Do you realise the importance of boat documents when putting your boat up for sale?

It is important to keep ALL boat documents relating to the ownership of your boat and its maintenance history. If you have kept all the previous bill of sales and registration documents your broker will love you, if you haven't you might see them pulling out their hair when trying to establish the boats ownership history!

Unfortunately buying a boat is not like buying a car where the registration document is passed from one person to the next and a central database of ownership can be checked. Transfer of ownership is one of the key stages when buying a boat whether low value or being sold privately or through a broker. ALL boats should have a signed Bill of Sale each time the boat changes hands, this is a transfer of ownership document and applies whether it is being sold for £1 or £1Million.

As part of due diligence your broker will ask to see all boat documents before they list your boat. They will be checking that you are the owner, whether there is more than one owner and to ascertain its historical chain of ownership.

If you are a boat owner we would recommend the following:

  • Ensure you keep all documents relating to the sale and purchase of your vessel including historical and maintenance documents, even if you think something might not be relevant, your broker will confirm which documents are important.
  • Make a copy of all documents and keep the originals in a safe place.
  • If you bought the boat with a partner then you will both need to sign the listing agreement with Boatshed and any future sales documents.
  • If you bought the boat with a partner but you are no longer together you will both still need to sign any future paperwork unless you have proof the boat was signed over to you (ie a bill of sale transferring their share of the boat over to you or a will if your partner has passed away) Boatshed can help you with organising this kind of documentation.

When selling your boat with Boatshed there are 3 main documents we will use:

  • LISTING AGREEMENT - the agreement between the seller(s) and the Boatshed Broker to broker their boat via Boatshed
  • SALE AND PURCHASE AGREEMENT- the agreement between the seller(s) and buyer(s) stating the the seller(s) will sell their boat and the buyer(s) will buy the boat for a specified price and with specified conditions.
  • BILL OF SALE - the official transfer of ownership document, proof the vessel has changed hands - DO NOT THROW THIS AWAY, IT'S A VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENT!

Now would be a good time to check through your paperwork to ensure you have everything you need to be able to sell her. Other important documents your broker may require depending on the age of your boat or where it was built:

  • VAT Proof
  • Builders Certificate
  • Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) Compliance
  • Part One Registration or Part Three Registration (SSR)
  • Insurance
  • Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) - Inland


Where can I find my bill of sale?
Usually this is handed to you on completion of your boat purchase, if since lost and you bought the boat from a broker, contact them as they should have kept a copy for their records. If the boat has been bought on finance the lenders will keep the original copies of any documents.

Should there be a bill of sale for every owner that has owned the boat?
Yes, each owner should sign a bill of sale when it is sold to a new owner and all of the historic bill's of sale should be passed along to each new owner.

I am buying the boat with 3 friends, do we all need to be named on the bill of sale?
Yes, if you are each claiming to be an owner you should be named on the bill of sale.

I own the boat with 3 friends, do we all need to sign the bill of sale when the boat is sold?
Yes, every owner must sign the bill of sale (and any other documents relating to the sale) as they are agreeing to transfer ownership over to the new owner.

What happens if I bought the boat with a partner and they have passed away?
As long as you have the bill of sale stating both of your names and a legal document stating your partner left the boat to you in their will, this is enough proof.

What happens if I bought the boat with a partner and we have now split up?
As you bought the boat in joint names it will have to be sold in joint names unless they sign their half over to you (they will need to sign a bill of sale transferring their share of ownership over to you)

The boat is registered with the Small Ships Register is this proof of ownership?
Sadly not! The SSR just proves the boat is registered and not that you are the legal owner.

The boat is Part One registered, is this proof of ownership?
Sadly not! Part One registration just proves the boat is registered and not that you are the legal owner.

What happens if I don't have any paperwork for my boat - can I still sell it?
Ideally you will need to find some proof that you own the boat, your broker will be able to advise on the best course of action and yes we can still help you sell her.

I'm planning on buying the boat on finance, do I need any particular boat documents?
If you are buying a boat on finance she will need to be part one registered, the finance company will want to keep all of the original documents so ensure you take a copy for your records. Your finance company will advise all documents and information they will require in order to lend money against the boat - It would be a good idea to confirm these requirements ahead of your boat search as sometimes boats for sale don't always have a full history which might be required.

At we have a wealth of knowledge within our global brokerage team and our brokers are used to dealing with all types paper trail and making it work. With the support of our head office and professional relationships we can deal with any awkward or unforeseen issues.

If you are unsure which documents are important then please contact the broker who will be able to advise. Best advice is just keep everything!