In Depth

Yacht buying guide: all you need to know when purchasing a superyacht

Arthur Brouwer, CEO of world-leading Dutch shipyard Heesen Yachts, explains everything you need to know before you take the plunge


Before buying a yacht, you need to consider a number of things that may well take some soul searching. First and foremost, what do you want to use your yacht for? Do you want to swan around the azure waters of the Bahamas and through the Med up to St Tropez, or are you planning long transatlantic crossings and adventures up to the Arctic Circle to reach icy, untouched destinations?

Perhaps you want both. Anything is possible, but different types of hull design and the amount of space inside (often referred to as gross tonnage or GT) will be preferable for different types of voyages. This is probably the first question you’ll be asked by any broker or shipyard. Second, how many people are you envisaging on board?

You’ll need to think about the size of your family and friends, how many people you want to be able to stay overnight and how many you want to be able to entertain. This will impact the size of the layout of your boat, in addition to the size of outdoor decks and dining spaces.

Taking the plunge – who to contact

If it’s your first boat, I would strongly recommend that the first thing you do is find a good sales broker to guide you through what can be a long, although extremely rewarding process. 

More than 70% of my company Heesen’s boats are sold through brokers and we work closely with all the top brokerage houses. Your broker will have a good understanding of the market and will be able to connect you to the right designers to suit your requirements. Brokers are also key in keeping all parties happy and managing deadlines. For example, it may seem absurd and mildly irritating that you are required to choose the size and brand of your TV two years in advance. However, for the ship builders it is crucial to know, as this affects everything from the layout of the room, to technical space required. 

During the process, other than the shipyard and broker you’ll need a number of key players who you will want to include in the process: notably your lawyer, but also your future captain and family, who will be using the boat. When it comes to choosing a captain, the best way to do this is via reference from your friends or broker; brokerage houses often run crew agencies too.

Supersize vs. agility – why bigger isn’t always better

When yachts are spoken about, they are typically prefaced by their size – for example 55m Vida or 50m Home. That being said, when it comes to being nimble or fast, having a big yacht isn’t always preferable.

If you want to be fast and nip into tiny beautiful ports along say the Italian coast, a smaller yacht (up to 50m) typically gives more freedom as you don’t need a pilot for operations and you can access more places. A bigger yacht however gives more space for entertaining guests – home cinemas, bars and party areas, bigger pools and a helipad (or two). At Heesen, we’ve found the sweet spot is between 50-60m.

Real-talk – the reality of superyacht building and running costs

So how long will it take to build your yacht? Well, that is entirely dependent on how much you want to customise your yacht. For full-custom, that’s building from the ground up including design time, it can take anything from three years up.

However, in this world of instant gratification, no one really wants to wait that long, which is why we operate with an on-spec business model. On-spec means we’ve already started building a yacht without a client – meaning you can swoop in half way through the process and pretty much reduce your delivery time to one-to-two years by choosing to just customise the interior decor. 

In terms of cost, all of our yachts are valued upwards of 30 million euros – the price is hugely dependent on the size, specifications, and materials used. Something most people may not realise is that running costs of a yacht are approximately 8-10% of the total cost upon purchase – that’s your fuel, crew, ports, maintenance, insurance, food and services on board.

Diving into design – how do I pick my designers?

I’d recommend chartering a number of yachts to figure out which type of yacht you like, which style and which designers you like. Test the waters, so to speak. Head to a trade show such as Monaco Yacht Show or Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and have a look around, try a few things and see what fits. Meet the designers in person.

The safest option is to choose a superyacht designer who knows about the tricks of building on a boat, rather than external. Heesen can make recommendations as we work closely with many internationally acclaimed designers including British Winch Design and Harrison Eidsgaard, Espen Oeino, Clifford Denn, Cristiano Gatto from Venice and our home-grown Dutch talents, such as Omega Architects and Sinot.

Trends to be aware of
  • Hybrid technology and Fast Displacement Hulls – more fuel efficient and ecologically friendly with the option for a silent mode
  • Indoor-outdoor spaces – people are looking for winter gardens, swim platforms and any spaces that give them direct access to nature and the ocean
  • Explorer yachts – these are perfect for adventure
  • Toys and toy carriers: submarines, helicopters, jeeps, jet skis, seabobs, fly boards among more
  • Special features: nemo rooms, snow rooms, spas, gym
Sea trials and delivery – a superyacht delivered to your doorstep

Your involvement is key to designing your yacht. Once the design is confirmed, the life cycle of yacht construction is as follows: the keel laying, the joining of the hull and superstructure, the launch (when your boat is complete and leaves the shipyard for the first time), the sea trials (Heesen take your boat to the angry North Sea for some rigorous tests) and then delivery to the owner, wherever you choose. The world is your oyster.

Charter a 51m Irisha here or a 50m Home here.

For more information, visit


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