10 questions to consider if you are asking “should I buy a charter yacht?”


Did you love your last sailing vacation? Did you come back wishing you owned a boat so you could go back more often? Maybe even spend a month or two sailing?

If you dream about owning a charter boat, definitely investigate and do the math yourself … half the fun is in the dreaming and planning! Below are some questions you should consider.

There are several reasons it might make sense for you to own your sailing yacht in a charter program:

  1. Financial. If you plan to go on sailing vacations a lot, it might make sense to buy a charter boat. For owning a boat to make financial sense, you’ll probably need to use it 4 weeks a year or more.
  2. More sailing. It’s possible if you owned a boat, your family would be more willing to go sailing on all your vacations. You would be able to say “hey, we have the boat in the Virgin Islands, why don’t we go there?” Or “we have an extra couple of days at Christmas, how about a quick sail?” Owning a boat could mean you get to sailing more often.
  3. Friends. Often a barrier to getting friends to go sailing is the cost. If you owned the boat, you could invite them to come along for the cost of airfare and food. (You can also invite them along for free if you just charter and that might actually be cheaper but might not be as easy to say to your friends or partner.)
  4. Dream. You’d be able to say “I own a boat in the BVI”.


Some questions and answers: (Feel free to add your own below!)

Does it make sense to own a charter boat? Owning a charter boat is not likely to save you money unless you sail a lot. Even though it feels more expensive, chartering a yacht each time you go down probably makes the most financial sense unless you sail more than 4 weeks a year.

Will my charter boat make me money? It is unlikely that your charter boat will make you any money if you have to take out a mortgage to pay for it. Most likely you will end up trying to make it cover its own costs and some of your vacations. Note that if you take out a large mortgage to start, your boat will probably exit the 5 year charter programs with a large monthly mortgage payment and no guaranteed income.

couple planning their financial budget

How much does it cost? That depends on the boat, however, a 39′ catamaran in the Moorings fleet will cost you $400,000 right now. How the monthly payments work depends on the charter company. Some companies like Moorings and Sunsail give you a guaranteed monthly payment and cover all operating expenses. They’ll work with you to make sure your payment is more than your mortgage payment – assuming you pay 25% down and take a 15 year mortgage. Note that they will only keep your boat for 5 years so you’ll still owe a lot at the end of the program. Other companies will pay you a percentage of the revenue and might charge you for expenses or split them with you.

How do you decide which boat to buy? A couple of things to think about when you are trying to decide which boat to buy:

  • Charter company. The larger charter companies have a fixed set of boats they work with. If you want to put your boat in the Moorings or Sunsail fleet, you will have to buy one of their boats. Many of the smaller charter companies are more flexible.
  • Post charter plans. What do you plan to do with your boat in a few years? If you plan to sell it at the end of a 5 year charter, you should research what sells and how many of those boats are likely to be on the market then. If you plan to retire and go sail full time, you should pick a boat you can live on.
  • Popularity and Income. If you decide to go with a revenue sharing model for your charter company, you should pick a boat that will be popular with charterers. The charter companies can help you with this. They should be able to share rates at which similar boats have been chartered and income for similar boats.

Where will it be? Buy and place your boat where you want to sail the most. If you place your boat with a charter company with multiple locations, it’s likely you can “trade” your time for time on similar yachts in other parts of the world. So if you placed your yacht with the Moorings in the BVI, you could sometimes sail in Croatia or the Bahamas.

Which company should I go with? There are a few large charter companies like Moorings, Sunsail and Dream Yacht Charter. There programs offer more guarantees and less flexibility. (Note that Moorings and Sunsail are owned by the same company and their programs are very similar.) There are a lot of smaller companies like CYOA, TMM, Pro Valor Charters and BVI Yacht Charters that offer revenue based plans. You should call each of them, ask questions. And definitely talk to other owners. One of the best ways to find other owners is to charter a boat and talk to all the other people you meet. You will also find communities of owners online willing to share their stories. Traveltalkonline and Sailonline are two good places to check out.

Will my investment be tax deductible? You should check with a tax attorney but your investment will not necessarily be tax deductible. If you set it up as a business and take an active interest in chartering it out, it’s possible. It’s also possible that your charter boat could qualify as a second home.

Will I be able to use my boat whenever I want? That depends on the charter company. The big companies typically give you 6-12 weeks a year and will let you sail your boat or any equivalent boat at any of their locations. Other, revenue sharing based companies, will let you sail whenever you want.

Will my yacht be kept in good condition? If you go with any reputable company, most likely. You should always walk through their policies and procedures and check out your boat often yourself. Talk to other boat owners about their experience. You should pay particularly close attention to the turn over. What shape or condition do they promise the boat will be in when they turn it over to you at the end of the charter period. Get it inspected.

What will I do with my boat when the charter period ends? If you go with the 5 year, fixed income model, at the end of 5 years, you’ll have to decide what to do with your boat. You can sell it – that will likely bring less money than you think (maybe 50% of the original value) and will likely take a while especially if there are a lot of similar boats being sold at the same time. You can also put your boat in another program, most likely a revenue sharing program.


Can I buy a yacht with a partner? Yes, just be sure you have a good written agreement that covers all contingencies, like if one partner wants out early or what you will do when the boat’s contract with the charter company ends. If you plan to sail together, go sailing a couple of times together first. I had a co-worker who split a Moorings yacht 3 ways between 3 couples. They all used it one trip a year on their own and then one week a year all together.

What other questions would you have? Or advice for others considering buying a charter boat?