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Pitfalls of buying your new boat in Europe

11-19-2015

What you should know before buying your new boat in Europe and importing into North America

Purchasing your Beneteau in Europe for import into the U.S. or Canada comes with a number of compromises, headaches and expenses. To avoid surprises, we urge you to work with your local Beneteau dealer to help determine the best purchase strategy.

While it is possible to take delivery of a U.S.-spec boat in Europe on a “special circumstance” basis, this is fairly rare. It can be tempting to buy a European-spec Beneteau overseas then convert it to North American standards upon delivery in what might appear, at least on the surface, to be a way to save money, but this approach will cost you significantly more in the long run.

A favorable currency exchange rate isn't the only thing to consider when it comes to buying a boat overseas. Safety, comfort, warranty, “hidden” costs and convenience are also important. Below are some factors to consider.

1. A Beneteau made for the European market is wired for 220 volt electrical service which is incompatible with North American standards. The owner of a European-spec boat in the U.S. or Canada will not be able to connect to shore power. To resolve this issue, the owner must re-wire the boat, purchase a new generator and replace other systems onboard to be compatible with 110 volt service.

2. The European-spec Beneteau will have an MSO (manufacturer statement of origin) and BC (builder certificate) which state the boat’s origin as France. The USCG has issues with documents that are not intended for North America. Unless formal documentation is changed, the Coast Guard will not allow for Federal documentation. Offshore flagging is an option. This can be costly and in some cases not possible.

3. Beneteau America does not recognize European warranties for a Beneteau in North America. It’s the same as buying a BMW in Germany, shipping it across the Atlantic, and then bringing it to an American or Canadian dealer for warranty repairs; it's not going to happen.

4. A Volvo-powered boat must have a dealer-conducted PDI inspection upon importation into North America in order for the warranty to apply (2 + 3 years). Volvo of the Americas will only approve a PDI inspection conducted by a Volvo certified dealer in North America. A Volvo engine and drive system can cost over $60,000.

5. The buyer of any European boat becomes the “Importer of Record.” This means you will be responsible for any warranty issues if the boat is sold before the normal warranty expires.

6. European specifications are different from North American specifications and often do not meet Coast Guard safety standards and norms. For example, fittings on a European propane tank do not match those in North America.

7. The cost difference between boats equipped for the European market and boats equipped for the American market is significant when comparing standard equipment. Beneteau caters to the expectations of each market by standardizing and in some cases upgrading equipment, such as appliances, rigging and generators. More specific examples include a furling mast vs. classic rig, a standard grill vs. no grill, hydraulic swim platforms, air conditioning, etc.

8. The freight cost to bring any European yacht into the U.S. is often underestimated and the logistics involved are more time consuming than expected. For example, loading and off-loading the boat from a ship is an additional expense not included in the transport quote. This entails crane rental, union labor costs, permits to enter the port, cradle disposal, etc.

9. Insurance coverage must be carefully considered as well. A standard yacht policy does not cover the boat when onboard a cargo ship. Insurance negotiations require skill, knowledge and experience. This is an important task best left in the hands of a seasoned professional.

10. The cost of a Beneteau purchased outside North America does not include the tax and duties of the territory in which it is being purchased, nor does it include any importation tax.

11. The European price does not include the increased cost of engines mandated to meet the EPA requirements, which went into effect January 1, 2015. It is illegal to operate a new boat in the USA with non-compliant engines.

12. Buying in euros also includes money changing costs. You’ll want to carefully evaluate the cost of moving and using your money.

We hope these few tips will help you make the best purchase decision when buying a new boat.

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