Tips for buying a boat in Amsterdam

Some of the most widely used sayings about boats in Amsterdam are:

  • “Boats are holes in the water, into which you throw money.”
  • “Boats are expensive, I’d rather have friends with boats.”
  • “The happiest day of a boat owner’s life is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it.”
  • “It’s better to rent than to buy.”

Although many people believe these axioms are true, they don’t necessarily have to be if you approach boat ownership with an understanding of what is involved. Many boat owners in Amsterdam are unhappy because they simply got the wrong boat their situation. Before you become Amsterdam’s next Captain, here some pointers to help find the right boat for you.

Step 1: Define what you want

It is very advisable to decide the type of boat you want before you start looking. Otherwise you can fall into a moving target trap, not finding what you don’t know what you are looking for and end up very frustrated in the process.

Here some pointers to have in mind:


Who will use the boat?
Will it most likely you on your own, or also planning to invite your whole family and friends as well? Depending on your social life, this may have a bearing on the size. Nailing the perfect size really matters and it”s important to consider. You don’t want to cruise around all packed nor have to say no to friends often, because you don’t have space to invite them. On the other hand, you might not like to cruise around on a really huge empty boat neither. It is also important to involve your “second half” in the process. You’ll most likely want to get her/him cruising along with you, and she/he needs to be comfortable with whatever you end up getting.

How and where will you use the boat?
Overall, there are mainly three big categories as and when it comes to boats: cruising, fishing or for water sports.

Cruising boats are designed for traveling, entertaining guests and having a good time afloat. You can go some hours or a full day cruising on the canals, visit one of the lakes near Amsterdam or dare to experience the IJ. Decide if you will use your boat for day-boating or overnighting, as it might have an influence on defining a cabin. Are you interested in using the power of wind as well and learn how to sail?

Fishing boats are often have open cockpits to make it easy for the fishing line to move around or to fight the fish. Fishing boats will allow to have every passenger move around comfortable and safe either you are in the IJ, the North Sea Canal or the Nieuwe Meer.

Water sports boats are designed for those who want to waterski, wakeboard, tow toys or floaters, parasail, scuba dive, race or do anything else you can dream up. Pick your sport, then pick your boat. Remember that the maximum speed inside the canal area is 7.5 km per hour. So most likely you’ll underuse your boat in this area unless you are in more open waters.

When (and how often) will the boat be used?
Do you plan to use your boat year-round or only seasonally? Remember that Dutch Summer usually lasts for a week and that the season usually goes from May to October. Do you fancy going out under the rain or tolerate low temperatures? Do you plan to use it only during the weekends or during week days as well?

Looks and motor

New or used?
Each has its pros and cons. The traditional advice for first-time boat buyers is to buy a used boat. That way if you end up not liking the boat or boating in general, your economic risk is minimised. Also, the traditional wisdom is that people rarely select the right boat in the first place and since their first boat is likely to be a mistake, it might as well be a used boat which will be traded in a year or so, anyway. As a rule of thumb, the bigger and older the boat, the more complicated and harder to maintain it gets, more equipment, amenities, and different things to repair.

Steel, polyester, aluminium or wood?
People have different likes and dislikes about what material their boat needs to be. There is a lot of information out there to be found about this topic. Yet, you should have in mind that each different material influences the boat’s form, maintenance, repairs, resale value, strength, painting and coating, stiffness, weight etc. Each material suits different personalities better.

Outboard or Inboard motor?
When buying a motor, the most important thing is to buy something reliable. The fact is that one is not really better than the other. It’s all a matter of preference and what you plan to do on and with your boat. Each type will have an influence on the speed, fuel, maintenance, weight, repairs etc.

Step 2: Do your research

It’s recommendable to start with a clear budget in mind, define some time to do the research, and set a deadline to get to try out some boats you like.


How much can you afford to spend?
It is ideal to start with a clear budget in mind. Don’t forget the initial cost of purchase is just the beginning.

Which are the hidden costs?
There will be equipment, maintenance, insurance, registration fees and instruction and safety course fees.What’s included in the boat will depend not only on the type of boat you buy, but also on the deal you can make and whether you’re buying new or used. Any seller should provide an equipment list that will give you an idea of how much stuff comes with the boat. (Radio, anchor, lights, life jackets, batteries, cooler, nautical ropes etc.

Who much will it cost to maintain it, annually?
Think of registration Fees, further equipment, insurance, trailer,  dock fees, taxes, fuel and oil, painting, winter storage if needed etc. 


How much time?
Take your time. Collect information before viewing or buying. Talk to several boat owners in the canals, contact private sellers, meet people at sailing clubs, ask questions to friends who sail, find about the types of boats you are considering. Ask for advice.

Where to start?
The best thing to do is to start looking for boats in places like Maarktplats or similar sites like Bootentekoop or Sloeponline. They can help you a lot in first having a sense of what the market has to offer, and then in finding out the right boat for you.

Broker or no broker?
Yacht Brokers work like real estate agents. They are agents whom people consult to find and purchase a boat, and whom people hire to list, represent, and sell boats for them. Traditionally, the seller pays the commissions that a yacht broker earns – not the buyer, yet brokers have a duty to both buyer and seller in every transaction. Although them, as a cost, increase the price of your final purchase, it’s a service that is recommendable, as they can help you finding the right boat for you, as well as providing you with comfort and security in the whole process.

Step 3: Close the deal

As you get closer to the purchase day, there are still some minor things to remember.

Viewings and trial

Contact the vendor (boat dealer/broker or private seller) to arrange a viewing and trial. Take someone along who knows a little a bit about boats or take along your own list of questions. If you want to test the boat on the water, bring it up in advance early in a call, so they have enough time to set this up. Although it seems obvious, it is crucial to test the boat and see it fully functioning. It will give you the best sense and gut filling if the boat is right for you. When it comes to actually nailing down a deal, buying a boat is like buying anything else: the more in love with it you are (or appear to be), the higher the price you will pay. Buying a boat can be very emotional, so it’s important to step back from that while you are negotiating a price, checking for online fraud, and completing the paperwork—that is, until you’ve actually closed the deal.


If purchasing through a broker, they will provide a contract (Sale & Purchase Agreement), which must be signed by both parties – this is a legally binding document. If its a private transaction, it is advisable to do one as well. Make sure to note any serial numbers, either of the boat or motor. It’s also important (especially with a private sale) to make sure the owner actually owns her. Check the paperwork carefully, and if the boat is stored at a yard or marina, remember to ask the manager if there are any outstanding bills or liens on the boat.


Cruising around Amsterdam is a lot of fun but requires some initial skill and experience. We encourage you and your family to take some boat safety and operations courses to learn the rules of the canals, and build your skills and confidence as a boat Captain. The more you know, the safer you’ll be. When it comes to boats, there is nothing more practical than a good theory. Knowing the theory will not only make you feel safer, but also keep everyone around you safe as well. The guys from Waypoint Amsterdam provide several theory and practical courses on learning how to pilot your boat. Vaarschool Amsterdam has been teaching people how to pilot boats in Amsterdam, since 1984.

Rules and regulations

Check out our blog “Rules and regulations for Amsterdam boat owners” where we describe the most important rules and regulations for Amsterdam boat Captains. Licences, Harbour fees, mooring, insurance and more.


Now what?
The time to enjoy your boat has come!

Photo credit


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