Considerations for Buying a Yacht Internationally

Buying a Yacht overseas


Are you considering buying a yacht overseas? Here are some tips for yacht buyers.


As we transition into a worldwide economy, international currency fluctuations influence yacht buyers to seek yachts for sale in countries outside of their current domicile. For instance, when the US dollar is significantly weaker against, say the Australian dollar; Australians will find that it is cost effective to fly to the US, buying a yacht and pay to have it transported all the way home.

Conversely, there was a time when American yacht buyers found it economically feasible for buying a yacht in Europe.  Sometimes yacht builders in regions such as Turkey, China and Taiwan offer value in yacht buying simply because the labor costs are less…thus allowing for a price which is cost effective for buying a yacht from these regions.

Buying a Yacht overseas often means modifying the electrical system

If you are considering buying a yacht from a different region and importing home, then it is important to consider the following:

  1. The power supply and frequency from shore outlets to the inlet on the yacht.  All yachts are built and wired to accommodate a specific power supply.
  2. The audio/visual components on the yacht matched to the local format and power supply.
  3. Replacement and repairable parts availability (with warranty coverage on newer equipment)
  4. Air-conditioning and refrigeration compliance
  5. Customs and duty

Let’s examine the categories above..

Power Conversion on Yachts:

There are really two universal power supplies:

  • 240 volt/60 Hz (single phase a/c power with a frequency of 60 Hz) – typical of the USA, Caribbean, Central and South America and Saudi Arabia.  On smaller yachts (less than 40’) often they will plug into  125 volt/60hz outlets with two shorepower cables.
  • 220 volt/50 Hz (three phase a/c power with a frequency of 50 Hz) – typical of the entire Euro-Asian continent, Africa, Australia and Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

With this in mind, there are a few ways to either the power supply into the yacht (or boat) whereby the on-board equipment can remain as built or leave equipment as built:

  • Install a power converter (made by companies such as Atlas Marine Systems or ASEA Power Systems ).  It should be noted that most larger yachts (above 100’) have these systems installed by the builder, as it is more common for this size to transit around the globe.  However, these and a few other manufacturers offer smaller units which can be installed.  As these units produce heat, they should be installed in a dry, well-ventilated area.  These are fairly expensive units which may be not cost effective for smaller boats or yachts – however they offer the ability to universally plug into any shorepower outlet using adapters for local outlets.
  • Don’t use shorepower – instead use solar panels to maintain the batteries and an inverter to power the essential refrigerators.  Perform a survey to determine the wattage required and an experienced electrician to install solar panels and inverters.
  • Install a transformer to boost (or reduce) the voltage and run on a different frequency – it is becoming more common for key electrical equipment such as air-conditioning, battery chargers, pumps, refrigerators;  etc. to offer dual frequency supplies.  However, sensitive electronic equipment using circuit boards (including audio/visual equipment) are very sensitive to frequency ratings and should be replaced with the local  and could be powered by an inverter!  Some equipment such as refrigerators, cooking appliances, etc will actually run for quite a while on a different frequency (even if they are not dual frequency rated), however their lifespan will be diminished and require eventual replacement. So the yacht buyer might consider replacing this equipment as well.  On-board diesel generators can often be converted to provide different frequency output. This method is often more cost effective than installing a power converter as noted above.  Also, a qualified marine electrician should be used to determine and implement these changes (the power distribution panel may need modification as well).  Note that it is common for some marinas to experience voltage drops, so a transformer with a voltage booster can help boost power when needed (such as a Charles Isoboost transformer).Buying a yacht overseas sometimes means power conversion
  • Special note should be made for interior/exterior common use outlets for small equipment (chargers and devices).  For instance a US yacht owner will require 110 vac outlets vs. a European yacht owner who will need 220 vac outlets.  Outlets can easily be installed by using an inverter from the house battery bank and running individual wires  (unnecessary when converting US to Euro style outlets) and outlets to convenient areas.

Audio/Visual Equipment Modifications:

Most modern yachts carry a Satellite Television receiver (such as KVH or Seatel) which use electronic gyro systems to lock into a satellite.  All of these systems employ a LNB (or receiver) for specific areas with a ‘footprint’.  Once a yacht is transported or moved to a further region, the antenna and receiver boxes with a new regional subscription will need to be implemented.

  • Televisions and DVR players operate on different worldwide formats and voltage/frequencies which will need to be replaced.
  • Many yachts and boats use car-type (DC voltage) AM/FM/CD players which will not require modification at all.
  • Plotters (or Navigation equipment) will require new software for specific regions.  Note that most yacht electronics use DC power (battery power) to drive units, so transforming the power will not be required.

Buying a Yacht overseas tips for repairs, parts and service

A Yacht buyer should do some homework to ensure that he can obtain service and parts locally for his newly purchased yacht.  While Caterpillar engines typically offer worldwide serviceability, other engine types such as MAN, Volvo, Cummins, etc may not.  Also warranty coverage (for new or newer yachts) may not be covered when transported to a different region.

  • There are hundreds of smaller parts for systems, equipment and components found on yachts.  A yacht buyer should consider the availability of ordering and replacing these parts…which may be as simple as shipping overseas, but then again may be more difficult to obtain.

Air Conditioning and Refrigeration considerations when buying a yacht internationally:

Some countries, such as Australia, have strict mandates and requirements for importing yachts with different types of refrigerants which are not environmentally friendly.  Therefore some yachts require the refrigerant gas to be changed and documented prior to arrival in the destination country.

Customs and Duty considerations when buying a yacht overseas

Every country has different duties and customs procedures for allowing yachts to be owned by residents or citizens.  Some countries/regions allow yachts which are registered to foreign flags to be exempt from duties…but often will only allow the foreign registered yacht to stay in territorial waters for a specific length of time.  In areas where it is not difficult to journey to an outside country for the purpose of exporting and re-entry, it may be feasible to register as a foreign ‘flag’, whereas large countries with cost-prohibitive transits to outside countries, this can be a different matter (such as Australia).  Also, some countries (such as Canada) are extremely sensitive to resident/citizen owners who try to save taxes by registering outside of their homeland while using the yacht domestically.  If you are considering buying a yacht in a different country, it would be wise to examine the rules and regulations of your homeland while determining how to best register (or flag) your new boat.

 Use a  Yacht Broker when buying a yacht overseas

Collectively, a qualified yacht broker, maritime attorney (or documentation specialist) and a customs broker should be used to make an overseas yacht purchase.  These people are specialists and well-worth the minimal expense to ensure that your yachting experience enables you to enjoy your new purchase. An experienced yacht broker will be able to guide the yacht buyer and orchestrate the process of buying a yacht overseas, making it a worthwhile venture.

Also see related post: Transporting Yachts.

For more information and referrals, please contact Andy Kniffin CPYB of AK Yachts at (954) 292-0629, or visit