Buying a used boat
This advice is designed to provide basic guidance. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law. A large print version is available.
Since June 1998 all recreational craft new to the European Economic Area (EEA) must meet the requirements of the EU Directive on Recreational Craft or RCD as it is often called.
The Recreational Craft Regulations 2004 turn the Directive into UK law. These regulations apply the RCD to boats between 2.5 and 24m being used for sports and leisure purposes, personal water craft and have introduced environmental provisions about engine and noise emissions.
The Regulations apply equally to businesses and private individuals who place craft on the EEA market.
Reference to the RCD in these notes means the UK Regulations.
Anyone considering buying a used boat less than 5 years old or that has been imported from outside the EU should look out for these five items:
- A builders plate
- A CE mark
- A hull identification mark
- An owners manual
- A declaration of conformity.
- The best advice is to look for the 5 items listed in the opening section above.
- If they are not present then ask why not.
- All new recreational craft must be comply with the Recreational Craft Regulations 1996.
- Check the answer given with your surveyor, the RYA, BMF, DTI or Trading Standards Service.
If the craft is not CE marked and does not fall into one the exemptions, you could risk a lot by buying it.
Every new boat sold or first used in the EU since 16 June 1998 must have a builder’s plate. This plate has the maker’s details and technical information such as the design category, maximum loading weight and engine power. It must also include the CE mark. It should be somewhere near the main steering position.
Craft Identification Number (CIN)
The Craft Identification Number or CIN is unique to that craft. It is a code that identifies not only the builder but where and when the craft was built. It will look similar to the illustration below and is found in two places. One is found on or near the transom, starboard side, near the top. The other is hidden as a security check. This example shows an incorrect CIN. It looks okay at first glance but the model year (00-2000) cannot be before year of manufacture (2=2002).
Used boats must come with enough instructions and other information to allow the new owner to use and maintain the boat, safely. This information is in the original owner’s manual, which had to be supplied when the boat was new. You should also have the manuals for any equipment fitted for the same reasons. All the manuals for the equipment fitted should also be given to the new owner.
The owner's manual must also contain an important legal document called a Declaration of Conformity. This document is issued and signed by the manufacturer, or his agent or the importer. It is part of the CE marking requirements and is one of the Documents that may be asked for and examined by any of the EEA Enforcement Authorities.
If a craft is being offered for sale without one of the five items you could have a problem if you buy it!
BUT some craft do not need to be CE marked:
- Any recreational craft already in use in EEA waters before 16th June 1998.
- Any recreational craft under 2.5m or over 24m.
- Any recreational craft on the list of exemptions and, usually, labelled as such.
However in certain circumstances a craft can lose the exemption if it is used as a recreational craft and will need to meet the requirements of the RCD. This is a complex area to give general advice on. Each case has to be examined and decisions made on an individual basis.
Used boats from countries outside the EEA
Any boat, new or used, imported into the EEA since June 16 1998 is regarded as being a craft new to the EEA market.
This means it has to meet all the requirements of the RCD before it can be used.
There is no exemption for importation for personal use. In particular check the paperwork of small sports cruiser/power boats very carefully.
For Personal Water Craft (PCW) the date is 1st January 2006.
Exempted craft changing their use
When an exempted craft changes its use and becomes a recreational craft, it may lose its exemption and should be CE marked.
For example, boats built intended purely for racing and labelled as such by the manufacturer are exempt. If, in the future, they are sold off as cruising boats. They become recreational craft and the full requirements of the RCD will apply.
The regulations do not apply to any recreational craft that were in use before 16 June 1998, unless they undergo substantial changes that would effectively mean they are new craft.
The circumstances surrounding each individual craft will determine whether or not it should be CE marked.
Partially Complete Boats and Home Built/Completed
To meet this exemption, these craft, sometimes known as ‘sail-aways’, must have been used as a recreational craft by the first owner/ builder/ completer for at least 5 years before being offered for sale.
This type of craft is commonly sold for use on the UK’s inland waterway’s or as sea angling boats.
The clock starts ticking from the first time it is used as a recreational craft on the water, not necessarily from when it is completed.
Ask the owner for any proof that the non-CE marked home built or completed craft has been in use for 5 years.
This proof could include inland-way waterways licences or mooring, launching and docking receipts.
- The enforcement authorities of any EEA Member State can take action to remove a non-compliant boat from their waters.
- Even if you are not responsible for the placing on the market, when the craft is discovered it could be suspended from being used until it is made compliant and ultimately, it could be ordered to be destroyed.
- Most non-compliant boats can be made to comply, through a Post construction Assessment (PCA) but there is a cost involved. It could be you that foots the bill.
- A non-compliant boat is not worth as much as a compliant one.
- Your insurance cover may be invalid.
- A non-compliant boat never gains compliance just because it has been used for some time.
- From the 1st January 2006, inboard petrol and diesel engines must have type approval and meet strict emissions and noise levels. It is unlikely that a used engine will be able to meet the requirements.
- The Recreational Craft (Amendment) Regulations 2004
- Recreational Craft Directives 94/25/EC and 2003/44/EC
- Notified Bodies group, RSG
Trade, professional and representative bodies