and shipping, plus other factors set by the shipping companies themselves.
For more information on buying a boat, check out of Boat Buyer's Guide.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2018 and was last updated in September 2021.