Owning a boat in Australia can truly transform your leisure time, opening up the world of watersports, whether you’re into sailing, fishing, or skiing. Getting out on the ocean, river or lake provides an opportunity to relax - bringing the family together or giving you much needed time alone with nature.
The first big decision you’ll need to make when you’re looking at getting a boat loan is to decide the kind of boat that you want to buy.
This means considering where you live, and how you’ll use the boat. Are you near the ocean, or a river or lake? Coastal mallee or open water?
Then you’ll need to consider what you’ll be doing in the boat - water-skiing, fishing, sailing - the options are nearly endless.
You can use a boat loan to buy:
Whether you need your boat for business or leisure, whether you buy a new or a second hand boat, there’s different finance options for each situation.
When you take out a secured boat loan, the lender registers a security over the boat in return for the loan of the purchase price of your boat. This lowers the risk for the lender in providing the loan, as if you default they can sell the boat to recover their loss.
The benefit to you is that you’ll get a lower interest rate for the loan term, so your boat loan will cost less than if it had been unsecured.
If you’re purchasing from a private seller, you’ll probably use either a personal loan or a secured boat loan. You can even consider a chattel mortgage if the purchase is primarily for business use.
Arranging finance for a private sale is pretty straightforward. Your boat loan broker will be able to generate the invoice and forms the seller will need to facilitate the loan, and all the seller will need to do is sign and return the documents.
This is an unsecured loan for any amount from $3000 upwards. It will have a slightly higher interest rate than a secured loan, but means you can buy a second hand boat and perhaps spend less than you would for a secured boat loan.
Just like a car loan, you’ll have the options of a marine chattel mortgage, or a hire-purchase agreement.
Before you apply for a boat loan, you can use a boat loan calculator to get an idea of which type of loan will benefit you.
If you’re a first time boat owner, or if you’ve been around the water for years, there’s some essential steps you can take to ensure your safety and that of anyone you take out on the water with you.
Make sure everyone has a suitable lifejacket - especially children. To be suitable the lifejacket needs to fit the person wearing it so they cannot slip out of it. There’s different types available depending on what your activity is. It pays to have a few with your boat to suit anyone who comes on board.
There’s actually specific rules that apply to when lifejackets need to be worn depending on your boating situation. Make sure you find out what they are in your state so you’re fully compliant and, more importantly, you keep everyone safe around the water.
You’ll need a boat licence to operate any recreational vessel fitted with an engine. These are issued by your state government.
South Australia - you’ll need to complete a theory test, then using your certificate of completion, apply for your boat licence.
Victoria: you’ll need to complete a theory test and then apply for your boat licence.
New South Wales: you’ll need to pass a knowledge test and provide evidence of practical boating experience.
Tasmania: you’ll need to complete a 1 day accredited boat licence course covering safety procedures and boat handling, as well as a knowledge test before applying for your boat licence.
Queensland: you’ll need to complete and pass a Boatsafe course which covers theory and practice of boating. Once you have your certificate of competency, you have 6 months to apply for your boat licence, which is a lifetime qualification you won’t need to renew.
Australian Capital Territory: The ACT government doesn’t have a boat licencing scheme, so if you need a boat licence you can get yours from the NSW government.
Northern Territory: There’s no requirement for a boat licence or registration, but it pays to follow the link here and find out about essential safety for recreational boating.
Western Australia: You’ll need what’s called a ‘Recreational Skipper’s Ticket’ (RST) to operate a powerboat in WA. Before you take your assessment you’ll need proof of eyesight and medical fitness.
Using the RST Workbook you can prepare for the assessment yourself or get lessons from a qualified instructor. The assessment has a theoretical and practical component, and once complete, you can apply for your RST which is a lifetime qualification and doesn’t need to be renewed.
If you’re using your boat for commercial purposes there’s different licensing requirements which you’ll need.
Getting a marine radio (usually a VHF or HF radio) means that if you need help out at sea, you can reach all other nearby boats in one call and get assistance as quickly as possible. You’ll help to make the water a safer place to be by being available to assist others too.
Remember, when using a marine radio your conversations aren’t private, so using courtesy, good manners and appropriate language is important.
You can also read this article on how to use a boat finance calculator if you want to get an idea of what to expect, and get some advice on choosing your first power boat, and other things to consider with boat ownership.