Errors to avoid when purchasing a yacht


di Avv. Simone Moretti

When purchasing a yacht, the excitement of acquiring it often overshadows the intricate legal considerations involved in the transaction. However, overlooking these legal aspects can lead to significant issues down the line.

Here are key legal mistakes to avoid when buying a yacht to ensure a smooth and lawful transition of ownership.

1. Not conducting a thorough title search

One of the first steps in the yacht purchasing process should be a comprehensive title search. This search will reveal if there are any liens, encumbrances, or outstanding mortgages against the yacht. Failure to identify such claims can result in financial liabilities and legal disputes, potentially costing the new owner significantly in both money and time.

2. Skipping the professional survey

A professional survey is akin to a home inspection but for yachts. It assesses the vessel's condition, including its structural integrity, mechanical systems, and safety features. Skipping this step might lead to purchasing a yacht with hidden defects or maintenance issues, which could be costly to repair and might also raise legal issues regarding the vessel's seaworthiness and safety compliance.

3. Overlooking tax and registration implications

The legal and tax implications of yacht ownership vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction. Not understanding these can lead to unexpected tax bills or fines. For instance, some jurisdictions offer tax advantages for registering the yacht under a particular flag, while others may impose heavy duties and taxes. Additionally, failing to properly register the yacht can lead to legal troubles when sailing in international waters.

4. Neglecting to draft a comprehensive purchase agreement

The purchase agreement is a critical document that outlines the terms and conditions of the yacht sale. A vague or incomplete agreement may not provide adequate legal protection for the buyer. It's essential to ensure the contract clearly defines the purchase price, payment terms, delivery date, warranty information, and any contingencies such as financing or the sale's dependency on a satisfactory survey.

5. Failing to address international laws and regulations

Yacht transactions often involve multiple jurisdictions, especially when the buyer and seller are from different countries, or the yacht is located in a foreign port. Ignoring the international laws and regulations can result in legal complications related to customs, importation taxes, and compliance with maritime laws. Engaging with legal professionals who specialize in maritime law and international transactions is crucial to navigate these complexities.

6. Not insuring the yacht immediately

Insurance is a crucial aspect of yacht ownership that provides protection against potential losses or damages. Not securing insurance coverage from the moment of purchase exposes the new owner to significant financial risk, especially in the event of an accident or natural disaster. Ensure that the yacht is covered by a suitable insurance policy that reflects its value and usage.


Purchasing a yacht is a significant investment that requires careful legal consideration. By avoiding these common legal mistakes, buyers can ensure that their yacht purchase is not only a source of pleasure and pride but also a legally sound investment. Engaging knowledgeable professionals, such as maritime lawyers and tax advisors, is an essential step in the yacht buying process to navigate the complex legal landscape successfully.

Avv. Simone Moretti