Buying a yacht: key questions asked by yacht owners

When it comes to buying a yacht, whether it’s your first or you’re an experienced owner, there are key questions asked. We spoke with Alan Knight, UK Sales Manager at Princess Motor Yacht Sales to find out more.

What are the primary issues you tend to discuss with a new client?
Normally, a client will come to us with a concept of where they want to go boating and how much money they are comfortable spending. We’ll then talk about the kind of usage they have in mind. Is it for the family? For friends? For charter? These things need to be addressed right at the outset so we can clear away any confusion, narrow down the range, focus on a particular size of boat and put the right selection of models in front of them.

Presumably then, every single client generates unique questions?
Absolutely. Every owner is different, so it would be a mistake to try to dictate the parameters to them. What we try to do instead is share with them other owners’ experiences. I’ve been with Princess, directly or indirectly, for nearly 30 years now and throughout those years, I’ve worked with many different customers. Over time, you get to see how each of them enjoys their boating and that allows you to bring those memories into consultations with new customers. It enables a better sense for what will work for each unique individual.

Are buyers of new and pre-owned boats different?
The approach is generally quite similar, but with the pre-owned market, the customer will often focus on something very specific. They’ll generally be coming to us saying they’ve seen that Princess 50 online. They like the styling, they like the interior colours and they want to have a look at that specific boat. And that often makes pre-owned deals much faster.

With new boats it’s a much longer-term thing. They’ve seen Princess, they like the brand and they’ve got a part-formulated plan. They’re looking at making a life change, like selling their business in three or four years, and they’re intending to release some of those funds into boating. They may also be aware that if you want a new boat, you might be ordering it 18 months ahead of delivery, so it’s a much more involved process in a lot of ways. Once you’ve worked out what the right boat will be, you’re then almost starting from scratch: building it layer by layer, refining the spec and the style, integrating the right equipment, creating that customer’s bespoke yacht and delivering it to their perfect location.

Does that make you quite intimate with your customers?
It really does. Unlike a commercial business where you’re project managing the process with another commercial company, we’re dealing with somebody’s personal time and that’s very precious. We tend to become very close to them, to their family and to their private world so it becomes a matter of personal conviction rather than just business sense that we deliver a boat that enables them to get the very best enjoyment out of their time on the water.

How does that dynamic develop with repeat customers?
You build an intuitive understanding for how they like things to be and how their time works. In fact, some of the relationships you have with owners can last for many years. I have some customers who I’ve seen from their early 30s when they first started boating. I’ve seen them through a number of boats over those years as their family has grown up and now I’m starting to see their children begin their own boating journeys. When those customers call Princess, they tend to request me directly and that feels like a very positive thing for everyone.

So what’s the most common mistake boat buyers make?
People who come into boating for the first time often start too small to satisfy their real requirements. For instance, if your budget enables you to look at a 60-foot boat, you might start with a 30-footer because, as a non-boater, you imagine it will be easier to drive. In reality of course, something around 50 to 55 feet would be much better in terms of enabling your family to enjoy their boating – and we can teach you how to drive the boat very quickly. So normally, if I see that type of customer, my first job is to get them out on the water and let them have a drive of the boat. That instantly gives them the confidence that they can handle something bigger.

So what key advice would you give to new boat buyers?
If you can really understand what you’re trying to get out of boating and feed that through to us with a guide price and an ideal location, then we can quickly put a selection of suitable models in front of you. It’s then down to personal choice. You may be a flybridge person; you may be a sporting person – and we don’t really know which until we present those boats to the customer. Sometimes a customer walks up to a boat and you see their eyes light up. With a different yacht, there may be more space on board and more advanced features but it just doesn’t give them that same sparkle when they look at it. It’s no fault of the boat. It’s just about the individual person.

Is there anything special about the service you provide at PMYS?
Each new owner receives a concierge as a matter of course – a dedicated professional appointed specifically to that person. That concierge will then become the day-to-day point of contact, so if they have any questions, the concierge will be ready to deal with it. The concierge also keeps the customer in contact with events in their area; with offers; with servicing packages and insurance deals – anything they think might be of interest to that particular customer, for their particular location and for the particular kind of boating they most enjoy. Certainly, the intimacy of our relationships with our owners means they feel comfortable asking us anything and we’ll always get them an answer. But knowing your customer so well that you can almost pre-empt their questions; service their needs before they’re even conscious what’s needed – that’s the perfect end state.