Hints and tips on buying a
second-hand sailing dinghy

Buying a second-hand dinghy can be a fantastic way to enjoy the thrill of getting out on the water.  Whether you’re new to dinghy sailing and looking for your first boat, or you’re a seasoned racer looking to buy an all singing, all dancing skiff, there is a huge second-hand market out there.

Here are our top tips to help you navigate the perils of buying a second-hand sailing dinghy and make sure it’s all smooth sailing ahead.

What sort of dinghy will suit your needs?

First things first…have a clear idea of the type of dinghy you are looking for.  Knowing how you want to use your dinghy will make choosing the make and model much easier.  Perhaps you’re looking for a single handed club racer, or a larger sailing dinghy which will safely take you and your family out on nautical adventures; whatever the reason, it’s safe to say that buying the right kind of dinghy will bring you joy, but buying the wrong type of dinghy may end up being an albatross around your neck.

To help narrow down the type of sailing dinghy, do your research and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.  If there’s one thing we can guarantee… it’s that sailing dinghy owners all love to extol the virtues of their favourite dinghy!  So, chat to other dinghy owners, join Facebook groups and online forums, visit the RYA Dinghy show and never forget you can always call the manufacturer to discuss the technical specs of any shortlisted models.  They will be able to advise you on all sorts of things, including any updates to design or manufacture over the years so you can make sure you’re buying a boat to suit your needs.  There are numerous websites out there, but one of our favourites is yachtsandyachting.com – it is a treasure trove of information, as well as having a great online forum.

Set a budget

Decide on your budget, but don’t forget to factor in the inevitable outlays for upkeep, improvements, and of course, dinghy insurance (click here to get a quote!), as well as any storage costs.  Having a budget in mind will help keep you out of deep water and firmly anchored within financial feasibility!

Turn on your dinghy radar and get searching!

An online marketplace will probably be your first port of call when looking for a second-hand sailing dinghy; from well-known sites such as Apollo duck, Dinghymart and yachtsandyachting.com, to Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace.

Noticeboards in marinas and sailing clubs (particularly sailing dinghy clubs) are an excellent place to look, as berth holders and members may be keen to pass on their cherished boat.

Manufacturers like RS Sailing often sell used boats directly, so it’s always worth checking their website.

Take a thorough look inside and out

You may think you’ve found the perfect dinghy, but don’t commit to anything until you’ve carried out a thorough inspection.

  • Scrutinise the hull for any signs of wear such as:
    • cracks or crazing
    • peeling paint, if painted
    • previous repairs that won’t stand the test of time
  • Ask to see any paperwork associated with the history of repairs
  • Ensure that all blocks, cleats and other deck hardware are in good, serviceable condition.
  • Check the sails for wear and tear, stretching, mildew and general condition.
  • Check the mast and rigging for corrosion and general condition.

If in doubt, ask a seasoned dinghy sailor to come and have a look with you.  If your budget is more in the region of the superyacht of sailing dinghies… you should consider instructing a professional surveyor to have a look before handing over your cold hard cash!

Take it for a spin…

Negotiate a test sail.  Is it love at first tack?  Or a capsize within minutes?  Whilst it’s important to assess the stability and agility of the dinghy, like any good relationship, there must be chemistry, and taking her for a trial can help make sure she’s the right fit for your seafaring dreams.  Taking it out on the water will also enable you to test for any leaks!

What do you get for your money?

Does it come with a launching trolley?  How about a cover to protect it?  What condition are the sails in?  What is being sold with the boat, and the condition it is in, is a factor when negotiating the price.

Has it been around the block one too many times?

Enquire about the dinghy’s history.  How many previous owners has it had?  Does the owner have proof of purchase?  Where has it been stored?  A dinghy kept in a shed will be in better condition than one kept outside in a harsh marine environment.  Getting an idea of how much use the boat has had will give you a steer on the condition it will be in.

Getting from A to B…

Consider how you’re going to transport it, and where you’re going to keep it.  Does it come with a towing trailer?  Have you got a tow bar?  Have you planned where you’re going to store it?

Haggling isn’t a dirty word…

Before negotiating the price of your second-hand dinghy, it’s essential to arm yourself with knowledge of the current market and what similar dinghies are currently going for.  A thorough inspection of the dinghy will help you to put a figure on what you think the dinghy is worth.  Negotiate with that in mind, highlighting any necessary repairs or refurbishments that may be required.  Don’t be afraid to walk away if the price doesn’t match the condition of the boat, and if you do shake on the deal, make sure you get a signed agreement in place detailing the price paid.  If paying in cash, consider using PayPal’s Goods and Services for added peace of mind.

Time to get out on the water!

So, you’ve done the deal and you’re now the proud new owner of a sailing dinghy.  As you stand on the brink of sailing off into the sunset, it’s crucial to ensure your dinghy is as prepared as you are by decking it out with the requisite safety equipment and making sure your crew all have buoyancy aids.  For those whose sea legs are a bit shaky, joining a sailing club and getting some coaching, or going on a sailing course will help take your adventures to the next level.  And don’t forget to keep your new purchase in tip top condition by carrying out regular maintenance.

Don’t forget…

One of the most prudent decisions you can make, after signing your deal is to secure your dinghy insurance.  Insurance is a safety net that can safeguard you against unforeseen events, theft and liability.  Much like a trusty lifejacket, its value is undeniable when it comes to the crunch… which hopefully wasn’t into a very expensive boat!  You can get a quote before you buy your dinghy here.

Searching for a second-hand dinghy can often feel like diving into the deep blue sea and hoping you return with a giant pearl but, by undertaking your due diligence and with the help of our guide to buying your second hand sailing dinghy you might just come away with a real gem of the sea.

For more information on buying a boat (albeit this is aimed at larger boats, but there are still some good tips to be had!), view the recording of our expert webinar on how to buy a boat in the UK

For enquiries, call us:
+44 (0)1732 223 650
For a dinghy insurance quote:

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